art 2003/1

Rimtautas Gibavičius (1935–1993).
Vaikystės prisiminimai IV.

1977, cinkografija, 51 x 50,5


Kazys Varnelis.
Netikras labirintas nr. 2.
1971, drobė, akrilas, 199 x 283

Rimtautas Gibavičius.
Vaikystės prisiminimai VI.
1980, cinkografija, 49 x 50


The Penetrating Glance of “A Responsive Eye”

by Jurgita Rimkutė

As the ideas and style of Optical Art (born in the middle of the 1960s in Western Europe and the USA) come back into trend, it offers an occasion to look for some manifestations of the style in Lithuanian art.
Kazys Varnelis and Kazimieras Žoromskis were two Lithuanian artists actively involved in the movement in America.
Canvases of Varnelis feature geometrical motifs, which are half lit, half concealed in the shadow. The colour scheme in the early work is restricted to white and black. His geometrical motifs derive from Lithuanian folk patterns applied in decorating churches and buildings in the painter’s native Samogitia (north-western Lithuania). Rhythm is the most persistent and recurrent feature of his art. Musical nature of his canvases results from rhythm, which also contributes greatly to the expressivity of the artist’s oeuvre. It is also a means of creating the illusion of three-dimensional space. He fuses symbols, ornamental patterns and a recurrent rhythm to achieve the final effect. His canvases transform the viewer emotionally, setting him into meditative mood. His works of the 1970s stand apart through their sculptural dimension.
Two elements – colour and line are key in the Op period of Kazimieras Žoromskis. Under the impact of Impressionism, he explores the colour-shadow relationship. The artist draws his motifs from nature and his immediate surroundings: trees, grass, air, and people. Each painting is composed of two plains – colour background and either vertical or horizontal rhythm of lines. Special arrangements of tones and hues enable the artist to create the impression of splitting colour into separate shafts of light spreading across the painting. To achieve the illusion of perspective through manipulation of colour, the artist relies on his knowledge of the colour spectrum.
In Lithuanian graphic arts, optical effects are employed more frequently. Optical experiments of the graphic artist Romualdas Čarna are inspired by patterns and symbols of Lithuanian woven cloth. Disappearing and reemerging elements in his prints (series “Lithuanian Op Art”) may be associated with the rhythm typical of Lithuanian folk songs. Though decorative in nature, these works also carry symbolical and emotional information. The illusion of three-dimensional space is obvious in the colour series of prints “Nocturne” by Arvydas Každailis. Situated in the background of his prints, vertical bands divide space into separate areas, creating the illusion of movement. Geometrical illusion is achieved in book illustrations by Vladislovas Žilius. His illustrations for poetry books and books for children strike by decorativeness, typical of Op Art, and some Vasarelian features. Besides geometrical patterns, he also employs floral motives to achieve the impression of movement. Dalia Mataitienė, the artist working in the field of stage design, has also created some independent ornamental pieces interesting in the exploitation of optical means. The graphic artist Rimtautas Gibavičius manipulates architectural elements or a negative and positive of the image to achieve the illusion of three-dimensional space.
The works of the period from the 1960s through the 1990s by Lithuanian artists offer only partial parallels with Western Optical Art. Lithuanian artists, due to historical circumstances and national sensibility, focused on the representational aspect of art. The three-dimensional abstract image has not become a rational agenda of their art.