Texts / interviews

Rania Rangou
Same word but different meaning
Painting as a Crime
A commentary on the work of Rania Rangou

Hee-hee, I thought and started to get dressed, and life set out again to flaunt itself in front of me through its everyday routine.
Mikhail Bulgakov, Devilishness

In an age (for a long time now, it’s true) when visual artists have abandoned representational painting, those who continue to serve it tend to treat representation as something established, something that never lies (never can), something like photography in the pre-Photoshop era. For them, painting belongs to an innocent world, angelically fashioned. There are plenty of them (still). Rania Rangou does not belong to this category.

Her work, though it is undoubtedly painting, distils within it all the experience of the media of the last 40 years, of art installations, of photography, of video, of cinema (of this, more anon). Rangou constructs a visual thriller in which features from reality intertwine with exercises in painting, enigmas and puzzles, in a sinister psychodelic trip. The total silence (painting doesn’t make noises, of course) seems to conceal a menacing soundtrack.

The unit of her work here is structured on the myth of Narcissus, a metaphor for the birth of (visual) art through his reflection which the narcissistic but asexual youth gazes at, thus presaging his death. Because Narcissus must not get to know, on pain of death, himself. The analogy with the artist’s journey of self-knowledge is obvious. If this allegory of representative painting as a necessary intermediary for an experience of things can be related to Rangou’s painting, it is for it to be destructured entirely. Here (in her works) any representation seems to conceal the threat of total subversion. In this way, the myth of Narcissus (it is forbidden for the gaze to look upon its image) is related to another myth, that of Medusa (the gaze conceals death). In the painting of Rania Rangou, the gaze enters upon perilous pathways.

This is work which requires careful observation by the beholder. At first sight, we see scenes from everyday life. Then we discover a series of puzzles and paradoxes. And then the climate becomes threatening … Perhaps the best equivalent of Rangou’s work comes not from painting, or even from the visual arts, but from the cinema. Strange as it may seem, Rangou’s visual thriller seems to be engaged in dialogue with the films of David Lynch. As in those, Rangou’s painting calls into question almost every probable fact. As in those, the veneer of ‘normality’, of happiness, of the family, of ‘ordinary people’ conceals the greatest dangers. As in those, you feel absolutely certain that we have some of the interesting examples of their art. How else can the painting of our times be, if not like this?

Thanasis Moutsopoulos
Athens, 2008




(Of) The State of Mind
Antidisestablishmentarianism is one of the longest words in the English language consisting of 28 letters and 12 syllables. Historically, the term makes its appearance in 19th-century Britain and pertains to a scheme directed against those who favoured the disestablishment of the Church of England, namely to remove the Anglican Church’s status as the State Church of England, Ireland and Wales.
Emerging from this very term, Rania Rangou springs upon us an instant inkling: dissenting views, distinguos, boundaries, controversies, perceptions, positions and oppositions; meanwhile, the unusual length of the term itself obliquely refers to bombastic words, to grandiloquence. Heraclitus writes: “The unlike is joined together, and from differences results the most beautiful harmony”. (“Opposites converge and from differences results the most beautiful harmony [and all is accomplished through discord]”).

What is pre-eminent here, in underlining the opposites, is the common course: truth’s multiplicity and harmony. However, how do we define truth and how can we comprehend creation? With what terms and which procedures of perception? To what extent our perceptual ability and the way we think influence our approximation to reality? What exactly is reality and what does it comprise? How free and detached can our perception be from embedded ideas, limits, preconceived opinions, classifications and intellectual ankylosis? “No one can see further than oneself. With this I mean that each one can identify in the other only what oneself is –hence, the standard of one’s own spiritual ability is the sole means to comprehend the other” remarked Arthur Schopenhauer, thus expressing an untoward universality for the human intellect, almost a century before Jean-Paul Sartre said “l’ enfer, c’ estles autres”.

This standard (any standard of things) is what Rania Rangou strives to demolish through the hallucinating images of her painting, like a dream, a fantasy or euphoria. By weaving a utopia, a reality where faces, relations, perception, chance and the conclusion of events do not seem to follow any linear evolution nor submit to any preexisting pattern; they just converge and intertwine within a free space of associations and conditions, like a natural course of living and thinking.

Gleaning violent scenes of criminals’ arrests from the web, the mass media and the police bulletin, Rania Rangou paints them on canvass while entirely inverting their structure. The images, once violent and rough, now percolate down into quiet, tender, even romantic “tales of love”. No sense of threat or apprehension. No dread. On the contrary: the ambience is idyllic; still mountains and a broad horizon crowd out (or interweave with) traces of city remnants. Faces embrace in a game of transformations and relationships arising from the force of subversion. Policemen and detainees sheer off together towards the background of an abstract Mount Everest! Using grey and black spray, Rania Rangou covers a face or body parts or, on another occasion, substitutes the representation of the sky, the interior or exterior. “Painting only on a need-to-paint basis, without much description, is painting with a beginning, a middle but no ending; painting as a personal escape route”, Rania Rangou says. The titles of her paintings acknowledge the way she sees, understands and describes the world and her images: Do I?, Never, Conversation with the Snake, Options, Subway, Stay, Love is, Fuck it All and Go Fishing Project, The Magnet Theory, Kiss Me, Bigger; – she signs in English not because of the prevalent trend but “because the Greek language is the language of my guilt” as she confides. Thus, through subversion, decomposition, transformation, humour, paradox, euphoria and the absence of any linear description, Rania Rangou invites us all to think, to contemplate and to face reality through a viewpoint until then unimagined. The shape of things appears volatile and subdued to as many interpretations, assumptions and contradictions as the mind gets by reflecting on its own operations within itself. Our mind can be the darkest dungeon, Rangou reverts, a rigid shell that we have to crush “like the frozen sea within us” as Franz Kafka wrote of art’s higher obligation and purpose; moreover: “The spirit becomes free only when it ceases to be a support”.

Rangou’s euphoria for a world where everything coexists and interacts indiscriminately, a new identity of things which no longer dissociates but coincides, puts in motion a “restart mechanism” of innocence –just like a child reassembles a jigsaw puzzle once having it pulled apart.

In the drawings exhibited in parallel to her paintings Rania Rangou depicts men wanted by the police. By distorting the shape of faces, she places beside them abstract or concrete photograph printouts and ambivalent drawings composed on the iPhone, all of them in a state of hybrid equilibrium.

Although a genuine painter, Rania Rangou concurs that painting is merely a medium she knows how to use; she would willingly use any other means like photography or video to express exactly the same content. Indeed, although mastering her medium excellently, she is not a fanatic of painting. It would not be a paradox to describe her work as “painting after painting” exactly as it applies to the widest – and far more intriguing – part of contemporary art distilled through the experience and rationality of the web and of new media. Rangou’s language, replete with signs of experience recognition, presupposes and encompasses all means as well as many other forms of art, cinema being the first among them, from which Rangou seems to have originated more than from anything else. Just by the same reason, she finds herself at the focal point of contemporary art where images are presented fully intermediated through cinema and the web.

A “voice sculpture” (Voice Sculpture [and Bluetooth]) suggests that we indulge in a ten-minute phone conversation every day: a friendship with no obligations and no limits. Shall we? [Do we?]
Thanos Stathopoulos

(Rania Rangos solo exhibition “Antidisestablishmentarianism”,
Antonopoulou art gallery, Athens 2010)


Interview By Efi Michalarou for Dreamideamachine.com (April 2015)

  • Mrs. Rangou, to what degree you are working boustrophedon*, in your work, it time and how as a human?

As far as my work is concerned I frequently return to previous works of mine, realizing that regardless any evolution in the way of writing, my targets and the themes I choose to deal with are not far from each other. One does what one is. Therefore, our work inevitably follows parallel tracks to those we walk in life. In our every day we walk down a path, run a routine and at the end of the day we make a conscious or even subconscious assessment of what the day has been about while we build the next morning’s objectives and further out plans. Even this routine continuity resembles to a boustrophedon move.

  • From what of your needs arises in an era where technology seems to have moved away from “Art, Poetry and Philosophy”, as said Jean-Paul Sartre, the return to philosophy?

Both philosophy and technology form part of my life. Technology is the our road to the future while philosophy is the guiding finger, the compass showing the way. Philosophy, especially during unstable periods as nowadays, offers to me direction and support. The more my questions about political and social issues the more the answers and explanations I find walking through the paths of my quest in philosophy which is an outcome of study and observation, which incorporates science in statistics, physics and more. My work is like a visual calendar in which I write of what I actually live and what I ideally dream. This, for me is a art painter. I don’t serve any predetermined plan. I let my subconscious be drifted freely boustrophedon in time. This is how I choose and underscore the themes that interest me more.

  • Your artworks although they are clean canvas painting without visual hints, as your writing contains truth and purity, However the selection and the composition of the subjects creates three-dimensional images of the future, how do you achieve this?

The boundary of targets and imagination is where one sets it to be. In this exhibition I was interested in the traditional use of painting, in the purity of plain painting. My drafts though were made using various applications and electronic tools. The bet was to reproduce with traditional means what was made electronically. It is a game, which keeps me far from being bored, embracing the discipline of a traditional painter and the surprise of contemporary tools.

  • While you use almost the same colours (with emphasis on the blue and white) and you experience your canvas with tremendous discipline and strictness, however, we observe that there is an artwork that is spontaneous and gestural, but also two small collages.

The abstract work, which lies in isolation from the rest of the exhibition, is the theory of chaos, as I call it. It is the project, which came to be through an emphasis of gesture. It was my break and relief from the disciplined and precise other projects of the exhibition. While working on this one, I was giving myself the time I needed, the breathing space to review in a clear eye the main part of the exhibition, to clarify things that were bothering me. I could call it a sideline, but in any case it is precious to me while it is fundamental element to my illustrated theory. The collages consist integral part of the exhibition. While I show only two, purely due to setting up constraints, both reflect the central concept viewed from a different angle.

  • The canvas is an exercise of discipline for you?

In the specific exhibition, yes. It is a form of meditation, in which one works uncomplainingly without one loses one’s focus and track. In other words, with the specific work I entered a debate, into a fight with my usual stance vis a vis painting, which is quicker, more direct and aggressive. During the last two years my atelier became my island, my mystique place and the more I stepped into this world of discipline the more I was looking for this quietness and seclusion.

  • What represent the collage, for you and why do you make them? Although they seem unconnected with your paintings, if someone take a closer look at your work, there is a common thread that runs through, since all contain a collage or images or messages.

The notion of the palimpsest is always present in my work. This has been a universal axis in my work since the times I was still a student. Boustrophedon movement forms a palimpsest if one visualizes this course from a position where one civilisation touches another, conveying the new together with elements from the past. Collages are the quickest way to express the things I want while they embody my perspective. Collages represent a fast, free form of art which includes a dynamic and a convenience that both fit well with my idiosyncrasy.

  • Finally, what is common sense, solution, redemption or obstacle?

In view of the fact that common sense refers to “groups of likes”, it is a solution for those that can impose it and an obstacle for the rest that have to live with it.

* An ancient method of writing in which the lines are inscribed alternately from right to left and from left to right.


Της Έφης Μιχάλαρου

  • Πόσο βουστροφηδόν* λειτουργείτε κα. Ράγκου στο έργο σας, μέσα στο χρόνο και πόσο ως άνθρωπος;

Όσον αφορά στο έργο επανέρχομαι πολύ συχνά σε προηγούμενες δουλειές μου και συνηδειτοποιώ ότι παρόλη την εξέλιξη στη γραφή, οι στόχοι μου και τα θέματα που επιλέγω μέσα στο χρόνο και με αποσχολούν δεν απέχουν πολύ μεταξύ τους. Πράττουμε αυτό που είμαστε. Κατά συνέπεια το έργο μοιραία ακολουθεί μία διαδρομή παράλληλη με την πορεία μας στη ζωή. Συνήθως ακολουθούμε μία διαδρομή, έχουμε μία καθημερινότητα, και στο τέλος της ημέρας ακολουθεί ένας συνειδητός ή υποσυνείδητος απολογισμός της ημέρας παράλληλα με την χάραξη σχεδίων και στόχων της επόμενης μέρας ή και πιο μακροπρόθεσμων. Ακόμη και αυτή η συνέχεια της καθημερινότητας και του απολογισμού θυμίζει την βουστροφηδόν κίνηση.

  • Από ποια ανάγκη σας προκύπτει σε μία εποχή όπου η τεχνολογία μοιάζει να έχει απομακρυνθεί από ‘’την Τέχνη, την Ποίηση και τη Φιλοσοφία’’, κατά Σάρτρ, η επιστροφή στη φιλοσοφία;

Τόσο η φιλοσοφία όσο και η τεχνολογία αποτελούν αναπόσπαστοκομμάτι της ζωής μου. Η τεχνολογία είναι ο δρόμος μας στο μέλλον και η φιλοσοφία το δάχτυλο που μας καθοδηγεί στη διαδρομή. Η φιλοσοφία και κυρίως σε περιόδους αστάθειας όπως η σημερινή, αποτελεί για μένα οδηγό και υποστήριξη. Όσο πληθαίνουν τα ερωτηματικά μου γύρω από πολιτικοκοινωνικά θέματα της περιόδου αυτής, τόσο βρίσκω εξηγήσεις και απαντήσεις μέσα από δρόμους και αναζητήσεις μου στη φιλοσοφία, η οποία είναι αποτέλεσμα μελέτης και παρατήρησης, εμπεριέχει τη γνώση στατιστικής, φυσικής κ.α. επιστημών. Η δουλειά μου είναι σαν ένα εικονοποιημένο ημερολόγιο όπου γράφω για αυτό που ζω, καθώς και το ιδεαττό. Αυτό είναι ο ζωγράφος. Δεν ακολουθώ κάποιο γενικότερο σχέδιο παρά αφήνω ελεύθερο το υποσυνείδητο μου να ακολουθήσει τη δική του βουστροφηδόν πορεία μέσα στο χρόνο. Έτσι επιλέγω και αναδεικνύω τα θέματα που περισσότερο με επηρρεάζουν και με ενδιαφέρουν.

  • Τα έργα σας παρόλο που είναι καθαρή ζωγραφική σε καμβά, χωρίς εικαστικούς υπαινιγμούς, μια και η γραφή σας εμπεριέχει αλήθεια και καθαρότητα, ωστόσο η επιλογή και η σύνθεση των θεμάτων δημιουργεί τρισδιάστατες εικόνες από το μέλλον, πως το πετυχαίνετε αυτό;

Το όριο στους στόχους και τη φαντασία είναι εκεί που το βάζεις. Σε αυτή την έκθεση με ενδιέφερε η παραδοσιακή χρήση της ζωγραφικής, η αγνότητα της απλής ζωγραφικής. Τα προσχέδια όμως τα κάνω χρησιμοποιόντας διάφορα applications, και ηλεκτρονικά μέσα. Μετά έρχεται το στοίχημα να αναπαράγω με παραδοσιακά μέσα κάτι που σχεδιάστηκε με ηλεκτρονικό τρόπο. Πρόκειται για ένα παιχνίδι που δεν με αφήνει να βαρεθώ καθώς εμπεριέχει την πειθαρχεία του παραδοσιακού ζωγράφου και τη έκπληξη των σύγχρονων μέσων.

  • Ενώ χρησιμοποιείτε σχεδόν τα ίδια χρώματα (με έμφαση στο μπλε και το λευκό) και αντιμετωπίζετε το τελάρο σας με τρομερή πειθαρχεία και αυστηρότητα, ωστόσο, παρατηρούμε ότι υπάρχει ένα έργο που είναι αυθόρμητο και χειρονομιακό, αλλά και δύο μικρά κολλάζ.

Το αφηρημένο έργο της έκθεσης, το οποίο βρίσκεται σε… απομόνωση από την υπόλοιπη έκθεση, είναι η θεωρία του χάους, όπως το λέω. Είναι το έργο που έγινε με έμφαση στη χειρονομία. Αποτελούσε το διάλειμμα και την εκτόνωση μου από την πειθαρχημένη και ακριβή υπόλοιπη έκθεση. Όσο δούλευα αυτό το έργο έδεινα στον εαυτό μου τον χρόνο που χρειάζεται, την ανάσα για να ξαναδώ με καθαρό μάτι το κυρίως μέρος της έκθεσης, να ξεκαθαρίσω κάποια πράγματα που με αποσχολούσαν. Θα μπορούσα να το χαρακτηρίσω πάρεργο, αλλά σε κάθε περίπτωση έχει ιδιαίτερη αξία για μένα και αποτελεί βασικό στοιχείο στην εικονοποιημένη θεωρία μου. Τα κολλάζ αποτελούν άρηκτο μέρος της έκθεσης, εδώ παρουσιάζω δύο κολλάζ μόνο, για λόγους καθαρά στησίματος, τα οποία είναι εντός του θέματος της έκθεσης μέσα από μια άλλη γραφή.

  • Είναι άσκηση πειθαρχίας, το τελάρο για σας;

Στην συγκεκριμένη περίπτωση ναι. Είναι σαν ένα είδος meditation, όπου δουλεύεις αγόγκιστα χωρίς να χάσεις τον στόχο σου και τον δρόμο σου. Δηλαδή με την συγκεκριμένη έκθεση μπήκα σε κόντρα με την συνηθισμένη μου στάση απέναντι στη ζωγραφική, που είναι πιο σύντομη, άμεση και επιθετική. Τα τελευταία δύο χρόνια το εργαστήριο αποτέλεσε το νησί μου, τον μυστικό χώρο και όσο πιο πολύ έμπαινα σε αυτό τον κόσμο της πειθαρχίας τόσο περισσότερο αναζητούσα αυτή την ηρεμία και την απομόνωση.

  • Τι αντιπροσωπεύουν τα κολλάζ, για σας και γιατί τα κάνετε; Παρόλο που μοιάζουν ασύνδετα με τα ζωγραφικά σας έργα, αν κανείς παρατηρήσει τη δουλειά σας υπάρχει ένας κοινός άξονας που την διατρέχει μια και όλα εμπεριέχουν ένα κολλάζ είτε εικόνων, είτε μηνυμάτων.

Υπάρχει πάντα η έννοια του παλίμψηστου στη δουλειά μου, αυτός είναι ο κοινός άξονας των έργων μου από τον καιρό που είμαι φοιτήτρια. Και η βουστροφηδόν κίνηση σχηματίζει παλίμψηστο, αν μπορέσεις να φανταστείς την πορεία αυτή από μία συγκεκριμένη θέση, από την οποία ο ένας πολιτισμός ακουμπάει πάνω στον άλλο, και φέρνει το καινούριο με στοιχεία από το παρελθόν. . Τα κολλάζ είναι ο ποιο σύντομος τρόπος για να εκφράσω τα θέματα που με αποσχολούν ενώ ενσωματώνουν την θεώρησή μου. Τα κολλάζ είναι μια διαδικασία έκφρασης γρήγορη ελεύθερη, η οποία εμπεριέχει μια δυναμική και ευκολία που ταιριάζει στην ιδιοσυγκρασία μου.

  • Τελικώς η κοινή λογική είναι λύση, λύτρωση ή εμπόδιο;

Εφόσον η κοινή λογική αφορά ‘’ομάδες ομοίων» , είναι η λύση γι’αυτούς που βρίσκονται σε θέση να την επιβάλλουν, και εμπόδιο για τους άλλους που την υφίστανται.

* Βουστροφηδόν είναι τρόπος γραφής με εναλλασσόμενη φορά.

32.- Rania Rangou (Athens, b. 1970). Exodus, 2021. Oil on canvas, 100 x 100 cm. Courtesy of the Artist, Athens.

The Exodus of Rania Rangou concerns a visual transcription. The painter was inspired by the monumental painting The Execution of Torrijos and his Companions on the Beach at Málaga of 1888 by Antonio Gisbert (1834-1901). With the slogan “Fatherland – Liberty – Independence” and aiming at the end of absolutism, the Spanish liberal revolutionary leader José-María Torrijos (1791-1831) and 60 followers were arrested and executed in Málaga by loyalist authorities without trial, by order of King Fernando VII of Spain. With his martyrdom, Torrijos became the archetype of the struggle against despotism and tyranny. The painter appropriated the figure of Torrijos, with the epic kindness and calm that characterises him as a romantic hero. She pulled it from the traumatic moment of firing squads of the past and placed it therapeutically in the centre of an endless seascape with mere reference to the point that it curves towards a brighter direction. Unlike the heroic past, today’s anonymous protagonist realises the historicity of himself as a passive experience or a Netflix show. As a new “Torrijos” he may be redeemed from his bonds, maintaining his delicate smile. Instead of weapons, he is accompanied on one side by the hand of his comrade and on the other side by the living flame of the struggle for liberty. Today, when death is meaningless, the challenge is the liberation from material passivity towards a spiritual ascension.

(Megakles Rogakos-Hymn to Liberty Exhibition, 2021


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