Milena Pirštelienė (Lithuania)

Ceramic art offers a unique possibility of combining spatial form and drawing as two complementary elements. I am particularly fond of the combination of white clay and black pigment. My technique is both complex and simple: I use powdered pigment as though it was dust to create a drawing. Slowly and carefully, barely touching, I rub it into the surface, which I then incise. Thus, the drawing is very fragile and easy to ruin. Only when the image is fixed with glaze does it acquire depth and starts resembling a graphic artwork or a black and white photograph.

It’s been quite some time since I first realised how such photographs are associated with the past; “wandering” down the memory lane is a most exciting part of my creativity. As soon as a few brighter colours are introduced into a black and white image, even if just here and there, to me, they become symbols of the present, an articulated opposition to the past.

The main underlying topic of my dreams is water. It is also the central object of my reflections. Drowning cities, floods, anxiety and a sense of looming threat. And yet, sometimes it appears only as a passive observation or an overwhelming feeling of calm as one is gazing across water horizons. My subconscious offers an interpretation of that being linked to my inner fears and anxieties about the passage of my life through its stages. Water is matter packed with connotations and symbolism that human cultures have given it over the millennia. It is a perfect reflection of one’s feelings and inner states. To me, water is a metaphor for “feeling”. It is inviting and alluring and mysteriously frightening.

Water is a symbol for beginning and end. The circular water ripples in my work are my attempts to convey fleeting moments.

I also create my own symbolism. In “Anxiety”, a mountain becomes a symbol of menace, whilst the bench in the “Reconstruction of a Dream” is a symbol for solitude. The dot in the “Sky” may become a celestial body or signify longing; on the other hand, it can also be seen as a buoy suggesting a threat of drowning. Or it can act as a sign of fragility like it does in the “Horizons” series… Artistic creation becomes a play of association for our imagination, although the visitors can make their own interpretations.

Rhythm – in the sense of recurrent themes and motifs – is my particular concern. My spatial compositions are usually simple and moderate, with sharp corners and lines. The ceramic forms repeat themselves like dreams, and the occurring rhythm lets me arrange them into urban landscapes. I try to give life to these cold, abstract forms with my graphic, at times, surreal drawings.

Ceramic drawings are a new art form within my practice. Here, ceramics are conquered by images, that is, by painting. They turn into white sheets of paper or canvases inviting me to portray a particular narrative or mood. Although there are no depictions of humans, my work is, in fact, about them, about our existence and search for meaning. Placed on abstract, minimalist forms, the drawings echo literature and have the power to talk about the human condition. The motifs of longing, emptiness and loneliness that originate from my dreams, quite unexpectedly (even for myself), relate to our present-day pandemic reality and the changes it has brought whilst also echoing the current discourse on ecology.

Milena Pirštelienė was born in Vilnius, Lithuania, in 1969. In 1996, having graduated from the Vilnius Academy of Arts, Faculty of Applied Arts, with a BA in ceramics, she began exhibiting her work and soon joined the Lithuanian Artists Association (1999). Throughout a long creative career spanning two and a half decades, excepting a few hiatus periods, her work has been displayed in over fifty exhibitions across domestic and international grounds – in Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, Belgium, Portugal, Finland and Yugoslavia. In addition, Pirštelienė has had five solo shows and has taken part in two symposiums (Latvia). Her work has been displayed in two competitive art fairs – “ArtVilnius” (“AP galerija”) and “Art Compensa”, Vilnius, Lithuania (2021). Consistent creative effort has brought Pirštelienė multiple awards and distinctions in Lithuania and internationally. She co-curated the international small-scale ceramics exhibition “Puodukas” in Vilnius, Lithuania (2017, 2018, 2021) and was the architect for “The Archive”, the Lithuanian Artists Association Vilnius Ceramics Section exhibition to celebrate the 90th anniversary of professional ceramics in Lithuania (2021). Her biography is included in the Universal Lithuanian Encyclopaedia.

Exhibition period: 28 January – 10 April 2022