The National Gallery – Alexandros Soutsos Museum inaugurates on 12 December the exhibition by Rena Papaspyrou, “Surfaces, instructions for use* The dialectic between everyday life and matter”. The exhibition, which will run until 16 June 2024, is the first in a series of actions that form part of the museum’s new programme entitled “Intermediate Space“.

It is a flexible programme with a continuous flow between comprehensive solo or group exhibitions, workshops, performative actions, thematic tributes, presentations and interdisciplinary programmes that will focus on the connection between the “inside” and the “outside” and will activate different spaces both inside and outside the building. The aim of “Intermediate Space” is to feed contemporary curatorial and theoretical approaches into the reading of the permanent collection, archives and history of the EPMAS and to become the channel of communication, the bridge connecting the past with the present and the future.

Rena Papaspyrou, Images in matter (detail), anodized aluminium, pencil intervention, 1980, 115 x 100cm. Collection of the artist.

Rena Papaspyrou: The dialectical relationship between everyday life and matter

In 1972 Rena Papaspyrou projects large shadows in the intimate space of her room and is confronted with the particular morphological character of the wall, the surface of matter. Not wanting to interfere with the “autonomy of matter”, she chooses to record the “episodes in matter”, the particular characteristics of each surface, by painting with the minimal colouring medium, the pencil. Along the way, she begins to use for her work the everyday materials available to her at home (paper and flooring), as well as those she encounters in the city (wood, sheet metal, fragments from the walls of abandoned houses, asphalt and later mosaics and laminated surfaces). Later, in her series of works she calls “images in matter” she records the images she discovers associatively on surfaces. As she characteristically describes it: “the image in matter is created solely by the particular morphological elements of each surface. The imagination of the viewer – any viewer – detects and isolates it through a multitude of random forms that coexist on the same surface.” Papaspyrou, in pointing out the painterly dimension of the material, generously offering the viewer the opportunity to take an active role through his or her gaze: to search and find images.

Research drafts for the Baalbeks project, 1986-1988. Collection of the National Gallery – Alexandros Soutsos Museum

The exhibition “Surfaces, instructions for use* – The dialectical relationship between everyday life and matter” takes as its starting point the work Balbeeks, which belongs to the collection of the National Gallery – Alexandros Soutsos Museum and shows a female figure emerging in space. It presents works by Rena Papaspyrou that represent all stages of her work from 1976 to the present day and includes two new works created especially for the exhibition. Papaspyrou’s work as a whole raises fundamental questions about the multiplicity of the image, the relationship between matter (the objective world) and the gaze (subjectivity), the aesthetic experience of everyday life and the ability of the human mind to create images and make free associations. The exhibition also focuses on the fact that Rena Papaspyrou – a woman, mother, artist and the first female teacher in a workshop of the Athens School of Fine Arts – responds to the demands of her everyday life, turning it into an artistic field of research and creation. And in doing so, she transcends it.

The site of the house from which the Baalbeks project originates. Melissia, Attica, July 1986. Photos: Katerina Vardaka Archive of the National Gallery – Alexandros Soutsos Museum

Rena Papaspyrou, with her work, occupies unexpected parts of EPMAS, giving them a new form and a new function. In this way, the exhibition provokes a series of encounters: between the viewer and the image, between the history of everyday materials and their present as works of art, between the museum itself and the urban fabric in which it is embedded.

  • The title of the exhibition is a reference to Georges Perec’s book, La vie mode d’emploi


Rena Papaspyrou: “Surfaces, instructions for use*”
“Intermediate Space” of EPMAS

Duration: 12 December 2023 – 16 June 2024

Director of the National Gallery – Alexandros Soutsos Museum:

Syrago Tsiara, Art Historian

Exhibition Curator: Sofia Eliza Bouratsi

Art theorist, curator

Architectural design and lighting design: Maria Maneta

Space planning and production coordination: Irini Sapka

Collaboration for the presentation of one of the works in the exhibition:

ADAF – Athens Digital Art Festival

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