Rena Papaspyrou – Archisearch Lifetime Achievement Award


Rena Papaspyrou – Archisearch Lifetime Achievement Award


Rena Papaspyrou was born in ATHENS in 1938. She studied painting and mosaic at the Athens School of Fine Arts (1956–1963) and went on to study mosaic at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris (1964–1966) on scholarship from the French government and the National Organisation of Greek Crafts.A conceptual painter, Papaspyrou has thoroughly explored the possibilities of matter and drawing. She uses found and readymade materials (wood, sheet metal, asphalt, mosaic tiles) exclusively sourced from the urban environment – “the city landscape” as she called it in 1980 – and employs the detachment method to capture “episodes” on a surface, as well as the associative images – “images in matter” – that emerge upon being viewed.

In 1966 she had her first solo exhibition at La Maison des Beaux-Arts in Paris, featuring a series of mosaics. During the same year, she returned to Athens, where in May 1967 she showed her mosaics at Astor Gallery. Seeking to introduce the element of volume, she incorporated into her mosaics large pieces of glass mass, glass bottle shards, tiles, and pieces of metal. In later years, she experimented with other materials, including bricks, tiles, and plastic.

In 1977 she held the exhibition “Episodes in Matter” at Desmos Art Gallery, featuring art made with pencil on found wood, in a series that came about from observing the distortions on the ceiling and walls caused by the shadows of objects at night; in this series, the artist arrived at the morphological autonomy of the material surface. It was during that same year that she carried out her first wall detachments, which she showed in 1978 as part of the group exhibition “Avanguardia e Sperimentazione” in Modena, Italy. On 15 October 1979, she held the happening “Marking – Place of Origin – Detachment”, also known as “Stilponos 7” – the address in Pangrati where the event took place – to mark the opening, in the same evening, of her exhibition at Desmos Gallery.

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Since 1980 Papaspyrou’s interest has shifted to the juxtaposition of different materials, the variety of colour, and volume in the mediums in which she has been working. In her third solo show at Desmos, in 1982, she showed “Samples from Urban Landscape – Images in Matter”; the exhibition also featured “Geographies”, the series which essentially ushered in the ongoing series “Images in Matter”. In 1983 Papaspyrou represented Greece at the 17th São Paulo Art Biennial. In late 1985, she held the exhibition “Magic Rooms” at Dracos Art Centre. In summer 1986, Papaspyrou began detaching a wall section of a burned-down house in Melissia, Attica. This resulted in “Baalbeks” series, first shown to the public in 1988 in group exhibition “Four Critical Views” at Ileana Tounta Centre for Contemporary Art. In 1989 she embarked on an installation using mosaic tiles, which went on view later, in 1994, in solo exhibition “Associative Images” at Kreonidis Gallery. In 1990, in the same venue, she showed “Fires in the City – Multi-Images”, a series consisting of three elements: the wall surface, electric light, and references to the style of representation of fire in “Night Attack on the Sanjô Palace” from the “Illustrated Scrolls of the Events of the Heiji Era” (Heiji Monogatari Emaki).

In the following years and through her collaboration with Gallery 7, Papaspyrou continued to carry out wall detachments; she also experimented with digital processing of images in matter, for instance in the animated video “The Real Time” (1996), in which she investigates the proliferation of images on a single surface by connecting different markings. In 2001 she exhibited “The Wall”, an installation, at Gallery 7; a new version went on display in 2002 at Alatza Imaret in Thessaloniki. In 2004, the video projection “Constellations” – digitally produced images on a scanned mosaic panel – was presented at the NW Sema project space, in an event jointly organised by Gazon Rouge Gallery. In 2006 she showed large installation “The Ultimate Vision Makes Me Blind” at Gazon Rouge Gallery. In 2009 “Flashback”, her first retrospective exhibition, was held at the Macedonian Museum of Contemporary Art in Thessaloniki. In June 2010, as part of the Attiko Metro art program, a major project by Rena Papaspyrou titled “Images in Matter” was installed at Halandri Station. In 2011 the National Museum of Contemporary Art in Athens organised the exhibition “Photocopies Straight out of Matter 1980–81”. In the same year, Papaspyrou participated in the 3rd Athens Biennale “MONODROME”. In 2018, the House of Cyprus hosted her solo exhibition “Staircases”, featuring works from a new series.

Papaspyrou has established an important legacy as a teacher. She first worked as assistant and curator of Painting at the School of Architecture, NTUA (1970–77), and from 1978 taught at the Athens School of Fine Arts. She served as director of the 3rd Painting Studio (1993–2005), becoming the first female ASFA professor to be a Studio director. In 2006 she was named professor emeritus. She lives and works in Athens.