UAL Art Collection Coordinator Lucie Pardue spoke to Katerina Demetriou-Jones, whose work has been acquired by the collection. Katerina graduated from BA Illustration and Visual Media at London College of Communication in 2020 and since then has been harmonising her own creative output with collaborative practice and inclusive teaching sessions.
Katerina’s energetic approach to working and the activist values that are inherent in her projects are truly inspirational so we chose to shine a spotlight on them for this blog post.
LP: What’s been your experience of the first year or so post-graduation? It’s impossible to separate your experience from the pandemic but have you found ways to stay creating and working?
K D-J: It’s been kind of surreal! Amidst all the chaos, I’ve finally had time to reflect on what I really want to create during this new-found free time. I found it difficult and stressful during my degree to work out a creative routine, so it’s good to have time to try different things and figure out what works for me – though it’s still a mystery thus far!
One thing that’s helped me keep on making work is setting up an art blog with my good friend Elloise from LCC. No Idea, Mate! is our place to experiment with ideas and collaborate on projects, and ultimately use it as motivation to keep drawing. It’s really energising to work together and to have fun with art again! I’ve also been enjoying attending online drawing classes – London Drawing Group are wonderful – and my love for these drawing classes led me to co-host my very own workshop with Slink Events. I showed the attendants how to draw faces and expressions the way that I draw them: untraditionally, with huge noses.
LP: A drawing class based on drawing faces with a non-traditional method sounds really interesting – can you explain non-traditional methods? Is teaching something you’re hoping to continue?
K D-J: Yes! The way I was taught at school was to draw an oval, divide it into three sections, make it symmetrical etc, and it was quite serious and pressured. So, with that in mind, I wanted to create a way to draw faces that was fun and relaxing. Enter ‘The Egg Method’: start by drawing the outline of an upside-down egg for a basic face shape, then imagine it’s hard boiled and draw roughly where the yolk would be inside the egg outline. Inside the yolk you draw the eyebrows, eyes and nose. Then add the mouth and the ears. This method gave people the freedom to draw in their own way, and using eggs was great for this because they’re not serious or intimidating at all! I also wanted to encourage everyone to draw features like big noses and big ears (without worrying about making them look perfect or symmetrical) and to just have fun! I would love to do more drawing workshops like this - I’ve been a part time English & Maths tutor for six years now so I’d love to teach something that’s more within my field.
LP: Your practice comes across as clearly rooted in social justice, trans-inclusive feminism and providing a platform for unmeasured representation. Does that align with your intentions for your work? What’s important for you to get across and what do you want to impart on others
K D-J: I’m really glad you can see this in my work; it’s absolutely my intention. I care deeply about social justice and intersectional feminism, trans rights and LGBTQ+ representation. Of course, as a white, cis-het woman it’s not my place to speak about experiences other than my own but I strive to research, be critical, and importantly, be inclusive. Ultimately, I feel that everyone should be able to live life on their own terms and thrive doing so, without question or discrimination or violence. So, that’s how I draw my characters. I show them doing whatever they want to do and being however they want to be.
Depending on the project or brief, I also like creating work that’s informative. For example my ‘Take a Look’ project, features my drawings of all different types of vulvas because when I researched various sexual health resources, often the default vulva colour was pink and they all looked the same. Vulvas are all different, and a beautiful part of the anatomy, so I wanted to show that. My goal was to make a practical, fun, de-medicalised leaflet that’s relatable for lots of women!
LP: And where did these really strong motivations come from?
K D-J: I think struggling with definitions of beauty and confidence when growing up has really shaped my illustrations now. For example I draw big noses and big ears (see ‘Carrying (me) Home’ & ‘Radiant Rooms), because I didn’t see these features represented in the media when I was growing up, but my mum, aunties and grandmother on my Cypriot side of the family have these big features. These, of course, are just a small section of facial features that are underrepresented, out of many different cultures and ethnicities. We need to see more of a variety, especially in the media!
While I was making Carrying (me) Home, I was also working on my dissertation and researching how science, religion and the male gaze influenced the representation of the female body within Western art. From this, I realised how much the image of the female body has been described and created by men, for men. This motivated me to design and make everything myself, from the frames to the wallpaper. When I think about the women in my life, I think of their strength, love and kindness first, not their appearance. I wanted to convey the love and respect I have for them through this work.
LP: As well as the influence from your maternal figures and heritage, which seems to be a grounded response to your own experience, there’s also an other-worldliness to your work. Where does this characteristic come from?
K D-J: Lots of my favourite artists, Frida Kahlo, Remedios Varo and Deana Lawson, have an otherworldly, atmospheric, mysterious, magical feel to their work. I really wanted to experiment with this concept in my illustrations as I felt their works aren’t solely about what they see, but what they feel too and, for me, that’s what makes them so incredible. They all remind me that art can be very emotional, and that working to convey a sense of emotion and the unknown, rather than simply just drawing what I see in front of me, can be really effective and create more interesting visuals.
The Toadorama Drama project embodied this thinking; I made a physical world after researching ancient goddesses and their sacred animals. I thought a lot about animal habitats and loved the idea of making a diorama - Curtis Talwst Santiago’s work was a huge inspiration for that. It was an experimental project where I got to try art direction too which was a lot of fun. For some reason I decided to incorporate human hands (thanks to my sister) and hand-designed fake nails. I LOVED making those nails.
LP: It’s great to see illustration as a discipline going off in many (un-disciplinary) directions! Do you think you will carry on working across different types of media and projects? Is there a project you would really love to do?
K D-J: Ah yes! I’d love to carry on working across different types of media and projects, its great when there are no boundaries and you can use whichever medium best suits the project (or whichever medium is available)! One thing I’d love to do is learn how to make jewellery properly and make bespoke pieces, I tried to do this in Toadorama Drama but it didn’t really work out as I used sheet metal which was too flimsy. I’d also love to do another installation piece! The QBE Insurance installation commission was really fun. I got to design, make and direct exactly how I wanted it to be installed – basically I just want to be in control of making everything without anyone telling me what to do! That’s the best thing.
LP: When we were going through the process of buying your work for the UAL Art Collection, you were really interested in the collection as a whole – its management, its contents, its processes, etc., and not just your work being part of it. I found this really refreshing and I’m interested to know what was important for you to learn about. What do you think is important, or what is important to you, in the creative industries at this time? What do you think institutions should be doing more of?
K D-J: Goodness me – they should be doing so much! Big arts institutions and galleries, particularly historic ones, need to start thinking about and researching what a wider range of people want to see, so that they are more inclusive, and adapt to the modern world in general. So many cater to their biggest donors, a demographic not representative of the people who actually want to go to museums and galleries. Many also need to actively acknowledge their problematic pasts, through accountability and actual change. They need to read The White Pube’s articles and stop being so precious about artwork. If it’s racist, it must be acknowledged as such and then destroyed. Why is that so hard?
Following the BLM protests last year and gaining a wider understanding of institutional racism, it’s imperative as a white artist to take careful consideration of and thoroughly research opportunities that may come my way. When I was contacted about my work being part of the UAL Art Collection, it was important to ask how it was decided whose work would be purchased, who was making these decisions and whether the work purchased was representative of the student population at UAL. Plus it’s always good to understand the bigger picture of what you might be a part of and whether that aligns with your values. I’m really glad that you took the time to answer all of my questions regarding the collection – this was reassuring and made me more than happy to go through with selling my work! I would also like to thank you for this opportunity and the super thoughtful and interesting questions you wrote for this interview, it’s been a pleasure!
LP: Katerina thank you so much for allowing us to explore your work and for talking so openly about your experiences, motivations and goals. We wish you the best of luck with your work in the future!
Katerina and Elloise’s blog No Idea Mate!
Follow Katerina on Instagram @katdemicious to see more recent projects - including ‘Flickers of the Future’, an artist takeover project on sustainability and fast fashion.
See Katerina’s work in the UAL Art Collection