This is a reflection on "Sun in an Empty Room", the work of Iwona Zając in the abandoned home of Zoza and Loukas Papanikolaou.
In contrast to Edward Hopper’s homonymous painting, where the sun enters the room of an empty house as a ‘vanquisher’, in Iwona Zając's work, it enters the empty room of a ramshackle house and the light recomposes the shattered memory of the people who once lived there. The mural depicts the portraits of Zoza and her father, Loukas, with respect, love and discretion. They return the gaze of on-lookers across the River Erkyna. The bond created is one that crosses time to link people, river and place in a reification of memory.
The work is a moment that encloses the whole of time; the movement; the faith in people; and their vivid remembrance. It is a modern monument to the Papanikolaou family and for all the residents of the riverside neighbourhood – past and present. It crystallises too the essence of the Memory of Water project. It is a further encouragement, a motivation to search, find and re-establish the continuum of the people who lived, laboured, passed through joys and sorrows there. It also gives a public voice in art for those who lacked one in life.
The portraits of Zoza and Loukas in their home can only be glimpsed at one point along the river bank. It is an intentional choice intended to imply the privacy and embrace of the family home. The composition is only complete when the viewer catches a glance of the portraits from the riverside path. Iwona Zając's work is an exemplary conflation of ethics with aesthetics. She honours the people who inspired her and at the same time she provides us with strong feelings and intense sensations, along with rich stimuli for thought.
Vassias Tsokopoulos, historian