Ēriks Apaļais : ĒRIKS APAĻAIS
Born in Riga, Latvia, in 1981. Lives and works in Riga, Latvia
Ēriks Apaļais’ s works deal with language as culturally produced material. He creates visual models, which clarify traumatic experiences through certain linguistic formulae. His work often refers to literature and linguistics (Apaļais has studied English philology), where painterly utterances are critically investigated. Thus, similar to the sounds of speech, painterly articulation may register a diverse spectrum of intonations. His matte black large format paintings stir up chalkboard beauty, where deconstructed elements levitate on the surface as the remains of semantically emptied memories.
Kristiana Dimitere : "Kristiana`s art is live theatre, captured in mid-motion. The vivid colours conceal within themselves an omen of fate, which is also always present in the eyes of the characters and sometimes even outside of the picture."
This description by the artist`s mother, legendary Latvian actress Vija Artmane, helps understand the complicated world of Kristiana Dimitere`s art. She`s equally comfortable sculpting, painting, drawing, illustrating, and creating stage sets and animations.
The trump card of Kristiana Dimitere`s art is the plasticity of her shapes and the recognisable lines which tame the artist`s vibrant, fantastic characters so akin to the aesthetics of naïve art.
Andris Breže : Andris Breže (1958) graduated from the Art Academy of Latvia’s Design (formerly Industrial Art) Department. He has participated in exhibitions since 1977. He was one of the members of the group of Supergraphic Artists who created expressive works of graphic art in the 1980s in the medium of large format screen printing.
He was nominated for the Purvītis Prize for his most recent personal show “A Life of Peace” (Galerija Alma, 2013). Under the pseudonym Andris Žebers, Breže has published three collections of poems: “Tattoos” (Liesma, 1988) and together “Vodkas/Side Effects” (Neputns, 2007). For these, he received the Klāvs Elsbergs Prize for best debut, the Aleksandrs Čaks Prize and the Annual Literature Prize for the year’s best collection of poems.
Māra Brīvere : Māra’s painting reflects the artist’s path to liberation manifested through rejection of everything superfluous. This is characterized by emotional measurements precisely captured right down to the last millimetre, which are both personal and fragile. In hushed tones, with impressions akin to lines of chalk, and highlighting the value of simplicity and humility, Māra forms a reflection of her own subjective reality. She “portrays” signs or road signs, which help one to see clearly, without the sediment of domestic pollution or the context of the age.
Scrupulously and laboriously conceived large-format paintings or momentary vestiges tell of our unity with nature, the primordial origins of the world, the unjustifiable seismic jolts of fate and the imperceptible expanses of her roots and soul.
Barbara Gaile : Barbara Gaile is one of the more unorthodox representatives of Latvian contemporary art. The source and solution of her self-expression is in her thorough, complete and self-sufficient brand of minimalism.
THE ORGANIC WORKS OF BARBARA GAILE
It is common to break down contemporary art into various trends, to single out tendencies, establish conceptions and strategies, emphasise discourses, describe contexts, recognise conventionality and engage in other similar analytical procedures. This is normal for professional critics and art historians; it helps the audience of contemporary art to orient itself across the manifold space of the latest artistic culture. However, there are artists whose works are ill-suited for such analytic systematisation. One should also note that these are not outsiders but remarkable, talented artists. Of course, Mark Rothko, Cy Twombly, Yves Klein and Agnes Martin can be categorised as abstract artists but this does not help us much to understand their works. In addition, this inclusive definition tends to set them apart from the current trends in contemporary art but their art continues to attract us and is perceived as the best in contemporary painting.
It seems to me that the works of Barbara Gaile coincide with various conceptual strategies in contemporary art (such as field painting or salient painting) but first of all they relate to some exceptionally profound and strong artists. Besides those mentioned above, I could add other wonderful and radically different artists: Louise Bourgeois, Kaze Zimblyte, Rachel Whiteread, Mona Hatoum… Each of them features a distinctive evocative quality that is also typical of Barbara Gaile’s works. She, like the other artists mentioned, pays particular attention to the technological side of making an artwork, turning the process of creativity into an ecstatic procedure and expecting the appropriate perception from the viewer.
Barbara avoids a painterly approach, favouring texture instead; while emphasising the origin of colour in light and retaining the self-sufficient value of pigment, she preserves its “sound” but not its materiality. The materiality of Barbara’s works is recreated; it is different - like the materiality of a living organism… At the same time, the question of materiality recedes into the background; much more important is the life of that which Barbara has created and which would be difficult to call a painting in the traditional sense. It is life and interaction with us as spectators. The suggestive character of the works is so strong that they put us in a state of sustained contemplation and meditation. Barbara’s works appear to stand openly before the viewer yet at the same time they are closed in their autonomous existence. There is no open expression or narrative. It seems that we are contemplating some kind of living organisms, bodies with healed scars and opalescent skin… It is no longer either salient painting or still life but salient life – life created by the artist.
I get the impression that Barbara Gaile has now reached a certain peak in her artistic development, so convincingly does she cultivate her mastery, so stable is the technological side of her painting and her organic creative position. The originality of Gaile’s creativity expands the space of Latvian contemporary art; it gives the most recent art in the world added value and undoubtedly has its audience.
Art critic, artistic director of the Russian National Centre for Contemporary Art
Ivars Drulle :
Ernests Kļaviņš : Through the simple / playful use of colour, drawing and animation, the intelligent provocateur has conjured up fables that make us smile and think... The titles of the works are important for decoding the connections – they serve as rejoinders.
Krišs Salmanis : Krišs Salmanis (1977) studied in the Art Academy of Latvia’s Visual Communication Sub-Department and at the Academy of Media Arts in Cologne. Having participated in exhibitions since 2001, he has twice been nominated for the Purvītis Prize for the exhibition Lost (Riga Art Space, 2009), and subsequently for the video animation “The Long Day” (Festival Survival Kit 4, 2012) and the exhibition “The Fragility of Trust” (Galerija Alma, 2012). In 2011, he was one of the finalists nominated for the prestigious Henkel Art Award. In 2013, together with artist Kaspars Podnieks, he represented Latvia at the 55th Venice Art Biennale with the pavilion North by Northeast.
Reserved, melancholic, intellectually justified and visually filigree - this briefly describes the artist Krišs Salmanis, who is no doubt one of the brightest representatives of contemporary art in Latvia.
Krišs Salmanis uses animation, video, photography, objects as well as his body, trees etc in his art. However, it is neither the media used, nor the unifying themes, but rather the employed method what characterizes his work.
In Latvian there is not an appropriate synonym for the word 'joke' to denote that the element, which in Salmanis’ work can be perceived as irony or humour, is instead mental excersise, intellectual activity, wit as a twist of thought.
Another important aspect is formulated best by the artist himself, using Kurt Vonnegut’s idea of the complicated futility. The making of Salmanis’ work is often seemingly unnecessarily time- and effort-consuming. It is a kind of self-invented craftsmanship, which, even if unnoticed by the spectator, is a vital component of the final piece. The work of Krišs Salmanis is the process of thinking and the way of passing one’s life.
Conceptual clarity and poetic polysemy co-exist in Salmanis’ art. Painstakingly elaborate, the works are thought out to the tiniest detail; they are often quite minimalist as to artistic expression and defined by their unexpected paradoxicality and intuitive quest for the truth combined with subtle irony and existential sadness.
The artist works in a variety of media, including animation, video and object installation, occasionally using his own body in his art.
Zane Tuča : ZANE TUČA
...But one can never get quiet enough...
“When I was a girl, I was terribly sure trees and flowers were the same as birds or people. That they thought things, and talked among themselves. And we could hear them if we really tried. It was just a matter of emptying your head of all other sounds. Being very quiet and listening very hard. But one can never get quiet enough...”
(A quote by Truman Capote, inspired by real life events, in the reconstructed detective novel In Cold Blood )
For the most part, attempts to depict, subjectivize or even invent silence in works of art are characterised by delicate and fine intonations. Oftentimes, hidden minutiae and details that are initially obscure are of major, nigh on decisive, importance. Art born of the material of silence strives to be unobtrusive, inconspicuous, and requires a more enduring gaze from the viewer, including when art gravitates towards a kind of durability, which is much slower and less familiar to the mind than the everyday rhythm of time. Zane Tuča’s monochrome compositions largely correspond to associations and intuitive visual archetypes about silence. At the same time, they also represent something more, something stemming from the gamma of emotions and feelings that can be contrasted to all that is noisy, challenging and dramatic in the system of binary oppositions.
The paintings in the exhibition ...But one can never get quiet enough are about that silence that can be found, not in the absence of sounds, but rather on softer information frequencies that are perceivable in less verbal ways. They tell of a time that Zane Tuča sought to stop and freeze. Perhaps, this is the only state in which silence can exist. At the simplest level, the artist depicts how various moments in time can simultaneously overlap; this physically impossible state, which has stimulated the creative imagination of so many artists and inspired numerous artistic depictions of contemporaneity, in which the present, past, future and other customary watersheds merge. The depictions of landscape that one sees in Zane Tuča’s paintings reflect this mental time zone, where different principles of space and durability prevail.
Overlays are also formed in the technical execution of the works. Areas painted in acrylic are covered with exquisite drawing, which both clarifies and tonally blends the depicted forms, as well as accentuating the minimalist colour. Thus, the fine and time-consuming working process of drawing is of major significance, because it echoes the meditative deceleration visible in the paintings, which is out of this world. The artist captures restrained laconic landscapes and studies of nature and architecture in glassy reflections, with each depicted detail doubling and toying with the effects of Northern light. Zane Tuča has also used this approach in her previous works, returning to it through various motifs. If we are seeking the classical logic of representation in these paintings, then, as in the Ancient Greek myth about Narcissus, the confluence of brilliance and an object creates a new third image, which is a symbol of transience and imperceptibility. Landscape elements are a way of thinking about moments, unravelling the mysteries of time and physically perceptible silence, which disrupt its consistently foreseeable flow.
The works in ...But one can never get quiet enough were created by Zane Tuča during her residency in Norway. In a reserved Nordic manner, she captures the locale’s instruments of silence – nature and man-made architecture. Seeking the origin of the silence visible in the paintings, one concludes that it does not lie within the anarchically charged silence of 4’33”, nor ethereal metaphysics. In Zane Tuča’s works, asceticism overlaps with the calligraphy of forms. As a result, we can observe references to some decidedly matter-of-fact traditions of photorealism and self-conceived approaches to meditation, which present vision as the content of the work of art and startle the mind through efforts to see reality anew, devoid of the layers wrought by urban urgency and noise.
Kristīne Kursiša _ Ārpus kontroles _ 26.09. - 22.10. 2009., Kristīne Kursiša _ Out Of Control _ 26.09. - 22.10. 2009.
Mūsu laika ikonas _ 27.10. - 14.12.2009., Contemporary Icons _ 27.10. - 14.12.2009.
ARCOmadrid 2010 _ Gints Gabrans _ 17. - 21.02. 2010., ARCOmadrid 2010 _ Gints Gabrans _ 17. - 21.02.2010.
Jānis Blanks _ Personālizstāde _ 27.03. - 30.04.2010., Jānis Blanks _ Solo show _ 27.03. - 30.04.2010.
Ivars Drulle _ Balstīts uz patiesiem notikumiem _ 27.04. - 10.06.2011., Ivars Drulle _ Based on True Stories _ 27.04. - 10.06.2011.
Ernests Kļaviņš _ Karš starp titāniem un rūķīšiem _ 28.11. - 02.12.2011., Ernests Kļaviņš _ War Between the Titans and Gnomes _ 28.11. - 02.12.2011.
Krišs Salmanis _ Uzticēšanās trauslums _ 28.05. - 27.07.2012., Krišs Salmanis _ The fragility of trust _ 28.05. - 27.07.2012.
Andris Breže _ Miera Dzīve _ 5.10.2012. - 09.01.2013, Andris Breže _ A Life of Peace _ 5.10.2012. - 09.01.2013
Ivars Drulle _ Jums tūlīt atlaidīs _ 22.11.2013. - 24.01.2014., Ivars Drulle _ You’ll be pardoned forthwith _ 22.11.2013. - 24.01.2014.
Molekulārās Dzīves Metamorfozes _ 20.06. - 15.08.2014, Metamorphoses of Molecular Life _ 20.06. - 15.08.2014
Aija Zariņa _ RA i nis _ 26.02. - 20.03. 2015, Aija Zariņa _ RA i nis _ 26.02. - 20.03. 2015
Andris Breže, Krišs Salmanis _ 05.05 - 05.06. 2015., Andris Breže, Krišs Salmanis _ 05.05 - 05.06. 2015.
Camille Henrot, Māra Brīvere, Daiga Grantiņa _ Haosa Harmonija _ 9.06.-5.09.2016., Camille Henrot, Māra Brīvere, Daiga Grantiņa _ The Harmony of Chaos _ 9.06.-5.09.2016.
Ēriks Apaļais _ Le Cygne _ 07.09. - 14.10.2016., Ēriks Apaļais _ Le Cygne _ 07.09. - 14.10.2016.
Ivars Drulle _ Manai Dzimtenei _ 30.11.2016. - 20.01.2017., Ivars Drulle _ To My Homeland _ 30.11.2016. - 20.01.2017.
Amalie Smith _ ΜΗΧΑΝΙΚΟΣ _ 10.04. - 19.05.2017., Amalie Smith _ ΜΗΧΑΝΙΚΟΣ _ 10.04. - 19.05.2017.
Kopā viens EVELĪNA VIDA un ANDRÉ VIDA 29. 05. – 21.07.2017., Alone Together by EVELINA VIDA and ANDRÉ VIDA 29.05. - 21.07. 2017
ĒRIKS APAĻAIS Institucionālās spēles 17.11. 2017. - 26.01.2018., ĒRIKS APAĻAIS Institutional Gambling 17.11. 2017. - 26.01.2018.
RA i nis
In the art of our contemporaries, it is quite rare for one to encounter the seriousness with which these works have been imagined and created. This particular seriousness and immense concentration on finding characters that precisely convey meaning impose certain responsibilities on the viewer. In order that these responsibilities (which he may, of course, decline to undertake) do not become too onerous, I would like to briefly and personally introduce the three works in this cycle of paintings, which strike me as being the most complicated. As far as I am concerned, they are also the most important. I will then come to Rainis, who is a simpler element of this series.
Aija has given all her paintings titles, but these do not fulfil their usual task of helping the viewer and preventing misunderstandings. They are all akin to comments and are primarily intended for those who have already perceived the content of the images. Therefore, upon coming to the painting entitled "The Vedic God RAdomir", one should not be confused by the title. This work depicts a scene from a legend recorded in the 13th century “Golden Chronicle” about Mary Magdalene as the wife of Jesus Christ, from whom she gave birth to two children. Aija has drawn the family portrait with Mary, Christ, their children, the wise men and John the Baptist, then still in possession of his head, at the foot of the mountain on which the Meteora Monastery sits. She has approached this myth about the holy family through Slavic sources, which explains why Mary Magdalene has a Slavic name and the legendary long hair, in honour of which an entire monastery was built in old Novgorod. Inspired by Slavic tradition, Christ appears here under the name of Radomir, i.e. the name in which he is sometimes referred to by Russian Vedics, who consider Christ to be only one of many prophets – preachers of the religion of light. The sun is extremely red, because at that moment, the Earth is in extremely close proximity to it – much nearer than it is now. Mary smiles and there is a lot of light. The faces of their ancestors peer down at them benevolently from the summits of the ridges.
Chronologically, the next work is “The Russ Kings”. It is a painting depicting the last monarch of the Merovingian dynasty, King Dagobert II, who was either murdered or accidentally shot while hunting in 679. His totem is a bear as big as himself; with mouth is agape and adopting a pose as the eighth star in the constellation of the Little Bear. It is considered that the Merovingian dynasty ended with Dagobert’s death. Aija evidently considers these kings to be the last bearers of light, at least in France. She calls them “The Russ Kings”, because their forebears and their cult of light apparently emanated from somewhere in the north of contemporary Russia. The mystical place of origin of these kings is depicted in another painting in the cycle: “The Sun Kingdom”.
According to the “Golden Chronicle”, at the end of her life Mary Magdalene ended up in the territory of what is now southern France and died in Aix, where her mortal remains were laid to rest. During the period from the 12th to the 14th centuries, a Christian sect known as the Cathars or “the pure ones”, which had broken away from the Roman Catholic Church rose to prominence in southern France. Aija’s painting “The Wish Man of Battle, RA da” is dedicated to the Cathars. In the 13th century, it was thought that it was the European Cathars in particular who believed in the marriage between Christ and Mary Magdalene and considered themselves to be disciples of Mary.
The Vatican waged war against the Cathars with fire and sword. The campaign against the Cathars in the war of the Crusades ended with their defeat and annihilation at the village of Montségur in Languedoc in 1244. In her painting, Aija has depicted the two most important centres of Catharism: the fortresses of Montségur and Usson (their ruins can be still be viewed in France today) and Perfect Esclarmonde de Foix, known as the Princess of the Cathars. In the language which she spoke, Occitan, her name means “Light of the World”. It is significant that by 1244, the year depicted in the painting, Esclarmonde had already died. Therefore, the depicted magus of battle with flowing hair (glowing with stars falling from Heaven) battling the Crusaders is no longer her physical body – it is her spirit. With the destruction of the Cathars – believes Aija – the cult of the sun ended in Europe, heralding the advent of the Dark Ages.
Why has she depicted this, in her opinion, historic battle for the preservation of the cult of the sun through medieval legends and scenes from the life and death of seldom mentioned historical personalities? (I am convinced that, in terms of the format and symbolism, never before has such a considerable iconography of Dagobert II and Esclarmonde de Foix been created as that which we see in the exhibition “Rainis”, not even courtesy of the artists who were the heirs to the Cathars and Merovingians in France.) One of the reasons is certainly that sufficiently detailed materials – at least for Aija’s purposes – have not survived from the defence of the Baltics against the Crusaders. She finds the footprints of the ancient religion of the Sun in Latvian folklore. It is visible, for example, in the painting “Sun Seer”, in which a raven has turned into a wise man and is holding a golden kokle on its arm – the sun.
In her eyes, the only person and historical personality worthy of standing alongside the Merovingians and the Cathar war leaders is the Latvian poet Rainis. The sun, of course, is one of Rainis’ most frequently encountered motifs, and it (as is the case in Aija’s paintings) has so many meanings that, at times, it seems that, as far as Rainis is concerned, the sun is universal and omnipotent. For example, he writes, “Dying, I will not die – the emissaries of the sun will come / They will lay blankets of wings under my feet, / They will bear me into the bright land of the sun.” Who can understand this? And in another poem, he prophesies, “Tissues of the new light, / Along with the blanket of the sun, / Will warmly swathe all the children of pain.” What is this new light? When will it come? In this cycle of paintings, inspired by Rainis’ poem “Antiquity”, Aija has drawn a cockerel, which raises up a sunken castle from the deep with its crowing.
Aija not only tells and depicts myths; she creates them. She is not on the outside and does not view them askance. In my opinion, the unusual seriousness of these works can be traced to this stance. Also integral to the endeavour of myth-making is the fact that she has written the word “Merovingians” with an “a”, i.e. as “Meravingians”. I have not encountered this spelling in any of the sources available to me – neither ancient nor new. It is Aija’s spelling. It is necessary for her in order for the syllable “ra” to be heard in the word. In this word and in all the other works in the sun cycle, the syllable “ra” denotes the Egyptian sun god Ra or the Sun itself.
Accordingly, without even mentioning all the other roads, which converge into one in this myth, through Egypt we also come to Rainis. “Ra” denotes the “sun”, “i” means “and”, and “nis” alludes to everything that the sun shines upon. No existence would be possible without the sun and its light. Therefore, there is nothing other than the sun itself and that shone upon by the sun. There is only Rainis and the whole of existence is expressed in his name.