SoHo, Manhattan, New York
During Armory Week, Pantelis Klonaris was busy each night working on a canvas from deep within the trendy halls of W.i.P. (Work In Progress), a warehouse-turned-club in NYC that hosted a slew of parties celebrating all the art fairs invading the city. The club's name lent itself well to the occasion: Pantelis painted in the midst of all the party-hoppers (including Ghostface Killah and Chet Haze) and even began collaborating with some of them, bringing a canvas to life in this highly energetic, if unconventional setting. We talked to Pantelis about the whole crazy event--and were impressed by his ability to resist abandoning the whole thing to have a few drinks.
What’s going on in the painting so far?
It’s a vineyard theme. Themes of wine, a pastoral scene, picnic action. Essentially the composition is “Leda and the Swan” and then there’s an extra girl involved. So we’ll see how that goes.
Did you come up with that on the spot, in reaction to your surroundings, or did you have an idea in mind coming into W.i.P?
It’s a composition I designed a few years ago, a painting I actually completed using a completely different technique where I was using plaster, and then I’d use a lot of dry brushing and texture-painting techniques, which I no longer use and haven’t used in maybe 4 years. So it was fun to return to that composition with the techniques that I’m currently using.
So what was it like to paint in the middle of a party?
The first night was slightly hectic because I was laying down larger areas of paint, so I was using larger brushes and it’s a sloppier painting process—I was using rollers and paint was flying everywhere. And having a videographer there documenting the entire process made me concentrate more on the work. Last night was really rowdy. A gallerist asked me if she could paint on the canvas and I said sure...so this other girl saw her painting and came up and wanted to paint as well, so she’s dancing in the area and she’s like ‘I wanna paint I wanna paint’ and I’m like OK. So then this other girl came up and she had her friends and it was her birthday and her friend’s saying ‘Oh it’s my friend’s birthday can she paint?’ And then it became this catty girl thing where I was almost just the catalyst but I wasn’t really involved! And they were fighting for access to the painting and I just didn’t know what was going on. So, yeah, that’s typically not my practice, but it was exciting.
How else did it differ from your in-studio experience? How were you forced to adapt?
It was awesome being there because it was pretty much the exact opposite of my typical practice. Typically, I’m researching: I listen to lectures and podcasts dealing with political issues, commerce, innovation—the basic subject matter of the work I’m producing currently.
Is there a title for the piece yet?
No! And I’m actually going to veer from the original composition and add symbols, and characters and possibly logos to add to the current body of work that I’m producing. So I’m going to update the subject matter.
How does the piece and the W.i.P experience fit in to the larger scheme of your work?
During my undergrad years I threw similar types of events. We turned the servants’ quarters of this old mansion into a black-light painting venue. We’d stretch maybe 10 large canvases on a given night—and then we’d buy a lot of paint. A painting station was set up at each canvas. So we’d start painting for a few hours, then we’d go out clubbing or whatever, we’d come back, have DJs, we’d have kegs....everybody was twisted and painting into the early hours of the morning. Tons of awesome work. I have a lot of those canvases now. The crazy thing is it’s very similar to some of the stuff I see in the Chelsea galleries--that process, because it’s just so unconventional.
Can you explain that process a little more?
Our process was to avoid conscious thought: so don’t really think about it, just interact with it in the moment, don’t come up to the canvas with any preconceived notion. People would paint over people’s stuff, some people would have chromatic scales, other people would have different ways of rendering. These canvases were just amazing. It was very similar to painting at W.i.P., so I’d like to try to incorporate that in the future. I actually started a script and developed a plot for a movie based on that idea of traveling cross-country throwing these parties. And we actually exhibited the work in L.A. for the opening of the movie...it has an intense plot. I haven’t copyrighted it so I can’t tell you...it’s kind of a right of passage, a love story, about taking life by the horns and accomplishing your goals.
So would you do it again?
I wish that I was able to better document the experience, like some kind of glasses with a camera in them for point of view, beecause my conversations were so interesting and it was all so great. I really appreciated the experience. I’ll be done with the canvas in 3 or 4 more sessions I think. And if something like this comes up again in the future, I would definitely like to participate.