Agra Ritiņa (Latvia)

“For me, appreciating the vastness of the world begins with stepping into nature. Each year come spring, I see another repetition of the blooming season, experiencing it as if it were my first. Time and again, I rejoice in the crisp smell of freshly cut grass and in the orderly pattern of clover leaves so neatly arranged one after another. I see flower bouquets settling into vases like puffy clouds. And lo, the brilliance of spring, summer and autumn gives way to the graphic serenity of winter…”

Agra Ritiņa

Impasto strokes and lyricism, gentle femininity and robust poise, monumental laconicism and aesthetic purity – such are the hallmark qualities of Ritiņa’s composition fields. This is how we see them in her earlier paintings still remaining in her studio or long since brightening the homes of new owners. And this is how they appear in the artist’s recent body of work displayed at the Daugavpils Mark Rothko Art Centre in “The Crown”, her latest solo show.

At the start of her painting career, Ritiņa was capturing natural processes, and she has remained faithful to nature to this day. She still goes there to seek inspiration, observe the play of light and colour, and capture moods, shapes and ideas. These impressions she then transforms into art, focusing on the essentials, and producing endless studies of floating or low-hanging clouds, frequently shaped like giant tree crowns.

The tonal harmony of these crowns adds a flashy graphic touch to the aerial peace of Ritiņa’s cloud kingdom as she sketches her landscapes, balances sky and land, suggests the outline of a horizon and lets the clouds mix with the mighty strength and graceful solidity of verdant or snow-covered branches – endlessly reappearing coronets. Here and there, the crowns seem to step out of the composition and move towards us, taking centre stage in a painting. Now and then, the artist enhances them with lavish decorations of flowers, leaves, berries and fruit, allowing herself a feminine game with jewellery and highlighting the distinctiveness of place through an emphasis on substance in nature’s forms and processes.

Winter and summer plein air impressions and commuting experiences to and from work or the studio are transformed by the artist into sweeping landscapes or more compact pieces framing the distillate of her feelings and sensations.

Agra Ritiņa was born and raised in Ludza. Her first encounter with the art world was in her native town and then in Rēzekne, where she studied at the Rēzekne College of the Arts, majoring in crafts. She still recalls one of her first plein airs led by Antons Kūkojs – this bright and thrilling experience would largely determine the pivotal role of plein air painting in her future life. Ritiņa studied painting under the painter Anatolijs Zelčs while doing her BA at the Latgale Branch of the Art Academy of Latvia. Later, during her MA studies at the Academy, her painting tutors were Professor Kaspars Zariņš and Professor Aleksejs Naumovs. Ritiņa also quotes Silva Linarte, Vita Merca, Laima Bikše and Vija Zariņa as her greatest influences – their work inspired her to refine her own creative style.

Now, besides painting in her studio, Ritiņa teaches painting, drawing and composition at the Rēzekne Art and Design School. From 1990 onwards, she has been a regular presence at the annual autumn exhibition at the Latgale Culture and History Museum in Rēzekne. In 2004, she was named the winner at the juried exhibition “Landscape” at the Laipa Gallery in Valmiera, which enabled her to go on a painting trip to its twin town, Høje-Taastrup, Denmark. Later, she would spend the two concluding months of 2015 in Germany, having won the Art Grant of the City of Bremen.

Ritiņa has been a member of the V.I.V.A. painting group since 2006. To date, they have held over 30 joint exhibitions. Ritiņa’s creative record also includes over 20 solo shows besides multiple group shows and international plein airs in Latvia, Lithuania, Belarus, Finland, Germany, Belgium, Portugal and Turkey. She is a regular participant at the annual Juried Exhibition of Artists from the Latgale Region at the Daugavpils Mark Rothko Art Centre (from 2013) and at the Juried Exhibition of the Jāzeps Pīgoznis Award in Latvian Landscape Painting at St. Peter’s Church, Rīga (since 2015) – an award she won in 2020. Her work is held in several public collections (Latgale Culture and History Museum in Rēzekne, Daugavpils Mark Rothko Art Centre, Ludza Local History and Art Museum) and privately in Latvia and beyond.

Exhibition period: 28 January – 10 April 2022