Jimmy James Kouratoras – Behind the Art

Jimmy James Kouratoras – Behind the Art

Jimmy James Kouratoras’ rich, bright and colourful artworks have received critical acclaim both in New Zealand and internationally. In 2016, he won the People’s Choice Award for the Brisbane Contemporary Art Prize and was selected as a finalist for the National Contemporary Art Prize in 2017.

Jimmy James Kouratoras We Are Watching

Image: Vidēmus (We are Watching) by Jimmy James Kouratoras

Jimmy is based in Auckland, New Zealand but his artworks have travelled the world, appearing in prestigious collections and exhibitions from Welling to Manhattan. Heavily influenced by his Maori and Greek heritage, Jimmy developed his skills working as a set painter for films.


He says; “I started off in show productions in the nineties, making interiors, then set decorations, then began working with senior artists painting sets, playing with textures and creating caves, castles… it was a big licence to create and get paid! It was an awesome apprenticeship - it taught me how to copy textures and do it all on a big scale, to understand how the marks made on the canvas will be seen from far away.”


Jimmy worked with a number of top directors, learning to let go and adapt to the vison of the director; “I was always an artist for hire and learnt to interpret and paint under pressure […] I was a freelance scenic artist for 18 years, paying rent by painting for other people and travelling – it’s a great lifestyle but there comes a time when no one is making films – there’s constant peaks and troughs. 18 years of that was good preparation for becoming a full-time artist.”


Some of Jimmy’s most recent works at Artbay Gallery hint at his past in the industry with a nod to film classics and icons such as ‘Place in the Sun’ and Bette Davis and Mary Pickford, modernised with a splash of colour and texture true to Jimmy’s unique style.


Jimmy James Kouratoras Bette Davis Art

Image: Bette Davis by Jimmy James Kouratoras


“It’s a tribute to working on films and the relationships there,” says Jimmy.


“Celebrating the simple things in life, they’re icons of motion pictures. I like to liven them up a little – not so much pop culture, just playing…”


Then there’s the large-scale works like The Cloud, which Jimmy describes as “a place where we go to imagine.”


Image: The Cloud by Jimmy James Kouratoras


“This one is ethereal, it’s about being free and having the space to just be. It’s mixed with stories from my experiences and background – a mix of things which make me think. I kept it very light, using surface change and depth to ground it, but keeping it light with air brushing – I wanted a balance.”


When pressed, Jimmy says Tui Madonna is one of his personal favourites.


Image: Tui Madonna by Jimmy James Kouratoras


“I really pushed myself with the textures. Trying to simplify the complicated without taking away the magic and mystery of the piece. I love how the bird looks at you, like a human, and takes on a weird form. Some of the narratives here are about birds being messengers to the heavens, but there’s humour in there too. Some of the iconography is from churches, having Greek heritage, this interests me.


“I had recently travelled back to Crete and explored many really cool Byzantine era churches; I think Tui Madonna is the beginning of a whole load of ideas I want to play with.”


See the full range of Jimmy James Kouratoras’ artworks at Artbay Gallery online here - or visit the gallery to see his artworks in the flesh (this is the best way to appreciate their unique texture, scale and colours!)

You can discover more about Jimmy's art over on our Vimeo channel too!


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