Savvas Tsestos Limnatitis catches up with busy artist Noula Diamantopoulos
When Noula Diamantopoulos was in her mid-thirties she had an epiphany. One of those weird moments when a switch goes on inside you and everything changes. Irrevocably. She was benched over a table, making bombonieres for her godson’s christening when suddenly an idea dawned on her. She would leave behind the life that she knew and take a giant leap of faith, diving head first into the turbulent waters of the art world. “I was an international Taxation Manager with an oil and gas company”, she remembers eighteen years later. At the time, she already had a Bachelor of Business Degree under her belt and was finishing her law degree. “I had staff working under me and I travelled to many places to negotiate taxation law with other taxation managers from other oil and gas companies, and together we met with governments”. Suddenly all that was behind her.
Which in itself is indeed a strange scenario, a development we don’t often witness. Especially for someone with no love whatsoever for art. Not even the slightest interest in it as a matter of fact. As she admits: “There was no intention growing up that I would become an artist. I didn’t even like art – meaning, I didn’t like going to art galleries or looking at pictures hanging from a wall, because they didn’t do much for me. I loved books and I loved reading and I loved creating – making things happen is a strong attitude that I still have”.
I open my mouth to utter the next question but she cuts me short. She is on a roll. Talking about art her passion shines through. Plus she is a bundle of joy, almost jumping up and down as she speaks. The creative process for example. And the journey she suddenly found herself in. “It has been a long journey to understand what I was called to do. And now I am a qualified psychotherapist”. Add that to her long list of credentials: accountant, painter, sculptor, it goes on.
What about the creative process itself? “My art and my art teaching is about process, self, knowingness, wonderment and accessing a meaningful connection with self (which ultimately means universe)”. Suddenly she pauses. Now that’s a surprise. Not for long though. She needs to refresh. “And refresh means that I now understand thatthere is no place that I will arrive at – that there is no destination per se – that it’s not about ‘oh I get it now’. So with that newness I mean I am building what I was called to build – sorry that’s the best way I can say it”.
Like all of us, Noula Diamantopoulos has her own gifts. Unlike most of the rest of the world she decided to follow them, taking the uphill road that leads to her final destination. Albeit, she did that but not in the traditional way. Not by enrolling in an art school anyway. “I didn’t go to art school. I searched and wanted to learn art but I discovered at that time it was mostly theory and I wanted practice”. And practice she did. Anything she could get her hands on.
She is now the Managing Director at Artereal Gallery, in Sydney’s picturesque, almost doll house like suburb of Rozelle. And it all started by recognising those very same skills so deity up above blessed her with. “The moment we can see those gifts and accept them (sometimes we don’t) is the moment the pathways widen and broaden and deepen”. These days a lot of her time is dedicated to running her own Personal Development and Creative Art workshops “that take people and myself into the mystery of self-expression. Dangerous art! I am presently exploring this in my own work and so I am using myself as my own research topic. My last dozen or so art workshops have been that way”.
In between all her duties and responsibilities, she somehow manages to find the time to work on some commissions. “Three in fact. My golden thread is Process and How Can I Serve. Process means – connecting with nature’s way – so the small mosaic commission I am doing (one of my current works) is part of my creative process – the peppercorn branch that I am working on. It’s going to take months. Yet I will work on it every day because I know my process – I do not work on it for two weeks straight with a deadline. Anyone who engages me knows that I have a flow and that I will finish the work within an agreed framework but that I do not work to a deadline”.
As she explains, this gives her the freedom to let the work reveal itself, and to breathe a bit. So the current mosaic commission started off very differently as far as materials were concerned. “Ditto with my writings”. The same ethic prevails over all her work – quite possibly her life too. “When I teach an art class there is always an esoteric topic that we explore on the whiteboard that we then connect to the creative process (universal and personal). That whiteboard is photographed and becomes the beginnings of a chapter for the book. The original whiteboard topic may no longer exist by the end of the writing. And this is the Ithaca process (the poem)”.
Throughout the conversation she throws in literary quotes. It’s not surprise then to find out she is currently exploring that side of her: that of the writer. With not one, but two projects running simultaneously. Both with art at the centre. “Book one is about the creative process. It’s about Start Where You Are At. The other book is about an art process that I have created which is encaustic mosaics, incorporating mosaic elements in encaustic (hot coloured wax) paintings.
But what is it that attracts her so much to ceramics, pushing painting towards the back of her mind? “Natural materials – like opal rocks and paua shells and less with glass or even ceramic – I love working with smalti (enamelled glass small bricks that are made the same way today as they were 2000 years ago). But painting has an immediacy – almost like drawing for me. Therefore painting cannot be replaced for that immediacy”.
Whichever way you look at it, Noula Diamantopoulos is what is usually referred to as a jack of all trades. Someone with her fingers in a lot of pies. Someone with a knack for various things. Sacrilegious? Not quite. “For some this is heresy – yet for Leonardo it was his life blood – so there are many paths to personal success. I create my own path which happens to be plural. One feeds into another – they are all held together by a beautiful golden thread that creates a platform. They weave into each other when I teach – I teach what I know, what my experiences are, and that includes all aspects of me”.
Moving on. To the next question. To something that bags me whenever I meet an artist. Art: desire or need to express? She laughs. Then takes her time to think. But not for long. “Mmmmm. Art is a deep desire to express so that I can see what I have within me – I don’t have a need to express per se – I would rather dance for pure self-expression sake – a type of cathartic process – dance that is’. And on top of that she is also into meditation, facilitating meditation sessions infused with teachings from Rumi or the Tao Te Ching or other contemporary authors, as well as teaching how to create a meditation practice at home. “Meditation is the most significant practice that I do in everything – for myself, for my classes, for my clients – both personal clients and corporate”.
No way in the world this woman’s day only has 24 hours in it. Surely there must be more for her to be able to fit so many – and so disparagingly different projects in a single day. Again, she has the answer hanging from the tip of her tongue. “It’s a flow, like a river. I imagine my life flowing. I flow gently and slowly for most of the time. Sometimes there are currents that pull me in different directions. I have a golden thread that keeps me grounded. So if I am teaching, I am teaching. If I am working on a mosaic commission for two hours, then I am working on a mosaic commission. If I have a client, then I am fully present with the client. I cannot work on any one singular item during the day. And I am NOT multi-tasking – I never multi task. There is no one thing – no anything that I do that drains me”. Furthermore she claims that everything she does energises her. “It’s not about the hours in the day, it’s more about the energy we have throughout the day. Everything I do is connected”.
She certainly seems to have a lot of energy, hence her small, wired frame of body. What about spare time? Does she have any? And if yes, how does she spend it? “Spare time?” she cracks up laughing. “I don’t have any”. Fair enough. Time for one final question before I take my leave.
Where does the love – not to mention your perfect grasp of the language – for all things Greek, spring from? “Love for my Greekness. Okay?” A stoic answer. Short and to the point! “Love the stoics! Knowing my Greekness and being connected to my culture provides such a richness to my experiences on this planet. Well put it this way – it makes it easier because I am an embodied Greek”. Noula was born at Bankstown Hospital, Sydney to Emily Rose and Michael Diamantopoulos. Her mum’s family is from Leros but she was raised in Cairo Egypt, and her father was born in Alexandria in Egypt.
Time to say goodbye. I would have loved to stay and continue chatting, but Noula Diamantopoulos is a very busy woman and I would hate to intrude. How does she manage to tip toe on the rooftops with so much weight on her shoulders is anybody’s guess. Me? I am dumbfounded.