This publication was made possible through
the support of the Media Support Foundation.
Lolita Jablonskiene, Algirdas
Jusionis, Ingrida Korsakaite, Virginijus Kincinaitis, Jolanta Lebednykiene,
Bronius Leonavicius, Eugenijus Nalevaika, Gvidas Raudonius, Vytautas
Zirgulis, Alfonsas Zvilius
Algimantas Stanislovas Kliauga
Ausra Cizikiene, Leonidas Donskis, Almantas Samalavicius, Laimute Zabuliene
Leonidas Donskis Fin de siecle:
The Twentieth-century culture on Trial
8 Laima Lauckaite Two
Turns of Centuries in Vilnius Art
11 Almantas Samalavicius The Legacy
of the Declined Vanguard
14 Round-table conversation Into
the 21st Century without the 20th Century Art
Turns of Centuries in Vilnius Art
by Laima Lauckaite
I am standing at the threshold of the 21st century and somehow do not
feel like being a judge assessing the faults and merits of last century
art in all seriousness; neither do I want to be an ardent prophet pronouncing
a forthcoming apocalypses or flourishing. I am just jauntily standing
at that threshold and looking back to compare the end of this century
in art with the end of the last century - the odd, remarkable and depraved
art of fin de siecle, which combined the legacy of the 19th century
art with the rudiments of modern art of the early 20th century. At that
time avant-garde art was only a small part of period art and basically
constituted only the top part of an iceberg. Later, in the middle of
the 20th century, theorists of modernism in the West performed not a
very subtle, but highly necessary operation they cut off this top
part of an iceberg, opposed it to the remaining part and presented modernism
as a separate and coherent independent world. This point of view still
prevails in popular publications, text-books and exquisite monographs
on the art of the end of last century. Therefore in the late 20th century
art historians are engaged in reconstructing the art of fin de siecle,
and are far more cautious in attaching the populist labels of traditional
or modern, salon or avant-garde, high or mass art. In this context the
Lithuanian art of the late 19th century looks rather different: so far
art historians regretfully state the absence of modern avant-garde in
Lithuanian art of this period.
as I set out to compare the art of the end of 19th and 20th century,
I plead guilty, since as an art historian I know for sure that in art
nothing is ever repeated, all the more every ten, hundred, thousand
or any other number of years. Art of each region and period is unique
and conditioned by a given set of social, political, geographical, artistic,
cultural, national, individual and many other factors or circumstances.
This set does not return and repeat itself: at best, individual details,
situations and orientations removed from their context, can be similar.
But it probably is in human nature to look for analogies, to search
for similarities and build out of them rational structures called regularities.
All the more that for an observant viewer they are so obvious and seem
to insist on their presence. As early as a decade ago I wrote an article
"Art of Young Artists: the Second End of the 19th Century?" (Veidai
'88, Vilnius, 1989). In this article I compared creative pursuits of
Lithuanian artists with the development of European art of the late
19th century. This time I am going to juxtapose diachronic cross-sections
of Lithuanian art.
the time and the place: Vilnius, end of the last and end of the current
century. In the summers of 1897 and 1899, large exhibitions of painting
with the participation of painters from Vilnius, Warsaw and Krakow were
held in Juozapas Montvila's drawing school in Vilnius. Battle and genre
scenes, portraits and paintings of different styles were exhibited.
Yet these exhibitions contained a particularly large number of landscapes
entitled "Twilight" or representing twilight, created by different artists.
These were small sketches of limited and delicate range of colours,
painted at the time when the brightness and intensity of image disappears,
leaving behind only silhouettes of things, dull and obscure contours.
The hour when lines are erased and colours disappear is the time of
mystery and mysticism, the time of communication with a different reality
on the other side of the material and tangible world. To unveil the
secrets of existence or at least intuitively get a glimpse of the transcendental
reality was the highest value at the turn of the century, inspired by
the aesthetics of symbolism. A century later, in 1998, the Contemporary
Art Centre in Vilnius held an exhibition "Twilight", only this time
twilight means darkness, in which a screen lights up and takes us to
another world - enchanting, mysterious and powerful. One can analyse
the differences between the virtual and the transcendental world, but
both cases clearly show the yearning for another world, compared to
which the reality of our life is corrupt and devalued.
1908 a one-painting exhibition took place at Didzioji St. 66 in Vilnius.
In the course of several weeks it was visited by more than 3 thousand
visitors an unheard-of number for this city. The painting that had
travelled in the United States and Europe with great success, finally
reached Vilnius. A large canvas painted by salon painter E. Suchorovski
was exhibited in a specially arranged boudoir with gilded furniture.
Entitled "Nana's Daughter", it represented a nude and could be most
precisely described as a mixture of academism and eroticism. In art
exhibitions, both by local and foreign artists, of the late 20th century
in Vilnius, one of the most heavily explored themes is a nude body.
The body becomes the most important language in which art speaks about
man. We can try to analyze what distance has been covered in the direction
of exploring the body, exposing and emphasizing its sex, in the course
of one century; yet the direction remains the same.
In 1902 and 1903 the largest exhibitions in the city were held by the
sole local art organization - Vilnius Art Circle that united artists
of different nationalities and education. It is interesting that in
these exhibitions, artistic photographs by Adomas Dauksa and Aleksandras
Jurasaitis were exhibited together with paintings and sculptures. Later
photography disappeared from art exhibitions and was downgraded to separate
exhibition halls and an isolated niche of dubious artistic status, until
nearly a century later in the late eighties it was admitted to Vilnius
exhibitions as a branch of visual art with equal rights. One could think
that the beginning of this century was marked with conservative views
and a narrow academic hierarchy of branches of art, but its concept
of the media of art turned out to be more insightful and modern than
that of later times.
the turn of 1909 and 1910, the first exhibition of modern art in Vilnius
was held by the avant-garde group "Impressionists - Triangle" from St.
Petersburg, whose members were Nikolaj Kulbin, Vladimir and David Burliuk,
and others. Local press reviews of this exhibition sound as if they
had been written about a regular exhibition of contemporary art: "Blue,
green, violet and pink faces, people striped like tigers and spotted
like leopards, women without arms, on hens' legs, marks of plague, cholera
and smallpox, bright aniline spots, as if the painter splashed them
with a sponge out of a paint bucket, distorted lines and perspectives,
tumours, dislocations and fractures after an earthquake or the end of
the world, furniture after debauchers' party at an inn, the earth after
the end of the world... Everything that is hideous, unrealistic, ugly..."
. The destruction brought in by modern art in the long run turned out
to be not hideous at all; on the contrary, it started an epoch of creative
and innovatory art. Similarly, many people today find postmodernist
destruction threatening. So, in the history of West European art the
situation seems to repeat, and even dates coincide: 1863 saw the establishing
of the Salon of the "Rejected" in Paris, which marked the birth of unrecognized
modern art; this art reached its peak in the first decade of the 20th
century and went into decline in 1962, when Fluxus led by George Maciunas
started their happenings in Wiesbaden. Fluxus jokes and jests suddenly
took the far-reaching consequences, and Western art turned from the
values of modernism to those of postmodernism. What seemed only funny
jokes from the point of view of modern art, imparted a deeper meaning:
"Postmodernism replaced the aesthetic justification of life with the
instinctive one. As real and life-affirming, only impulses and joy are
valuable; everything else is neurosis and death." As a person tired
of the surplus of the latter in the Lithuanian art of the second half
of the 20th century, weary of great ambitions of seriousness and depth
of modern art, I admire these Fluxus values and would prefer that the
beginning of the oncoming millennium belonged to them. And what remains
to those who cannot reconcile themselves with the retreat or even agony
of traditional and modern art? Writing about the values of the humanities,
Mikhail Bakhtin formulated a phrase of genius: "Nothing can be totally
dead, every meaning will enjoy a feast of rebirth." How does it sound:
optimistically or reassuringly?
21st Century without the 20th Century Art
Lithuania enters a new millennium without a National Art Gallery. An
idea of such a gallery has been in the air for 15 years. There is no
institution in Lithuania that would represent a broad panorama of 20th
century visual art. On 7 May 1997, a round-table discussion of the problem
of the National Art Gallery took place at the Lithuanian Artists' Union.
Its participants were: Chairman of the Artists' Union Gvidas Raudonius,
Director of the Lithuanian Art Museum Romualdas Budrys, Chief Architect
of Vilnius Aleksandras Luksas, Rector of the Academy of Arts Arvydas
Saltenis, artists Bronius Leonavicius and Arturas Vaskevicius, and art
critic Danute Zoviene.
In the words
of R. Budrys, a modern building on the right bank of the Neris has been
assigned as premises for the National Art Gallery. The building can
be remodelled into an art gallery by expanding it, but for this purpose
large investments are needed. Up to now more attention has been devoted
to providing exhibiting spaces for Lithuanian art of earlier centuries.
suggested another possible place for the National Art Gallery the
complex of the Radvila Palace. A foundation has been established in
the United States, and approximately 1 mln dollars have been collected
for this purpose. Part of the Palace is already restored and accommodates
the collection of Western European art donated to Lithuania by Lithuanians
in exile. In this way a historic part of the old city of Vilnius would
A. Luksas said
that the problem should be solved pragmatically: first we must decide
if the National Art Gallery should be housed in a separate building
like the Louvre and accommodate all functions of a gallery, or we should
choose the decentralised system, when the research centres, depositories
and exhibition halls are in different locations or buildings. The participants
of the conversation signed an appeal to the President of Lithuania,
Speaker of the Seimas and the Prime Minister, asking to include the
construction of the National Art Gallery in the programme of commemoration
of 1000 years to Lithuania's name.
Negativity, or "Innovations" in this Year's Exhibitions
by Skaidra Trilupaityte
about "advanced" technologies are not new in Lithuanian art criticism,
though attempts to analyse their impact on the work of our artists are
often limited to chronological remarks: what is "new" in this country,
often looks "outdated" in comparison with the world art phenomena. The
integration of young Lithuanian artists into the international art scene,
at least in the context of large exhibitions held in the recent years,
has already eliminated outer differences caused by the inadequate experience
of Lithuanian and foreign artists. Ten years ago, with the sudden opening
of new possibilities, many artists merely tried to catch up with the
rest of the world (as a wave of retrospection increased in European
art, chances seemed good for us "not to miss the train"). Today it is
more important to note that the sense of being late has grown weaker.
The art of young artists is no longer torn by tension marking the painful
shifts of self-reflection, and their creative context can be best described
by the word "cool".
Freedom of Objects
by Jurgita Ludaviciene
write about the exhibition "Unchained Objects" that took place at the
Contemporary Art Centre in Vilnius this year. The concept of the exhibition
was to show those tendencies of applied art that are oriented not at
the functional object and understanding of form, but represent closer
links with the general processes of modern art. The curator of the exhibition
states her interest in authors who in addition to the customary means
of expression look for new ones and in their works creatively adapt
the principles of installation, photography, multimedia, object and
conceptual art. The artists (V. Ozarinskas, L. Jonikiene, F. Jakubauskas,
L. Sveikauskiene and others) have a perfect command of their craft and
can realise their ideas with a great deal of freedom.
about the Tallinn Triennial of Graphic Art
by Dalia Marija Valanciute
The first Tallinn
Triennial of Graphic Art took place in 1968, with the participation
of artists from Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. Now it has become an
international exhibition attracting a large number of artists from all
over the world. This year the usual procedure of participation was changed.
Though the national collections of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia remained,
individual artists were invited to send slides of their works for an
international jury and, if accepted, participate in the triennial independently.
Of 2000 slides sent in by 529 artists, the jury selected 123 works,
among them prints by Lithuanian artists E. B?eskas, A. J. Krasauskait?,
R. ?eponis, K. Grigali?nas and others. Unfortunately, the Lithuanian
national collection, though marked by thorough mastery of technical
skills, looked rather outdated. One should acknowledge that the Lithuanian,
as well as the Latvian and Estonian collections were not capable of
competing with the works selected by the international jury.
of International Ceramics Symposiums
by Vaida Scigliene
of ceramics symposiums has been recently gaining momentum and is important
in several respects. First of all, it proves that this branch of art
does not lose vitality. Second, it brings into life new ideas and creative
pursuits. And, finally, it expands the spectrum of this field of art
and opens the way to wider and more objective discussions about ceramics.
The most significant events that recently took place are: Panev??ys
International Ceramics Symposium in 1998; the participation of the organiser
of the Panev??ys symposium J. Lebednykien? in the conference of the
National Council of Education in Ceramic Art (NCECA) in 1996 and 1997;
traditional international symposium of porcelain bone "Idea'98" in Kaunas,
and the creative workshop "21th Century Ceramics and the Use of the
Traditional Baking Technique" held by four institutions: the Lithuanian
Artists' Union, The Gallery of the Applied Arts, Vilnius Academy of
Arts and Vilnius Municipality.
Hoard of Medals on the Side of Lake Mastis
by Ruta Miksioniene
In the summer
of 1998, the 14th creative workshop of Lithuanian medallists took place
in Telsiai. The medallists who gather in this workshop share their experience
and visit the remote spots of the region. They involve in the process
of creation and experimenting teachers and students of the Telsiai Advanced
Art School. Exhibitions of works by the participants of the workshop,
traditionally held at the Telsiai Central Bookshop, contributed to the
opening of a new exhibition hall, where a large exhibition devoted to
the 10th anniversary of creative workshops was held. Discussion of common
creative issues, ideas born in conversation, learning new means of expression
and technologies is only a small part of what the traditional workshops
of medallists can give to their participants.
Petras Repsys: Art is a Bitter Argument with Oneself
by Laima Kanopkiene
Petras Repsys, in his own words, is a paradoxical ironist, an intellectual
commoner (or common intellectual), and a winner of the National Award.
Besides, he is a person obsessed with creative passion. In his early
independent works he obviously followed the classical traditions of
graphic art. A remarkable feature of his work is the constant balancing
between the past and the present, and the transformation of the past
into the present by means of actualising various phenomena. He is a
professional and universal artist from the viewpoint of his skill and
the branches of art in which he works. Repsys' originality lies not
so much in his manner of work, but in his understanding and vision of
the world, his rich imagination, temperament and professional knowledge.
Though the subject matter of his works is realistically concrete, he
seems to draw from imagination rather than from nature and is guided
by rational understanding. In the painter's words, "the most important
thing for me is the plastic form. This form enables me to express my
thoughts and ideas without trivialising them".
Kasciunaite: Between Her Image and Herself
by Nijole Adomonyte
name of Dalia Kasciunaite causes an immediate reaction: she is the most
outstanding woman painter and abstract artist in Lithuania. The development
of her work seems regular, but in fact it always is hardly predictable.
The artist is fond of creating large, stylistically autonomous cycles.
Kasciunaite's debut in abstract art was moderately rebellious. On the
one hand, her formalistic painting expressed the artist's wish to isolate
herself from the period art, but on the other hand, it was marked with
an ambition to establish herself in it. Kasciunaite's early paintings
can be described with the popular term of "expressive colourism".
important stage of her work (late 80's - early 90's) is characterised
by elegant patterns, masterful use of colour and refined drawing. The
volume of the canvas becomes markedly lighter, and the rebellious wish
to conquer the painting space is replaced by a need to create the highest
tension in a picture, to make it vibrate with energy. These works also
represent the artist's "foreign period" exhibitions in large galleries
in Germany, co-operation with Paris galleries and life in this city.
The nostalgia that the artist felt while living abroad made her revise
her creative views. For the first time the artist experienced a strong
demand for personal and national identification. It resulted in a basically
new quality of self-reflection and painting. Minimalism that appeared
in her works was directed at the search for the original knowledge of
herself and her roots. The painter discovered that slow dispersion of
one colour or a lazy stroke can be more eloquent than a large variety
of means of expression.
latest works speak of her turn to a deeper, more contemplative understanding
of art, but they do not deny her artistic nature that reveals itself
in images rather than genuine feelings.
Sauka: Commentaries on Mental Processes
by Jonas Valatkevicius
comment on human relations. It is obvious that the painter speaks of
the dark side of these relations. The basic intrigue of Sauka's paintings
is the interaction of two elements in the human consciousness. They
can be called instinctive (animal) and political (human). One layer
of the social meanings in Sauka's painting implies critique of the discourse
legitimising society's situation. Sauka's characters are always on the
boundary between an animal and a being of higher quality whom we call
man. However, Sauka's painting can hardly be interpreted as a ground
of battle between good and evil, and there is no point in searching
for a victory of either of those sides. The painter rather states a
certain primeval state of the human being refusing to pronounce a strict
Jakubauskas: An Experimenting Classic Raimonda
creates traditional tapestries and uses natural materials (most often
wool and silk), but his works are so modern that the final result often
does not seem to have anything in common with the academic tradition.
The artist firmly follows the main principles of tapestry weaving: monumentality,
coherence of surface, classical dense material and the visual element,
but the stylistics of a Renaissance or baroque pattern are transformed
by the principles of abstract art. Jakubauskas is fond of experimenting
in search of collage, three-dimensional space and untraditional structures.
Despite their size, his works are marked by the conceptual understanding
of tapestry. The artist does not avoid combining controversial materials
(e.g. fragile and solid), employs sculptural forms and makes wide use
of the possibilities of optical art.
Salkauskas: The Gate of Illusions
by Algis Uzdavinys
most important part of the programme of modernism is a search. Painter
Mykolas Salkauskas belongs to the category of "searchers". In this respect
he is a typical representative of Lithuanian modernism, full of anxiety
of the "lost generation" and moderately expressive. The invisible "spirit
of time" that took possession of the painter's soul had several dimensions.
One of them can be called "romantic", since it sketched an ideal picture
of freedom on the background of a distressing reality. It was the sole
"ideal" paradigm allowing a non-idealised ecstasy of self-expression
and promising to explain the secrets of suffering, and also enabling
to represent, at least partly, this psychological state that was deprived
of any rights in the sphere of official rhetoric. M. Salkauskas is one
of the more interesting artists of the older generation, whose work
is worthy of a closer study.
Deimantas Narkevicius: A Type of Critical Artist
by Raimundas Malasauskas
about the preconditions and functions of art and an artist's role in
the modern world by Vilnius artist Deimantas Narkevicius are one of
the most reflective examples of meta-discourse on modern art in Lithuania.
Narkevicius is a type of critical artist, rather unpopular in Lithuania,
a country where artists are usually not inclined to articulate their
artistic and other than artistic position in words. He refers not to
premonitions turning them into metaphors, but to logical thinking and
knowledge embracing not only the cultural sphere, but also economic
and political phenomena. Transgressing the range of stylistic-formal
problems, the territory of which is a usual ground for "meta-discursive"
arguments, Narkevicius questions this territory itself, i.e. the idea
of a concrete branch of art or art itself viewed from a certain sociological
or political perspective.
as a Function of the Centre, or in Search of the Lost Novelty
by Virginijus Kincinaitis
meanings and value differences, what systems of symbolic capital or
cultural prestige encourage the development of the relations between
the centre and the periphery at the end of this century? Why is the
theme of globalisation, regionalism, periphery and multiculturalism
or, to put it more simply, the relations between helpless provinces
and the elitist centre so emphasised in art theory and criticism? This
complicated range of problems is most often reduced to the tendencies
of economic, political and cultural globalisation eliminating the original
character of traditional local cultural contexts. The author comes to
a conclusion that the focus of discussion should be not the relations
between the centre and the periphery, but rather the contemporary conditions
of production of these categories, the rules of their functioning and
Between a Monument and a Shop Window
by Laima Kreivyte
gallery, sculpture can be regarded merely as an art work, and in an
open space it becomes part of the public discourse. Sculpture in the
city addresses mass audience rather than art connoisseurs. It unites
the community, consolidates ideology, marks a location, perpetuates
memory and envisions the future, decorates the environment and creates
an image for a company or institution. Sometimes controversial sculptures
serve as lightning rods for negative energy charges. Society is engaged
in an active discussion of the fate of the sculptures on the ?aliasis
bridge and analyses the monument to Gediminas in the Cathedral Square,
and critics regard the re-erection of the sculptures on the Cathedral
as the most important event of the year (though in the negative sense),
while sculptors are decorated with state and national awards. Sculpture
in the city is the best visible, generally accessible art object that
arouses most heated discussions.
by Birute Pankunaite
of foreign art in Lithuania are increasingly becoming more numerous,
which is natural and therefore should not be called a tendency. Statistically,
these exhibitions mainly consist of inexpensively and easily transported
works, such as photographs and prints. Guest exhibitions are especially
abundant "off-season", when local artists go on vacation or take part
in plein-air sessions. In the geographical respect the Northern countries
prevail. Among the largest international exhibitions in 1998 were the
annual Soros exhibition "Twilight" at the Contemporary Art Centre and
the 7th triennial of Baltic art "Cool Places" at the end of this year.
Worthy of mention are the exhibition of Tony Cragg's works presented
by the British Council, and installations by two young Norwegian artists
Knut Asdam and Hans Hamid Rasmussen at the Contemporary Art Centre.
of Art Collections to Homeland
art collections of more than 80 Lithuanian artists in exile found their
home in Lithuanian museums. In a one-year period (from October 1997
to October 1998), two large collections increased the Lithuanian art
heritage: the collection of Professor Kazys Varnelis' works, museum
pieces and the library, and the collection of Pranas Domsaitis' works,
J. Paukstiene's paintings and drawings (ca. 100 works), works by various
artists collected by Aldona and Antanas Minelga (more than 60 works),
and collections of Jurgis Slapkus' paintings and water-colours (15 works).
Pranas Domsaitis' collection came to the Lithuanian Art Museum from
Lemont, the Museum of Lithuanian Art. The majority of works drawings,
sketches, engravings, water-colours and crayons are from P. Domsaitis'
Map of Plein-Air Sessions and Symposiums: From Paris to the Native Village
by Aldona Dapkute
Artists' creative initiative, both individual and collective, acquires
different forms of organisation of creative work. In 1998 the organisation
of plein-air sessions and symposiums reached its peak in Lithuania.
Unfortunately, their exact number cannot be given due to several reasons:
1) organisers do not always inform the press and the media, or the presented
information is not complete and precise; 2) not all events are publicised
in the press; 3) organisers do not prepare reports and documentation
about the events held; 4) certain events are not registered in any form.
The most important question is: what events really have a lasting value
and an impact on the development of art and culture in general. There
is a need to establish certain priorities of state financing for all