In 1984, Dr. Egon Spengler famously declared, "Print is dead." Thanks to artist Nick Georgiou, however, print is now officially undead, which is all the more ironic considering Dr. Spengler was a Ghostbuster. The New York-born, Arizona-based Georgiou brilliantly crafts artistic works—both sculptures and framed wall art—from old novels, newspapers, magazines, manuals and other print mediums. When a person views the art up close, the print materials clearly reveal themselves, but like modern-day Monets, the works come alive when viewed from five or more feet away. PRØHBTD spoke with the artist about all the news that's fit to paint.
The media included in your last NYC show, Turn the Line, were not randomly selected: You specifically paired certain headlines together. What guided the pairings, and what would be a good example?
Turn the Line is about documenting stories—whether it's ordinary people or extraordinary events—everything matters and nothing matters. It's all a paradox, and yet there's an underlying order. Early on during the 2016 U.S. presidential election, I knew I wanted to use the immediacy of the 24-hour news cycle because it was a living organism, constantly developing with twists and turns, not unlike life itself.
How would you describe the symbolism of adding color to the gray/black text in the printed media?
I'm fascinated by the psychology of color—the shifting of emotion based on hues and the juxtapositions of patterns. After the first few monochromatic portraits came out, I added one color to shift the visual and emotional narrative. It was my way of adding depth and layers to the story.
Turn the Line started with weekly portraits made from the Sunday edition of the New York Times. What was the original idea in making weekly portraits, and how do they serve as an informative starting point for the exhibit?
The world is in the midst of unbelievable change when it comes to media and the way we digest information. I wanted to somehow archive the deluge of news—the breaking coverage, debates and conventions—into a singular image. The Sunday Times pretty much encapsulates everything going on, not to mention it's the meatiest of weekly papers. It was also a way of recycling the stacks of papers piling up on my floor.
Media is a core element in your medium, and Turn the Line seems to reference the divide that exists in much of the modern media today, from politically polarized news to fake propaganda news sites. What are your personal concerns about how modern media has evolved?
It's all evolving so quickly, and the immediacy of media has an obsessive quality to it, which is a lot for the human mind to digest. But resisting change is useless: It's a necessary part of our survival and evolution. We have to figure out how to deal with all this content coming at us all at once.
You work with books, newspapers, manuals and other printed material. Do the physical natures of the different media types make them more applicable to different parts of your art?
They all share the same space equally. I generally like to use pages that take well to ink and can be saturated with color. I rarely use glossy pages or magazines because the material is less malleable. Essentially every page on its side is a line, and they are cut in dimensions that create the 3D space with which to interact.
If you recall, what are some of the more interesting books you included in your work? And do you ever purposely make a piece using one specific genre, like romance novels, for example?
I stay away from using any specific book to reference the subject matter of a piece. My materials mostly consist of discarded paper in all states of life and decay. The works are large so there are many different kinds of texts that share the same area. I also like the idea of all of those texts working together to create a new story. It helps me to create a spontaneous visual reaction. During the production of this show, I was called by a lawyer who had a room full of law books that were of no use to her because of technology—new versions of the books were digitized. Several pieces in Turn the Line have DNA that can be traced to Arizona Revised Statutes.
How do the technical challenges differ between making a framed piece and a sculpture?
One word: gravity.
You moved from NYC to the Arizona desert. How did the move change your perspective on spatial distance, and has it influenced the art in any way?
I've lived and worked in Tucson, Arizona for almost decade now.Leaving a large city surrounded by water and transplanting myself to a small city in the desert was a huge adjustment. Your spatial awareness changes: Mountains replace buildings, sunlight is always present and pops of color in the desert have a hypnotic quality. The desert can give life or end it. I have a lot of respect for this land, the people that come from it, and the ones that protect it. I feel really fortunate to call it home. The Sonoran Desert is mysterious and beyond inspiring.
You studied film and television at NYU. What skillsets did you develop in your studies that you are able to apply to the visual arts?
With film you have a screenplay, actors, music and time to develop a story, but with a sculpture, you have seconds to impact an audience. Like film, I wanted my art to interact with the public so I’d place them on streets and photograph people reacting to them. That still image would become the film. I would break it down like this: Film school helped me value the process and all forms of production. Creating the sculpture is equivalent to writing the screenplay, photographing the sculpture is like filming an actor, and posting the image online is like releasing the film.
A major theme in your art seems to be the death and rebirth of the written word. Does this renewal theme extend beyond media in certain pieces?
Renewing a sense of figurative art plays a role in my work: re-creating what the "real world" looks like made of "real objects" through a 21st-century filter. Beyond media, it's a process of observing the collective consciousness, life and death, and all the joys and sorrows in between.
July marks the 43rd anniversary of Turkey invading Cyprus, an event that had directly affected your family and communities your family knows. In what ways has this affected your worldview, and have you ever expressed your feelings about this event through your artwork?
It's sad and frustrating to see so many world issues go unresolved. As an artist, I think my work speaks to a subconscious element of picking up the pieces of a fragmented existence and rearranging them in a meaningful way.
David Jenison (email@example.com) is Editor-in-Chief at PRØHBTD.