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Painting with his mouth December 3, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Exhibitions Cyprus.

Kyriacos Kyriacou, known internationally as Kris Kirk, is an artist like any other. He paints breathtaking landscapes and seascapes, and has been exhibited around the world with his images appearing regularly on greetings cards and calendars; all fairly standard things for an international artist to be doing.

And yet his technique would be rather alien to most of us. Instead of his hands being the God-given tools of his trade, Kyriacou uses his mouth. The accident occurred when he was 15, leaving him paralysed and without the use of his hands.

“Since then, my life has been a rollercoaster, but art has been the one constant.” Kyriacos says.

Kyriacou is a member of the international organisation, ‘Mouth and Foot Painting Artists’ (MFPA), and he’s made it his mission to expand its influence in Cyprus. There are currently about 700 members worldwide, but Kyriacou is the only one on the island.

MFPA is a business, making its money by selling cards and calendars with images painted by mouth or foot artists. It operates like a publisher/agent, with all the full time artists receiving a “very good” wage.

Belonging to such an organisation inevitably leads to labelling and/or generalisation. A painter who uses their mouth to hold the brush is not just a ‘painter’, but a ‘mouth painter’. To this extent the ‘disabled’ label is tied to the work. It is something that Kyriacou feels strongly about, and whilst he accepts that it’s inevitable that such a label exists, not least because the organisation is solely made up of mouth and foot painters, he also sees it as a problem.

Having just returned from a successful exhibition at the Royal Academy in London, Kyriacou is now keen to get his work seen in Cyprus. He has had a couple of successful exhibitions on the island already, one in Ayia Napa and one in Nicosia, and he is hoping to be showing in Limassol in the not too distant future.

Working predominantly with oil paint, Kyriacou divides his time between producing work for the cards and calendars, generally Christmas themed compositions, and painting seascapes and landscapes. But he reveals that his real passion lies in a quite different genre.

The MFPA was set up 50 years ago by the successful German artist Erich Stegmann. As a polio victim, Stegmann grew up without the use of his arms and used his mouth to paint. In 1956, he got together with a small group other disabled artists and set up the organisation, believing that if painters with similar problems to his own formed a co-operative, then it would be possible to live as working artists, enabling them to have a sense of work security that was previously impossible.

With the only criteria for membership being that you must use you’re mouth or foot to paint, Kyriacou sees no reason why more disabled Cypriots shouldn’t get involved; even going so far as to offer to teach anyone who might be interested in painting in this manner.

Information about MFPA can be found on their website, at: www.mfpa.co.uk
For Christmas cards and calendar’s call 22-770112. Anyone interested in joining the organisation in Cyprus should contact Kyriacos Kyriacou on 99-469049.

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