It’s almost too easy to say that Constanze Zikos, who was born in Greece and arrived in Australia as a child, draws on his multicultural experience in creating his art. There is no doubt that ‘Your lifetime icon x 6’ is an attempt to reconcile his Greek heritage with Australian culture; it is that, but also much more.
Zikos has derived the patterns and decorative devices from classical Greek art, specifically the triglyphs from the entablatures of Greek temple architecture. However, the formal geometry is overwhelmed by Zikos’ sizzling, retina-searing colours, graphically demonstrating that there are other influences at work here. These include pop art, minimal art, and the example of Howard Arkley’s colour and suburban iconography. It is also likely that Zikos was aware of American pop artist Roy Lichtenstein’s 'Entablature' series of lithographs, printed by Tyler Graphics Ltd, New York, in 1974–76. Closer to home, the simplifications and cheesy application of classical motifs to the decor of Melbourne’s Turkish and Greek cafes and milkbars were unavoidable influences.
The shapes of the classical triglyphs are still recognisable, but they have been reduced and stylised in such a way that they seem to parody the austere geometry of the hard edge and minimal artists of the 60s. Zikos paints with enamel on laminex, a synthetic decorative sheet usually applied to wipe-down surfaces, particularly in vogue in the 1950s. While he often used laminex printed with a woodgrain pattern (perhaps a playful allusion to the painted textures of Braque’s and Picasso’s cubist works), here Zikos references contemporary technology in the chemical colours and diagrammatic or machine generated forms. The fact that the six sheets of laminex are interchangeable further reinforces this reference by effectively realising each part as a component to create (or at least vary) the composition. Just as he counters the past with the present, Zikos equally attempts to reconcile clarity with ambiguity.
By using stencils to apply the lurid, glossy colours to the panels, Zikos avoids ‘autograph’ brush-strokes in favour of the decorator’s anonymity. His high-toned palette of crimson, lime, cerulean, royal blue and brown sets up an optical vibration within the strong decorative pattern. Is this love of convulsively bright colours ‘new Australian’ taste, or is it prompted by the drug-fuelled raves of 90s club culture? In a backhanded acknowledgment that the Greeks originally painted their temples and sculpture in gaudy colours, Zikos disrupts classical order with the syncopation of banal contemporary associations. Questions of style and taste are raised, but rarely resolved.
In the hyped-up language of contemporary advertising, the title ‘Your lifetime icon x 6’ suggests that this is an icon for now, but also that these enduring forms can be perennially adapted, as Zikos has done, to last any lifetime.
© Art Gallery of New South Wales Contemporary Collection Handbook, 2006
enamel on laminex on wood, 6 panels
150.0 x 320.0 x 2.3 cm overall :
a - panel 1; 75 x 106 x 2.3 cm; each panel
Signature & date
Not signed. Not dated.
Purchased with funds provided by the Young Friends of the Art Gallery Society of New South Wales 1993
Not on display
© Constanze Zikos
Shown in 2 exhibitions
Referenced in 4 publications
Michael Desmond, Contemporary: Art Gallery of New South Wales Contemporary Collection, 'Abstraction', pg.16-59, Sydney, 2006, 58, 59 (colour illus.).
Victoria Lynn (Editor), Australian Perspecta 1993, Sydney, 1993, 100, 101 colour illus..
Jane Somerville, Look, 'Where to now, Contempo?', pg.28-31, Sydney, Jul 2007, 30 (colour illus.).
Wayne Tunnicliffe, Look, 'Past/Present/Future: the importance of collecting contemporary work and Contempo's contribution', pg.14-15, Sydney, Apr 2003, 14 (colour illus.).