Latvian contemporary graphics

Exhibition of Latvian contemporary graphics continues series of exhibition held by Daugavpils Rothko Art Centre, which began with selection of paintings by Latvian contemporary artists, followed by ceramics and now featuring six representatives of Latvian contemporary printmaking art. They are bright and distinct personalities who reveal the specific smack of printmaking and raise the question on borders in graphic art. These six artists cover the range from the old masters and artists who have proven themselves, as well as young artists just emerging on the art scene.

The most experienced artists in this team is Vladislavs Grišins, although his artistic language is fascinatingly fresh. Abstract architectural aquatints elaborated with engineering precision keep minimalist tradition. Purity of form, balanced composition and lightness thus allowing the viewers to feel the paper’s breathing through print coating this bringing meditative magnetism to compositions by Grišins.

Kate Seržāne honours classical values: photorealism, as well as sepia and charcoal drawings which are so rare today. Visual reality is created only with a touch of the hand convincing of its credibility. Even when images in the velvety drawing are multiply magnified, nothing doubts the existence of reality.

Māris Subačs interprets drawing very personally and works with an open heart. Hand stroke is not far removed from the idea – like one’s life cannot be removed from art. Black line on white background most likely is the most minimalistic expression, but Māris Subačs has found it as the most effective for expression deepest thoughts of his soul, giving an opportunity for the viewer to touch the mysterious experience and the spiritual dimension.

Paulis Liepa strongly undermines the idea of printmaking as black-and-white art. Colour in his works is just as essential as the texture or the structure of the composition itself. He absorbs in his works aesthetics of trademarks and packaging design, presenting them in such a delicious dressing that the primary source either is no longer relevant or it forms a witty metaphor.

Liena Bondare works conceptually. Printmaking for her is only a tool, an approach or a way of thinking for expressing her ideas. Through junctions of ideas to be uncoiled by the viewer, the artist reaches the purity of forms. Her compositions are well-built structures, where aesthetic pleasure and intellectual load are well-balanced.

Dārta Stafecka represents the latest generation of graphic artists. For her, a human figure is an important means of expression. The artist feels equally comfortable using etching, linocut or any other printmaking technique, which serves for expression of her actual observations of the world. Her view is open and unvarnished.

Where do you see your place in the context of contemporary art in Latvia?

Vladislavs Grišins: Life consists of only two processes – contraction and expansion. It is like that everywhere, not only in art. But these processes are not endless, they have their limits. In art I choose minimalistic approach – to give up everything that can be given up. But at one point I realized that I have too few means of expression and I cannot add anything anymore. At this point I met my minimalist borders.

Liena Bondare: Is it a question on status, belonging to a particular social group, experience or the museum’s collection? Delivery of an objective answer requires some time, when the subjective and the emotional background becomes neutral. The place is not important. It is certainly not the main basis for creation of an artwork, it is not the best criterion for exposition of an artwork and exchange of views. Often it may be a limiting factor. Context of an art work is not created by an artist alone, so I think it would be important to avoid formalism and superficiality, especially in the work of a curator and a critic. It is difficult to predict when the artist’s creation will reach its heights or a work of an artist buried in oblivion will regain actuality. Success, like public interest and interest from art institutions, changes.

I certainly feel belonging to my age and art environment, I regularly hold solo exhibitions, participate in various projects both in Latvia and abroad, I try to attend the most important exhibitions and museums, and to evaluate my activities in a wider context.

Paulis Liepa: I don’t see it. It is up to others to see.

Kate Seržāne: Contemporary art? It is for art theorists to judge, as I live and work in this time. Current events are crazy and colourful enough to create – in their own way – confusion in regard to the point of focus.

Maris Subačs: I developed as an artist in the 1970s and 1980s when art for me was a mental escape. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, I wanted to keep this mental dimension by reforming of my own art, rather than making something socialist-like. This brought me to religious topics leading to a period in my art, which I do not regret. Only the spiritual world now seems to me difficult to be shown, and there is little ecclesiastical dogmatics, if we know where the real God is.

Dārta Stafecka: Latvian contemporary art is so diverse that in order to find your place in it, you should not submit yourself to certain trends. I try to create works that I like to create hoping that they will appeal to others, thus squeezing myself on the big stage of art.

Why it is important for you to express yourself in printmaking? What can graphic art offer you that cannot be found elsewhere?

Vladislavs Grišins: Already from times of cave drawings, printmaking is a human drive – the need to scratch on walls.

The first thing a person catches, is light, therefore painting can be considered as primary notion. While printmaking is more intellectual. It moves sideways, as printmaking requires abstraction.

As told by art historian Vipers – printmaking is an opposite of painting, as in painting composition is being created starting from the frame, while in printmaking – from the centre. My ambition is to create a graphic art work containing a single point in the middle which would cover everything.

Magic and phenomenon of printmaking lies in its ability to create an intimate space around itself.

Liena Bondare: I do not know if I can say that at the moment it is important for me to express my idea in printmaking. It is risky to cling to a certain technique, as lengthy cultivation of it may lead to a self-sufficient goal. I am increasingly attracted to balanced unity of form and content where a technique is not a starting point of an idea. However, technical mastery, as in any profession, is and remains a self-sufficient quality to strive for. I must say though, that I am mostly offered to participate in printmaking-related projects.

I am fascinated by the laconic way of graphic thinking. Similarly to the haiku or mathematical formulas, where an idea is expressed through minimal means sanding off – layer-by-layer – all excesses. Considering the said, my work “Kunst> everyday nothing”, which is currently displayed in the exhibition, is important for myself. It is based on a technique of expression which is new for me, as well as my personal experiences, frustrations and continuous reflections. The form should be at most emotionless. It is fused with citations and references from cinema, literature and art. The layout is inspired by principles of film editing described by Sergei Eisenstein. Interaction between the work and the audience is important (many use the opportunity to draw with a piece of chalk on the blackboard left in an exhibition hall). It is very interesting to unpack the work after exhibitions when it returns to me. Comments surprise me every time.

Paulis Liepa: Possibly it is simply important for me to express myself, and printmaking is just one means of expression offered by life.

In addition, in printmaking creative process successfully coexists with technical side of creation, thus schooling an artists at least a little, suggesting to think over several moves ahead.

Kate Seržāne: I find my vision and ideas through academic techniques. I focused on drawing, and the combination of sepia and a charcoal and other materials show the magic and inexhaustible world of fine monochrome shades without losing the warmly cool relationship typical for painting.

This challenges me to see black-and-white relationship in printmaking in the ambient colourfulness. Discoveries give joy and happiness, which causes the desire to express myself through drawing and provides opportunities for growth.

Māris Subačs: I have worked in painting, but lately my art is a mental thing, which corresponds to a pure line and theoretical idea.

Dārta Stafecka: The most I enjoy the process of creation, therefore it is important for me to express myself through printmaking. A similar effect can be achieved in other media as well, but for me, as an artist, process is as important as the result. I like to feel the weight of a metal plate in my hands, thickness and smell of paints, changes of paper when it is soaked, thickness and smell of a paint, resistance of a press, I like the feeling of graininess of aquatint and sharp roughness of linocut. Art should not only be seen, but also felt.

Ieva Nagliņa