The imprint of memory

If someone tapped the semi-basement windows in via Marucelli about seven or eight o’clock in the morning, we already knew who did it . If we did not respond by opening the door, almost automatically some “vulgar” language would follow which obviously we where not the only ones to listened to in the impasse small alley.

A tall man, around forty-five, would decent the few steps usually dressed in a jacket, sweater and blue-jeans with well-placed features and a well-groomed, thin beard in his somewhat tired face. His smile with a distinct direction may have led to some embarrassment someone if he was trying to guess his probable identity because his priest’s collar was probably going unnoticed on him.

It was Markos, an orthodox priest from the Italian south, who was entering the house with a load of tension, either because the hagiography that was at that moment on the easel had surpassed, in his point of view, the time of its completion, or because Spyros had not gone to Bologna for a long time, to continue working the frescoes in the holy temple of St. Basil, where he was a chaplain and was servicing every Sunday. After a while, however, when the neurosis passed, he was pleasant and ready for jokes.

From that easel, all the basic forms of the temple had passed and I had the chance and luck to watch closely at the creation of each hagiography, and be impressed by the various stages of evolution and the great discipline of the hagiographer.

I have strongly kept in memory the contour design in the defined schematic way, the individual features of each form that made the work look like, at some point, more to an anatomical model, ready for a medical course. And then, at this admirably thrilling moment, the hagiographer began to stretch out the egg varnish, which oh by miracle, homogenized all the individual design elements, and the figure managed to acquire its “skin” and with the last leaves of gold in the halo, the hagiography its essence.

When the painting was done, it’s position in the easel took a new canvas stretcher and then, as if the artist simply turned a switch, he began to paint something that you could perceived very quickly, belonged to another, entirely different reality.

Using as a guide a pencil draft, the artist in strict geometric shapes, stretched the first color, then a second, and then stopped. He moved to the kitchen, drank some wine, smoked half a pack of cigarettes and sat speechless for hours like a genuine Epirote. Sometimes he would burst into laughing because he remembered a detail from a novel by Nolla and suddenly, he got up and came to my room to tell me: “I say to put a bit of beige.” And so, by this process, colures were finalized slowly on the canvas.

He never hid his love for minimalism and geometric, anti-performance direction of the great Dutchman Peter Montorian, who I also met from his albums and later became his fanatical fan. The starting point of Papaspyros’ painting is to a great extent from him. From the Greeks I will add some influence from Yannis Moralis.

At first, of course, I was wondering how he could so smooth and easily transfer from hagiography to these pure geometric compositions. They appeared two worlds totally incompatible with each other, but over time I identified common elements and a common process, who each time were simply transferred to a different visual environment.

The discipline of hagiography with its severity of imaging when passed on the other side took the form of a geometric framework. There were, in both cases, binding conditions, something like rails, on which he sought, in some way, to move the artist’s creative path. But those routes, in the end, would be completely different.

And here the “varnish” that managed to unite each time the two realities, was simply the personality of the painter.

Spyros is distinguished heavily, by a natural austerity and a characteristic Doric enunciation of speech, where each one of his short comments, claims the density of a proverb . The same happens with his peculiar humour. This mechanism in the final formulation of his thought, which stands permanently against every kind of exuberance, is imprinted in his painting.

Trying, each time, with only a few elements and a minimum amount of moves to come to a result, so as that what emerges in the end may be something like a painting proverb.

I look at his new compositions that make up the core of this exhibition. An idiotype chessboard where colour plays with different tensions in the squares, while some remain empty. Like an imprint of memory, I thought for a while, while I was writing these lines having in mind to remember efficiently and not deviate in imaginary representations. Memory with its selectivity, the differences in her tensions, her indifference, her gaps.

EDESSA, 3 december 2018

Vassilis Papas


Space and surface

For Spyros Papaspyrou colour is very important. His serigraphies are articulated with geometric shapes and clear surfaces. He is an artist of detail, extraordinary attention, strict processing of his original idea, of the many tests and drafts. His work needs patient and sensitive viewers : those who will not stay at the first impression but those who will look for tensions that can not be seen at a glance , balances and harmonies that exist but do not scream of their existence, the figurative experiments that, although clear in their expression, are not suitable for a quick and indifferent approach.

In painting, the predominant art of two dimensions, the illusion of real space has traditionally been of great importance. Empirically or based on mathematical principles, painters have painted the world for centuries as they saw it or as they understood it through the education of linear or “atmospheric” perspective. Painting was a representation of reality. Modern art, on the other hand, has attributed colour, not space, sovereign –almost an existential -role in painting practice. In addition, the abstract art expressions of the 20th century, permanently dissociated painting from the need to depict a recognizable theme, because it depicts an actual or possible existing scene or story described in a literary source. In the second half of the century large surfaces could be covered by a single colour, without mixing, without toning, without reference to reality, without three-dimensional performance claims in the two-dimensional space.

Papaspyrou was taught this evolutionary historical course of painting, as all the artists of his generation, who now accept undeniably and without considering it a pioneering step in their art monochromatic surfaces and geometric abstraction. Interesting in his case is that this tradition appears in his work edited and seen through his personal experience and search.

In Papaspyros’ serigraphies geometric shapes are filled with pure colours and the visual surface gains dynamism and intensity through the organization of shapes and the careful selection of tones. No illusion lurks no subject that reminds people the intake, with vision, of the world exists to make any connections with reality. However, the artist deviates from the demands of monochromatic abstraction. There are various methods that eventually integrate the actual space into its surfaces or to produce space through the surface.

Repeating shapes with different tones each, but in the same colour, through a studied choice, create visual surfaces that invite the viewer to explore aspects of space created by their presence and absence. A blank, white, is not only a reminder of the two-dimensional surface, but also a structural element of the image. In the same way the gaps work, in contrast to the full elements, in modern sculpture. Raster in dark tones or unexpected metallic acrylics, create tension in the plaques colour surfaces.

Plexiglass printing creates a different intake condition and viewing. The coloured opaque surfaces in the transparent material, its placement away from the wall through the thickness of the frames or printing on sequential surfaces and their placement in space give the works another dynamic. Space is contained because of the shadow (and not the shading, a typical feature of the painting tradition) who is created according to the circumstances of the lighting, but also the angle of observation. The two-dimensional shapes acquire volume, ephemeral and unexpected, but essentially visually present.

Even one uniform square to a symmetrical synthesis, aided by the dithering created by the passepartout, creates with the help of light unexpectedly smaller squares and shapes through natural shadow in the real space.

For all these reasons, these important details, the work of Papaspyrou needs careful observation. To identify composite experimentations of the artist, to reveal the random dimensions of his recording of the three-dimensional space in the two-dimensional, to see how surface talks with depth, not necessarily premeditated in every detail, but always as a result of a thorough processing.

Ioannina, November 28, 2018.

Areti Adamopoulou

Associate Professor of History of Art,

School of Fine Arts,

University of Ioannina