It was a year ago, when I shot Lila Tampaki at her brother’s apartment. He was in the process of moving out, so we shot a couple of pictures of Lila in his new place, with all the boxes stacked in a corner. But I was so curious to see how he managed to arrange all his beautiful findings in this new space, plus I am a big fan of his work. Dimitris Tampakis is a truly talented person, I am being honest and seriously fascinated by his imagination and skills. He paints amazing portraits, he has an eye for spotting the most precious findings at bazaars, he illustrates and he designs masterpieces.
You have collected so many interesting things! Your house is basically a museum! Where do you get all these stuff?
Mostly from bazaars. In Athens there used to be one between Thission and Gazi, but now they’ve moved to the roadside area of Attiki Odos. But you can also find many things in shops that sell second hand things or antiques. Here in Syros, there’s a bazaar twice a year, where everyone brings things they don’t need and you can swap or just get things for free. But many things I have in my apartment, for instance some of the TVs, I’ve had friends give them to me. So, it’s not just the bazaars or the flea markets, but also friends, that help me collect all these things you see.
So these collections of yours is more like a hobby? Do you collect anything in particular or just whatever looks good?
Yes, it is certainly a hobby of mine. I can’t say I collect something in particular, I just collect things that have the aesthetics that I prefer. When I find something, I think to myself: ‘ You have plenty of room in your apartment, so you should take it’ and I do. When there’s not enough space for something, I give it to someone else.
What’s the thing you could never give away?
My books. I really love my books, and I can’t think of giving them away, if I didn’t have enough space in my home.
Have you gotten all your books from markets?
Many, yes. But some biographies, or some coffee table books I have gotten from regular shops. Brand new and all.
Does everything you own have to have a story behind it?
No, not necessarily. I buy a lot of new things as well. But that’s just because I can’t find everything at markets or bazaars. But everything I own, old or new, I find a way to re-design it, or alter its design a bit. For example what is now a shelf, used to be a mirror. So you pretty much get the picture. Nothing stays as it is, there’s a constant flow around here.
Apart from your amazing collections of spectacular findings, you are a very good painter. When did it all begin? And why are there just women in your paintings?
It all began I guess at school, when I was bored. Now, the women thing, I really just don’t know. I have tried painting a man, but then I turned him into a woman. I think a woman’s face is something worth painting.
Do you imagine the women you paint, or are they friends of yours?
Mostly I use pictures. I have friends, whose faces and expressions are really rich, so I make them pose for me, I take a picture of them and then turn it into a painting. But, I have also found some interesting photos in magazines, which I reproduce as paintings.
You are currently studying to become a designer. How do you feel about design in Greece?
You know, it makes me mad. Because there’s this issue with how much you charge things in Greece. People design clothes and objects and so many pretty things, but they overcharge them. And it is stupid, because it’s like they are forgetting that maybe the customers will get it at a lower price from another country. You cannot overcharge things and expect your business to grow.
Is it hard to be a designer?
No, not at all. But it all comes down to this: if you have enough time, then everything is super easy. But when there’s not time, design can become the hardest thing on earth. What is interesting though is to approach things like you have never seen them before. To forget the past, and what has been done before, and try to reinvent everything that has been designed.
Is there any designers you admire?
Nacho Carbonell. He’s mostly a conceptual designer and it really amazes me how he sees things.
Is it hard to communicate with the client?
In order to communicate or to persuade the client, you have to be 100% sure that you have done your best. In general, though, in our country people are blinded by the current trends, whatever those are. I don’t see people having critical thinking about design, or about anything. It’s like in the old days, when people used to go to a carpenter and they would show him a design they had seen on a movie or a magazine and they would ask him to make a cheap copy of it for them. And you can see this everywhere. A couple of years ago everyone was following the emo trend, then everyone became mainstream and started clubbing. There’s no individual thinking and choosing. Just following.
Is the internet a big help to gain information on design? How long have you stayed without going online?
Internet is your best friend. You just ask it whatever’s on your mind and it gives you the answer straight away. But you could say that our relationship with the internet is a bit unethical. It just keeps on giving and giving things to you and it get nothing in return. I managed to stay 8 days without logging online, but that was because I was on holidays and my phone cannot connect to the internet.
Tell me a little bit about the things in your closet. Mostly your clothes come from second hand stores. What is it that you go for when dressing up?
I am mostly interested in shapes. You don’t see many patterns or prints on my clothes, because it’s not the colors I go for. When it comes to clothes, I guess I am more of a winter person. I own many large jackets, which I pair with tight jeans. It looks really funny when I wear my jackets, because there’s this large volume on top and then you have two thin legs sticking out. But I like the shape outfits like these give to the human body. As for where I get my clothes, yes most of them come from second hand stores, but I also collect clothes. I own shoes that don’t even fit, either they’re too small or too large. I just got them because I loved their design.
You are seriously considering moving abroad to continue your studies and pursue a carrier. Do you find the state of things now intimidating?
If you mean the economic crisis, no, it doesn’t scare me at all. I actually can’t wait to start working and designing professionally. I believe a good design can outcome the crisis, because it’s all about what you design. You can design shelters or structures that are cheap and easy to fabricate, in order to help people who are affected by this crisis… you can use everything that is happening in the world today and design something that can be a solution to a problem. But yes, I don’t think I will stay in Greece. I think every artist deals with the same thing here in our country, there are not enough chances or open minded people, in order to actually be able to make your ideas happen.
Your latest hobby is photography. How is that related to painting?
Both practices capture the moment, I guess.
A few comments on the things pictured above: The two ladies in the cardboard wearing sunglasses are Dimitris proposal for a competition to design an optician’s window. The competition was cancelled, so the sample of his proposal is left in his place. / The tea pot hanging from the living room’s ceiling came down after Dimitri’s jump. / Dimitris loves plants. He wanted to buy many cactus plants for his place, but they were too expensive to buy. So he drew them instead and hang them on his walls. He has also done this with a lighter and a pencil sharpener. / The giant transparent hat he is wearing with his blue coat, is actually a chair’s seat. He loves that chair, but we didn’t take a proper picture of him sitting on it. He wore it as a hat instead.