Multidisciplinary artist, choreographer and endurance performer, Christos Linou has been carrying his brother Jack on his shoulders. Jack Linou a self-taught artist, heroin user, petty criminal and outsider, who died at the age of 33 in 1997 from AIDS complications.
A new book Jack Linou: The Art of an Outsider by Christos is an affirming testament to Jack’s life and energy.
The book will be launched at the NGV annual art bookfair albeit online as pandemic restrictions have eased. Christos will also create a live art installation in Hosier laneway and reproduce many of Jack’s artworks on the laneway’s wall.
“My book caught NGV’s attention because of the story of Jack’s artwork, I got into the fair which is exciting however because of COVID we can’t have a live venue event so everyone has a special link and we can go digital…I thought it was a shame, so I thought I’ll do a pop-up installation of Jack’s work and Hosier Lane,” said Christos.
Jack and Christos grew up in Adelaide, they lived close to me. They were a large working class Cypriot Greek family, all the siblings, except Jack ‘did well,” in the vernacular of migrant success.
Jack knew that too well and his lifestyle was in part a reaction that many young Greek Australians had in the 70s who got into heroin in Adelaide. The success game is a heavy burden for many of us children of migrants.
I knew Jack, knew his force, his rage, the all-consuming internal fire. During Jack’s final years, I also saw the mania as he tried to complete all he could before his demise.
Christos Linou tried to help Jack when he was alive with shows, with exhibitions with all he could, but heroin is far more seductive.
READ MORE: Linou’s hybrid art in the heart of Melbourne
Christos sees this as possibly the end of a cycle of grieving, a cycle that began when Jack was still alive.
“I promised Jack that I was going to put his work into a book one day and it happened now, it’s weird timing during COVID, we were all locked inside and I was thinking about the hundreds and thousands dying so what is Jack, one person only among thousands?” Christos said.
“But it’s all relevant now, he was part of the AIDS pandemic, and he contracted HIV when it was not talked about and carried with it negative consequences of lifestyle.”
Christos wanted to ensure that Jack was not “categorised as someone who used drugs and did petty crime,” he wanted him to be seen as the firebrand artist that Jack really was.
“Yes, he had issues but he was intelligent, sweet and creative and his work is important for all of us and especially for the family that never met him, like my nephew who is studying film and now wants to know more about Jack.”
We’re in COVID, and people are looking back at the AIDS pandemic when it was seen as only for gay people and intravenous drug users, so like Jack they suffered and were seen as disposable, not unlike some see old people now.
“Jack was just a ‘drug user’ then, whereas now he’d be seen differently as someone with serious mental health issues that we didn’t accommodate,” Christos said choking back tears.
The project began some time ago when the LGBTIQ book shop Hares and Hyenas spurred Christos on to complete Jack’s story.
This is Christos’ virtuous circle, the end of something and the beginning of something new. The story of a brother for the family, “for everyone else, for people that suffered from AIDS and drug addiction and being LGBTIQ ….all that stuff coming together.”
He feels a weight lift off his shoulders and he spend much of the project in tears.
“It’s lighter now, a major weight lifted off my shoulders… because I don’t have his artwork in boxes and in folders in room it’s kind of like a cycle that began when Jack was alive, almost from when he was twelve and I tried always to raise him, to help him become part of life, and now he is part of my life and others’ life,” said Christos.
He does not want Jack to be remembered as “a crazy wild heroin addict” as someone once said to Christos. Christos almost breaks down remembering “the brutalisation Jack endured as a young sweet boy send to prison.” He emphasises that Jack “wasn’t a criminal he was an innocent young boy that got caught up in drug use.”
“I just wish Jack was around so he could be doing these things,” said Christos.
Live installation work for the NGV project will be in Hosier Lane Saturday and Sunday from 11:00am to 3:00pm
For more information on Jack Linou: The Art of an Outsider click here