On Friday, July 29, 2016, I met and interviewed Parisian painter Michael Stervinou at the La Jolla Fashion Film Festival, held at the city’s Modern Art Museum. We spoke about his involvement in one of the films, The One 3: Horror Sex Fashion, of which three of his paintings were used in a very unusual way. Dressed in a classic navy shirt and jacket, and topped with a whimsical leopard bowtie, Stervinou created his own fashion statement.
Robert E. Ball Jr., the director of The One 3: Horror Sex Fashion, joined Michael Stervinou as we discussed their short film.
Interview by Sheryl Aronson
Responses by Michael Stervinou and Robert E. Ball
How did you and the director of the film meet?
Michael Stervinou: I met Robert E. Ball, Jr. in Paris.
Robert E. Ball: I am the director and producer of The One 3: Horror Sex Fashion, a fashion film that will premiere at the La Jolla Fashion Film Festival. An integral part of this film is the painter Michael Stervinou from Paris, France. His paintings are incorporated in key scenes of the film, which represent the psychological characteristics of the protagonist involved in that particular moment; and they reflect the inside of his mind, much like what Alfred Hitchcock would have done in an earlier era.
Continue the story of how you both began working together for this project.
Robert: It was a perfect combination. My previous film, The One 2: Resurrection of The Vampires was screening in Paris at the Pompidou Museum. Michael attended the premiere of the movie and that is where we met. A glass of wine or two later, an artistic combination was set forth.
I presume these movies are a series?
Robert: The One 3 is the third one in the series. It’s a prequel that sets the stage for the beginning of the telling of a Faustian tale of a good man who chooses turning into a vampire and getting everlasting life by taking the life of others.
What characteristics of Michael’s art did you find intriguing and thought would fit into your film?
Robert: Michael has a wide range of artistic styles, but in terms of this film, I found the mood, the feeling, and the psychological zeitgeist of his paintings reflected the mood, the thinking of the characters in the film at the moment. Rather than just having his paintings be wallpaper, they actually move. They live throughout the movie. It takes place in a land without gravity, without normal spatial representation, and thus it becomes his paintings.
Michael: There are three paintings in the movie. These are a Trip to Eternal Life, Hypnotic, and Bloody Soul. Each scene of the movie fits perfectly with each painting. I wanted to recreate a psychologic side of being human with death and transformation. I felt in this movie and the two previous movies that the real desire of the character is to go to something new—to death—and get the new life as this vampire. That’s why I made these paintings like bloody colors—dark side with the black—and crazy with the silver colors. The paintings were moving like a psychedelic canvas.
You taught yourself to paint. How did you develop your style as an artist?
Michael: I started painting about twelve years ago. I created my own style and that’s why I think Robert fell in love with my art. I have different styles. I like to paint in a variety of ways. I always want to do new creations. But [on all of those new creations] you can recognize my fingerprint.
The key thought for me when I am painting is the ideal of life. We all have dreams. We have our own life, but we also have dreams. I think this fits in quite well with Robert’s movies because the characters have their own life, but they want to become something else, another person.
Robert: My movies are not realistic. They take place in another time, another era, another psychological state. All my movies are shot on a soundstage. I build sets, and in this case, the set was Michael’s paintings.
Where was the set built?
Robert: I’m from Hollywood. I work out of a stage in downtown Los Angeles. The whole movie was shot on a soundstage. Think back . . . Hitchcock, Vincent Minnelli . . . the glorious days of cinema that we all know and love. That is my love. However, I like to add a contemporary twist. I try to take what inspires me from that era and turn it into something new.
The film received eight nominations: Best Picture, Best Actor and Actress, Best Director, Best Costume Design; Best Makeup, Best editing, and [Best] Creative Concept.
Why did you become a painter and an artist?
Michael: Typically, when I was walking down the street in Paris, I was always looking at the art galleries and I’d ask myself, “OMG, how can they do that? This is superb. This is so beautiful . . . the Picasso, the Rembrandt, the Modigliani, the Dali.” I told myself, “Stop saying I wish . . . just do it.” I bought some canvas and paints and started painting. I fell in love with the material. I kept going.
What did you do before you began painting?
Michael: I was working with commercial companies in the aircraft industry in Paris. However, I had it in my mind that I wanted to be an artist because I was always drawing something. I did this as well when I was in school. I wanted to create. I had an artistic mindset all the time.
Is it intimidating being an artist in Paris, which is one the cultural centers for art in the world?
Michael: The first place I went to shoot for my paintings was the Louvre Museum. And you know what? Just one week after, a guy working there phoned me. He told me, “Hello, I saw your website. I would like to work with you. We have an exhibition in two months and would like for you to exhibit there.” So I had my own exhibition at the Louvre, but not with the huge painters there, but another place where some artists can show their paintings.
What year was that?
Michael: That took place six years ago. I don’t show in the galleries in France. I’m quite content showing my work in galleries in Los Angeles and throughout California. I have so much opportunity here. The American people welcome me so warmly. I feel so comfortable with the people here.
How does your French background influence you as an artist?
Michael: I live in the country of Art. Since I was a little boy, I saw so many wonderful things . . . my mind was stretched by that. I was born in Romania and arrived in France when I was 2 ½. So sometimes I ask myself if that also had an influence on me because of that story.
I have so many opportunities in California to sell my art, but I wish as a Frenchman, I could have the same opportunity in Paris. I would be so proud of it.
How did you make the connection here in California?
Michael: In 2010, I met a fashion designer Amy Marie Goetz in Los Angeles. I was trying to get business in the galleries and we met at a fashion event. We fell in love with our common interest in art—she as a fashion designer and me with my paintings. We collaborated together and made a fashion show in Los Angeles with my paintings and she was inspired by my paintings to make silk scarves and silk dresses. One of my paintings was called The Kiss of the Orchid, so that’s how we titled the show and collection (in French, Le Baiser de L’Orchidée). We have some projects together now to make some accessories like scarves, purses, and more with my art.
“Showing my art in Los Angeles, at Agenda Loft was a tremendous experience. I met some nice people and shared my work with those who have that same passion. Arun [Nevader], Kaylene [Peoples], Anna [Ferguson], and all the team (Josh . . . Richard . . .) welcomed me so kindly. Thanks to them all. During the opening show, I had the opportunity to meet a lot of actors, designers, singers, and lots of artists who really inspired me.”—Quoted by Michael Stervinou from Agenda magazine, May 3, 2011
Talk about how you met Kaylene Peoples, owner and publisher of Agenda magazine.
Michael: I met Kaylene while I was exhibiting my art, and doing the fashion show with Amy Marie Goetz the following evening. [Both events produced by Kaylene and Arun Nevader at their venue Agenda Loft in Downtown L.A.] Kaylene is a great singer and she was singing a French song that she wrote specifically for the runway show, titled “Amy Marie.” I noticed she could pronounce the words in French very well, and she was absolutely gorgeous! That was an amazing meeting for me. I wanted to make a special drawing for her . . . it was Megan, her dog. I called it Queen Megan.
“Michael Stervinou’s paintings have a stirring effect. Encompassing acrylic, oil, and surrealistic textures, I can’t help but be hypnotized by their form. His art represents life, which becomes more apparent with each painting. Stervinou’s work is fluid, sensual, superb. It speaks to my heart and soul.”—Kaylene Peoples, Recording Artist and Agenda Magazine Publisher
At what art galleries are you showing your work in San Diego?
Michael: Now I’m showing with a famous art gallery downtown in San Diego called Alexander Salazar Fine Art. I’m so proud to be with him. We have a common contact. He saw my art and he’s also a painter. So we understand each other about our art.
Where do you paint?
Michael: I have an apartment in Paris and a house east of Paris in the city of Champagne. Sometimes I want to be in Paris and be in the streets to get inspired. Paris is so unique for that.
How would you describe your creative process?
Michael: I live in France, so I always have my glass of champagne or wine. I need it as an artist. I also always need music . . . opera, jazzy, fast music to boost me. Without it I can’t create. I can’t paint. It depends what I’m going to do. When I’m creating, I always close the window even if the sun is there. I don’t need the exterior light. I know how the color will be with the natural light. I think I always need to be alone—just me and the canvas—me and the painting—me and my ideas . . . I feel very private about it. I don’t want the neighbors seeing me paint either. I am creating something very special. I am giving birth to a painting, to something very new.
Michael Stervinou stayed in southern California for another two weeks, creating new paintings at the Alexander Salazar Fine Art Gallery, then he was off to Monaco. However, this artist will find his way back to Los Angeles on August 18, 2016, to continue his relationship with the art galleries and artists that welcome his talent.
For more information about Michael Stervinou and his art go to: http://www.michaelstervinou.org/l-artiste/ and https://www.facebook.com/stervinou.painting?fref=ts.
Agenda Bloggers: Written by Sheryl Aronson for “Arting Around” | Want to comment? Login/Register here.