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Absurd Little Universe: An Interview with Konstantinos Moutzouvis

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N: Hello, Konstantinos! Would you like to give a wee introduction about yourself?

K: Hello! My name is Konstantinos Moutzouvis, I came from Greece to Edinburgh about a year and a half ago. Last year, after studying something completely unrelated to art, I decided that what I enjoyed most is drawing so now I'm making comics and illustrations.

N: Cool! So what got you into comics and drawing? Has it always been a passion of yours, or is it a more recent thing?

K:I had always been doodling and drawing since I was young, but it was always different things and almost never comics. I went through a big graffiti phase that lasted I think from the ages 10 to 14, but just continued to draw stuff occassionally after that. I used to always like comics as a kid and would go to kiosks to get all the weekly Disney. After a certain age, I got really into shounen manga like Naruto and Bleach. In my teenage years, I mostly read manga and very few comics. It kinda remained that way until last year when I discovered the alternative comics scene. After that, I felt like a lot of stuff I would read had been made specifically for my taste, so I decided that this kind of thing is something I'd like to have a stake in!

N: Ah, I had a similar thing happen where I basically just read manga as a teen. Although I think you've incorporated those influences into your style really well especially with the grafitti lettering and street scenes, and the dynamism of your characters from the manga.

K: Haha cool! Yeah, I think doing a lot of lettering has rubbed off on me and feel the need to go back to it every now and then. I'm often thinking how I can squeeze in some angular unintelligible typography.

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N: I was actually going to ask you about your influences from the alt comix scene - I assumed when I first saw your work you'd been into alt comix for a long time because I picked up lots of stuff from the 60s underground scene and Fort Thunder in your work. Who were some of the people you first latched on to?

K: Unfortunately I haven't read much early comix stuff but I'm slowly getting there. My first huge crush was Jesse Moynihan, first from his stellar work on Adventure Time and then discovering his webcomic Forming. I love his type of humour and crazy melding of different mythoi. But what really urged me to actually make something of my own was reading Michael DeForge's Very Casual for the first time last year… and then every other thing he's made haha. It felt very much like it brought very fresh things to the table not just comic-wise but generally in the storytelling and visual aesthetic aspects of it.

N: Oh yeah! I love Jesse Moynihan's stuff, and Deforge is one of the greats. I can definitely see their influence on your work, especially in your sense of humour. I definitely agree with you regarding Deforge's storytelling - it's got this really nice surreal almost Kafkaesque style (not to sound pretentious), which I think is something your work has incorporated quite interestingly. I was always wondering about where you get the more surreal stuff in your work from. One thing Jesse Moynihan definitely does is incorporate esoteric writing and transcendental philosophy into his crazy sci-fi aesthetic. I wondered if you had a similar interest?

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K: Oh yeah, I've read quite a few stuff about Moynihan's interests in all that. I don't really have any inspiration in that area. I just try to think of stuff that might be absurd enough but also work. I try to think about what level of surrealism I'd like to see in a story that I would consume by someone else and try to hopefully achieve that. I think a lot of animation inspires that, so maybe that's my influence! Mind Game by Masaaki Yuasa had that kind of feeling and since watching that, it's been something I often think about.

N: Ah cool, I like that you kind of have this tension where the absurdity and reality of the comics are kind of pulling each other apart, it's almost a bit dadaist. Mind Games is also fantastic. Ah we might have to be careful or else, we'll just end up talking about anime we like haha.

K: Thank you! Haha yeah I know what you mean. Anime's like a conversation magnet.

N: I've been reading over the pages from your comic Hives and I keep thinking it reads like a psychedelic version of that storytelling. Would you like to talk a little more about the comic you’ve made?

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K: Yeah definitely! Hives is a collection of short comics and illustrations that I've been making for the last few months. I'd use the word 'absurd' to describe it? In any case, the longer stories are about school presentations that kind of end up bringing up personal matters, a pixie boy with a dead arm that seeks treatment from a very sketchy doctor and a shoddy documentary about collectors of sentient tooth grills! I've tried to go all out with different styles in every story and illustration so hopefully there's at least one thing that each person reading it might like.

N: Well - from what I've seen it looks great, especially loving the design of the pixie boy with the dead arm! I know this is a broad question but when it comes to absurdity, what do you think is the appeal for you?

K: No, that's a pretty reasonable question. A bit hard though, so I might end up a bit abstract. I think the appealing thing about absurd fiction is that it kinda throws you into a universe where you are no longer supposed to expect any outcome or event like you would in a more grounded story. It might make up new rules for the sake of humour, shock or just exploration and make little contained universes in each scene. I'm sure that sounded like hot air. It's a bit like building something in unexpected ways that twist stuff you might take for granted usually. I enjoy consuming stuff that makes me see that and hopefully I can achieve something similar with my own work.

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N: I think that makes perfect sense, and I think you do achieve that in most of your comics I've read.

K: Thank you! I'm glad you think so.

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If you enjoyed this interview, definitely look out for more works by Konstantinos. His work will be available at ELCAF 2019 and our shop in the future. He will also be there at our booth if you want to learn more about his practice and inspirations. For now, you can find (@korakonero) on Instagram to follow his activities and illustration work.