An interview by Yiota Gousas

17 April 2000
 

She begins with a doodle which will eventuate into a magnetic tribute to colour and the female body. This is what she does for fun. Her other work is handled by millions of people, everyday all over the world in their transactions with money. She is a bank note designer Meet Alexandra  Kipourgos.

COLOURS, shapes, lines and swirls are in the eyes of the artist and graphic designer Alexandra Kipourgos. She is a graphic designer for Note Printing Australia, a division of the Reserve Bank in Melbourne, by day and a surrealist painter in her own time.

With her second exhibition set to open to the public on Wednesday and upon being posed the question, since when has she been painting, she laughingly replies since the age of five, although she doesn’t remember what her drawings looked like.

As an artist, she is attracted to surrealism, with Salvador Dali as one of her definite influences. “Realism doesn’t really do much for me at all,” Ms. Kipourgos says. Her work has been characterised as being sensual and erotic, mostly centred around the female physique and erotic imagery. She describes her paintings as happenings. She just draws, she states, without deliberately setting out to create a particular image. The process begins with doodling. Highlighting the example of the ‘Blue Silk’ painting, she describes how the work began as a stroke midway down the female’s back and then was curved which later was to form one of her buttocks. This, Ms Kipourgos says is very typical of the way she paints. “I always do an ‘s’ shape. It is always somewhere in there and then gradually the drawing develops.”

There is not one single painting so far that I have done which I have actually thought out and planned. They have all just appeared. “It happens the moment when I start painting. The only thing I decide is whether I am going to do a small one or a big one.” Her use of watercolours also accommodates her spontaneous process. She draws because she feels like it and there is no great philosophy about that. Even finishing a painting is a subconscious event for Ms. Kipourgos. Referring again to ‘Venus’ she explains how she thought she had finished the painting and put it aside. “But something kept telling me that something was missing from it. “What it was, is the very fine white lines going through parts of the painting. I went back a few hours later and added those.” The effect of the white strokes to the image is a windswept theme, dominant in a lot of her paintings.
“I don’t know why I have done this and one day it might become evident, but there are also no faces. All the female shapes that I have drawn or what represents female shapes actually appear from the back rather than the front. “It is a part of the female body that is noticed a lot generally more than any other part I would say.” She understands more about her art in retrospect. Finding the patterns of the windswept theme, the faceless females and her feminine aesthetic in her art is something Ms Kipourgos says is becoming apparent along the way.

“I am becoming aware of it by seeing what I am actually doing, because it is also a revelation to me. “Sometimes I wonder why I draw them the way I do, but then I don’t really think about it. It’s something I enjoy doing.
“Maybe one day it will be obvious to me.” A conscious effort, however, is made in keeping her work in sequence with photos before it gets sold.

In contrast to the work she exhibits, the artwork she deals with through Note Printing Australia is anything but spontaneous. She is part of a team of graphic designers who create the artwork for the Australian bank notes. Having finished a degree in graphic design at Swinburne, she has been working with the company since 1989. Specialised in the offset security patterns, the background on which the images on the bank notes are placed, her work is highly technical and detailed. She sets the security patterns in the fine lines and the colour schemes for the notes. “The idea is to create bank notes which will make it difficult for people to forge,” Ms. Kipourgos explains. Australia is not the only country for which the company prints and designs bank notes. Some of the countries which have money already in circulation with designs made by Ms. Kipourgos are Thailand, Kuwait, Singapore, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea.
The material for the design in most cases is set within the parameters of a theme and specific designs and other times the designers have total freedom to use their own resources.
Does she find inspiration and satisfaction in this work?
“It has its moments,” she says.
“Some days I think I don’t really want to be doing this anymore,  there is a lot of hack work involved, like the boring tedious cleaning up where you have to zoom in, pick on certain pixels  remove them or adjust them.
“Of course you have moments where you are creating something totally new and when it is approved you think ‘wow that is my handy work there’
On a funnier note, Ms. Kipourgos talks of how people often don’t believe her when she tells them where she works. “I actually handed a person a one hundred dollar note and he made some funny comment about it. I said ‘now, now, don’t you criticise my handy work’ and he looked at me in disbelief.
“I told him I spent quite a lot of hours sweating over that banknote and he asked, ‘what’s your real job lady?’ so I told him I was a waitress.”