Aetrop, Cypriot architecture and artistic experimentalist, sees the world through a unique lens of identity expression. Constantinos Louca, who operates the moniker of Aetrop, catapults into their philosophical regimes and ancient societal tellings to manifest a collection of works that present a universal opportunity for interpretation. Human nature and its complicated facets are brought to light with the ubiquitous appearance of his designed characters. There is a particularly utopian outlook to his work and a heavy inspiration of storytelling, what a narrative means to human cultural society. We have the special opportunity to learn more about Aetrop’s visual creativity in the following interview.
How would you describe how the nuances of being human manifest in your work? Do you believe there are simplicities to human nature?
I think that there are certain simplicities to human nature, rooted to our biological needs, attributes and limitations. Overall, the work reflects thoughts about how we, as humans, perceive our existence in regards to our primal nature, contemporary culture and technological evolution. Inspired by anticipated technological developments, the work depicts an allegorical realm that twists and reinterprets archetypal views of human existence.
Your imagery tends to feature a phrase or a couple words embedded within. What does this signify? A thought by the characters? A narrative cue? Tell us what inspired you to include this aspect in your work?
I use text and illustration to create visuals that make reference to methods of storytelling and documentation. The text works as a complimentary description to the visuals, to suggest an open-ended narrative that blends reality with fiction. In this way every print may stand alone or relate to other prints and convey different stories and meanings.
In a homogenous community as the one you depict, expression is a treasure. What can you tell us about the expressions we find in the faces of the characters? And how this relates to their bodily expression.
The work describes a realm where a utopian society occupies an empty and timeless dimension. In a situation as this, the characters wander aimlessly, searching for meaning to their existence. Their facial and bodily expression might signify curiosity, wonder or awe, depending on the interpretation of the viewer.
Ritual is a common occurrence among ancient civilizations. There seems to be a sort of questioning as seen in one of the images with the embedded words « judgment day is coming – not sure what that means. » What role do rituals play as you create these images that are inspired by these societal reckonings?
I see rituals as expressions of cultural values. In a way comparable to ancient civilisations, I like to think that modern society is still performing rituals, in a less conscious way. In identifying these rituals, one may begin to consider the associated values, on a social and individual level. In a broader point of view, the work uses rituals to challenge the vulnerability and subjectivity of human values to time and context.
Seeing as how your artistic design could be applied in various narratives and eras, how truly important is time to human nature? The workings of humanity seem to transcend time and sprout in slightly different ways depending on the context of time periods. What is your view on time as it pertains to humans?
I think that our human nature is an outcome of various developments, as is our biological evolution as species, our cultural evolution, our technological evolution and others. Considering that each evolution has a different origin and pace in time, then every moment in time becomes a unique meeting point of these evolutions, which defines human nature in a different way.
What does your body of work tell us about the future of humanity? How about your faith in humanity?
I think that the technological evolution will reach a point, able to transform our biological nature. We will witness innovations capable of modifying human abilities and extending human life; such developments will change the way we perceive human life. I think that many of our current views, philosophies and religions won’t be relevant anymore, causing the need to redefine our identity as human species.
The color scheme in your work is black and white. What meanings are ascribed to using only these two colors and interacting with negative space in your aesthetic?
The lack of colour expresses a timeless aesthetic that doesn’t attach itself to a certain period in time, thus leaving the idea of time open-ended. At the same time, it gives reference to ancient works, reflecting the origins of human culture. In a symbolic sense, the work may be thought of as shadows of our reality, projected on a different dimension. The positive and negative space of the compositions is a result of the shadows overlapping each other, creating abstract shapes that challenge perception.
Do you think your style and focal points of design will evolve over time? To which scale of change are you open to?
The development of this series began with the creation of Aetrop, the identity of a fictional storyteller that I embodied to create these open-ended visual narratives. This figurative, line-drawn, black and white visual style was a result of a process, in developing a method to express certain thoughts. At the moment, I find myself interested in experimenting with new ideas and methods in approaching art, an aspiration that occurred following the completion of this series.
All images with courtesy of Constantinos Louca