Tell us about you, to get to know you a little better.
My name is Fotios Balas and it is not a nickname as some people think. As a child I hated my last name, because kids at school made fun of it . Now I love it, there is no way I would change it. It is "digestible" in both Greek and English and I find it quite convenient when I sign my works. Of course, if I was a football player, I would have the best jersey. From an early age I was restless, I used to feel different from other children and always wanted to stand out. There was no kid who didn't want to hang out with me. I was quite popular both as a child and as a student. Growing up, I discovered that I was persuasive, had the ability to impart and a strong intuition. I sense things long before they happen to both me and people with whom I have a strong emotional attachment.Furthermore, I studied at the School of Fine Arts. Before even getting a degree I started a collaboration with "Lola Nikolaou Gallery". Then, I became a professor at the Veloudakis Fashion School. I am currently taking a postgraduate course in fashion brand communication and innovative styling. I am a dreamer, peculiar, proud scorpio, possessive, an optimist, with a corny sence of humor, always late, horror movie lover, I love socks with drawings, I hardly fall in love -but when I do- I give my all. Finally, I have faith in energy and when I grow up I want to be "school"( high-watermark).
Give us your own definition of art.
For me art is a way of living. And that happens effortlessly. It's not something that starts when you grab a brush and ends when you put it down. Art exists even in the way I cook, participate in a conversation or even in sex. It's everywhere. I am my job.
Do you think that Greece is a welcome place for pioneer artists like you?
Firstly, I don't think I'm a pioneer. For someone to think of himself as a "pioneer" or "avant garde" is the biggest mistake he can make.That will be judged by time and people, not me. In Greece things are difficult. Especially if you are not coming from a wealthy family. I graduated University during the financial crisis. It hit me in the face. Most of my classmates have either gave up or became teachers. I have sacrificed many things,to be able to do what I do,that for many people are self-evident. My future is uncertain but I made a choice at my own risk. Occasionally, I have heard great comments from very important and powerful people, such as that if I lived abroad I would be famous and rich. I have never been full of myself. I believe that time justifies us all at some point. The fact that I get messages from so many young people and tell me that I give them hope, or that they understand what they want to do in their life because of me, or that I am one of the reasons they are studying at the School of Fine Arts or Fashion, allows me to believe that we can all make Greece a welcome place. It is up to us now.
What do you want to achieve with your art?
Sometimes in order to say things that might bother you, you have to be a part of them first. So, knowing them better, you gain strength and when the time comes to say what you want to say, more people will hear you. There are many things I haven't said yet. In the future, there will be a time ,when drawing paintings for someone's home, won't be enough . There's always the right time for everything. At the moment, my work is full of symbols and secret messages. Nothing gets anywhere randomly. Those who simply see cannot understand, but those who know how to look can. My purpose is through humor and irony to make people see life according to my own perspective.
Where does your inspiration come from?
The truth is, I never calm down. I get inspiration from everywhere. I have never chased inspiration. For example I might be out for coffee with friends and on the same time working five projects . I have brainstorms incessantly and I don't know why. I am a man who, even in prison, I am capable of doing art work.
Would you describe yourself as an art or a fashion designer? Is there any difference after all?
I'm basically a visual artist. This is my profession. But as a teenager I use to love fashion and the fact that I am flirting with it, is something that jut happened to me. When I was a student, because I didn't like anything commercial, I started making jewelry for myself. I also used to go to the Fine Arts Lab and worked there. It was a common thing to be asked where I bought the things I had made. For instance I went out for a drink and many people approached me for my jewelries either to buy them or to use them in an fashion editorial etc. At that point I started thinking that I should make jewelries alongside my artwork.Then headpieces, collaborations with fashion designers and fashion weeks happened to me. Whatever I do has an art backround. Even if made furniture in the future, I would do it as a visual artist. That's why I studied at the School of Fine Arts in order to have freedom of expression and movement. Most people do not understand this, because the majority of creators are only one thing, I am versatile. Having many talents it is not easily forgiven. Art and fashion are two different things. But there are times that they coexist. I love these times, for those I live! But I couldn't do fashion in a broader sense, because doing something that is aimed to the mass market,in my opinion is very restrictive.