By Sophie Sadler
A life journey that has traversed alpine pistes, the Paris art scene, a collective of extreme sports and finally turned to dust in the Algarve. If this sounds intriguing, read on.
In one of my most eclectic interviews, meeting with Christoforo Daoulkas or Christo Greco (to use his Instagram tag) begins as he layers dust onto my car as we chat about art.
“The point is to lose the ego and not take yourself too seriously” he explains as he uses a paint roller to smear a layer of chalk dust onto my car and uses his fingers to create waves and designs which have a 3D effect. “Painting on canvas might last 100s of years but drawing in dust is a fantasy, it engages people, particularly children. The dust creates a structure.”
The idea of using cars as a canvas came to him when he was in a supermarket one day. He saw all the cars that were caked in dust and decided to give their owners a surprise when they returned to load their shopping. But he admits this is just him “having fun”; his artistic journey began while he was having fun in a different way – in the snow.
Christo was a professional snowboarder – a strange fate for a boy emanating from the North of Greece. Always a lover of sport, he was a good footballer but then found skateboarding which became his first love. When the family moved to Germany, he found out about snowboarding from a magazine and travelled 1000 km on his own to try it out. Although his mother had dreamed of him becoming a professional footballer, she told him to “follow his heart” a mantra that has always stuck.
As a child, he always dabbled in art and it became his ambition to create a design that would be used on a skateboard. It was therefore a culmination of a dream when he created designs for snowboard companies like Volkl.
His artistic direction led him to join Pirate Movie Production. This team of snowsport brothers have been making snowboard movies for 16 years and have a reputation for flawless cinematography, incredible locations and innovative snowboarding tricks. “There is an emotion that comes from an extreme sport which can be directed into art. We are a beautiful mix, transcending nationalities and religions and we spread art through the medium of snowboarding.”
Christo and his pirate brothers created snowboard films, sponsored by some of the top sports brands like Oakley and Billabong, and toured Europe presenting them. They would assemble the soundtrack to the movies and the artwork to promote them, but above all, they were friends and supported each other. In 2007, they won Best European Snowboard Movie.
Christo spent ski seasons teaching the sport in Austria, but was always wondering if he could turn art into a living. Returning to his mantra of following the heart, he followed a French girlfriend to Grenoble and enrolled in a private art college, Beaux-Arts, to study art, design and graphics. By 2004, he had his first solo exhibition in Paris.
A snowboarding injury led him to meet a man who would shape his life and career. He was seeing a doctor who heard his story and suggested he call a friend of his, who also was of Greek descent. So he called George Yatridés, unaware that he was a renowned artist whose works were in demand from private collectors and museums.
Yatridés was initially not impressed with the cold call, but eventually they started to talk and were on the phone for three hours. Yatridès has been described as “a great contemporary painter, driven by his passion for light and science”. His work had elements of the graphic art of the 1960s which struck a chord with Christos. It is rumoured he inspired Stanley Kubrick’s Space Odyssey and he knew Einstein and Dali.
The aspiring artist cooked Greek food one evening for Yatridés, which brought back memories of his Greek heritage and made him cry with emotion. The artist was to mentor Christo until his death in 2019.
Christo found the Algarve through a Dutch girlfriend who was a surf instructor and he joined her in Portugal while she worked. As a Greek, he says he felt immediately at home in the Algarve – apart from the cold water! He easily transitioned from snowboarding to surfing and now a wave motif appears in much of his art.
He came across a fellow dust artist Jordan Saget online and shared some of his work with the Frenchman, who was impressed and sent some of his man-made dust to Portugal. Christo says the only hiccup was when the GNR found a jar of white dust in his car and started to ask questions!
His depictions of faces are, in my mind, his most striking work, merging bold shapes and patterns into a human form that jump out at you from the image. A couple of years ago, he started drawing a woman’s face that came from his imagination – when Anna arrived at his house with her surf instructor he couldn’t get over how similar she was to the face he had been drawing.
She moved from Porto to be with him and they have now been living together in Aljezur for two years – he describes her as “his muse and soul’s harbour”. He is now happy to remain here with the surf until he can return to the snow.
There is a childlike innocence to Christo, who bubbles with enthusiasm and excitement about everything from art to psychology. He is now looking for places to exhibit and people who share his vision to collaborate with. “As humans, we need to stick together, keep seeing opportunities.”
As his dust settles in the Algarve, Christo’s journey of the heart will, I hope, end happily.