Parallel. Vija Zariņa. Kaspars Zariņš. Two personal exhibitions
Two personal exhibitions in one project “Parallel” by Latvian artists Vija Zariņa and Kaspars Zariņš will be on view at the ARSENĀLS Exhibition Hall of the Latvian National Museum of Art in Riga (Torņa iela 1) from 6 September to 29 October 2017.
Kaspars Zariņš has a parable that is often told to students: “Imagine craft and idea are like two parallels, two lines. Artist is the one who takes the position in the middle and brings the both parallels together like plus and minus. The place where this contact occurs depends on the artist. The artist’s skill has to match the idea. He can master the form, and then he must find an idea that brings the two parallels perfectly together. It is possible to have thousands of ideas, but if there is no skill, nothing will become of them.”
It can also be applied to Vija and Kaspars Zariņš – the flow of their life and work has run side by side, each of them simultaneously embodies idea and skill, and the impeccably distributed places of contact enrich each other’s forms of expression. If painters can in a sense be grouped into those who use the camera obscura – the followers of Vermeer, and those who do not – the followers of Giotto, Kaspars counts himself among the followers of Giotto, while Vija is an admirer of Vermeer. For that reason, both artists can work side by side, in one studio, since each of them has found their own way in art, determined by both character and inner artistic structure. That is also why they can organise exhibitions together, since both are so different and self-sufficient.
Latvian landscape is at the centre of Vija Zariņa’s current interests. Latvia and landscape. Being in nature is as simple as breathing, yet not everyone manages to paint it, to find a personal perspective. Often it is because perception is clouded by concepts. In many cases, the observer’s experience has only enough space for one type of landscape – the Purvītis’ landscape, while in Latvia too the understanding of nature has changed already countless times over the last hundred years.
In her new large-format works Vija Zariņa searches for the code of the Latvian landscape. The artist says: “On the way home from a journey, sitting next to the driver, you sometimes fall asleep. You suddenly wake up, look at the landscape behind the car window and realise – you are in your native land. The trees and the fields are as if the same is in the neighbouring country, yet the feeling is different.” Vija Zariņa has sought to capture and record this feeling in her paintings.
The artist’s system of coding uses such signs as the reflection of the sky on the face of a forest lake, the tranquil flow of the river saturated with restrained turmoil, the light flickering through the thick foliage on the seashore and promising distance, sand writings carved by waves on the damp beach, the greyish light of a spring day in the clearing of a swamped field. Expanse, light and fleeting horizons.
Realism is in Vija Zariņa’s blood, yet the panoramic landscapes, despite having been influenced by specific places, strive to eliminate the world’s spatial limitations and become a concrete value instead of concrete reality. Using images from the surrounding reality, the artist strives for generalisation, equilibrium and harmony, emphasised even further by the nuanced tonal rendering of natural colours, which is characteristic to Vija Zariņa’s subtle and refined sense of colour. Slowly falling snowflakes, moist morning mist, melting puddles or eyes suddenly dazzled by the sun. These are the situations that soften nature’s forms in Vija Zariņa’s works, fusing them in ephemeral yet monumental views of nature.
The large-format landscapes in the exhibition were created over the last year-and-a-half.
In the exhibition Kaspars Zariņš continues to develop the form of expression he found two years ago, which was first demonstrated in the project Symptoms (2015) in Daugavpils Mark Rothko Art Centre. A surprise awaits the Riga public.
At first glance, it seems as if Kaspars Zariņš’ works for the exhibition Symptoms and his latest exhibition In Parallel are a new departure in his creative career. But that’s not the case. Of course, everything here is completely new – instead of canvas the artist uses 1,8 mm thick plywood, and an angle grinder stands in for brushes. Let’s not even speak about figures and objects filled with paradoxical symbols – they departed from his work five years ago. In their place are planed indentations in the form of circles, ovals or amoebas, in which layer by layer peeled levels of plywood are revealed, from which the chipboard is formed and which create abstract compositions. This combination of painting and relief is a departure from depicting reality to reveal the flow of thoughts and energy.
The dimensions have also expanded from “usable” paintings to two and even four metres. And there is a significant change in the use of paint, as acrylic replaces paint, despite Kaspars recently saying “never”; instead of a refined colour combinations, colour here is used as the primal element: naked and honest in its directness. However, just as Picasso remained a genius despite changing his signature style eight times, this stage of Kaspars Zariņš’ career cannot be viewed outside the context of his previous creative work. The latest works are a logical development emanating from the artist’s views and inner capacity. However, revolutionary and surprising. A brilliant merging of form and content.
“If the artist has an open mind, new ideas can come out of the blue. If you work hard, ideas come from everywhere, but if you’re lazy, nothing will emerge. This idea came to me while I was sanding the floor,” says Kaspars. Viewers grasp the works gradually. The first thing to come into view is a plane, in which the colours and divergent compositions of indentations speak simultaneously. But it is not yet clear that the surface is relief. This only becomes apparent as you come closer to the work. The third level of perception – you are allowed to touch. The material impacts. Wood. The optical and tactile senses unite, and you can discover the work afresh through touch. Viewing an artwork from afar requires grasping the composition and thinking about the content. Touch allows interaction with the surface of the skin. Simultaneously there is a loss of space which is “read” by sight, and the viewer’s fingers create changes in the perception of the work. As the first, second and third planings are felt, feeling changes and the viewer becomes a part of the work.
The concentric circles appeared in a painted form in paintings from as early as 2008–2010: as backgrounds (Inner Voice, 2009), as schematic vaginal signs which together with drawings of penises, which occasionally transform into the astrological sign Aries and sometimes into an innocent flower, introduce an openly frolic sexuality. In the painting Dark Blue (2008), they occupy the central position together with the colour. “Pussies flying through the air,” says Kaspars Zariņš. The same form is found in the shape of an eye, symbolically linking the eye as the human organ of sensory perception and “the mirror of the soul” with sexuality. On the other hand, the layering of abstract concentric ovals on the plywood may be interpreted as an unconscious movement toward the search for a spiritual centre. Through initiation. In the rituals of many cultures, initiation is a theatrically dramatized transition from one life stage to another, and it often involves a symbolic trial with death. Sometimes life itself throws up such challenges. Symbolic death means a return to mother’s lap. As symbols of mother’s lap, the concentric circles lead from primeval chaos and disorder toward order and enlightenment. Towards a new beginning.
The exhibition in ARSENĀLS shows the works from Symptoms and six new large-format works (4x4 m) created over the last year-and-a-half.
Vija Zariņa (1961) graduated from the Workshop of Monumental Painting of Professor Indulis Zariņš (1986) and Master Workshop of Professor Eduards Kalniņš and Professor Boriss Bērziņš (1989) at the Art Academy of Latvia (AAL). Takes part in exhibitions since 1980, having held more than 20 solo shows. Her works are in the collections of the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Latvia, Latvian National Museum of Art, Artists’ Union of Latvia, State Tretyakov Gallery, Russian Arts Fund, Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation, Tartu Art Museum as well as countless private collections throughout the world.
Vija Zariņa works as a pedagogue since 1986, at the Art Academy of Latvia since 1999, being Associate Professor at the Department of Painting of the AAL since 2008.
Kaspars Zariņš (1961) graduated from the Workshop of Monumental Painting of Professor Indulis Zariņš at the Art Academy of Latvia (1986). Takes part in exhibitions since 1980, having held more than 30 solo exhibitions. His works are in many museum, foundation and private collections, including The Würth Collection, Schwäbisch Hall, Germany. He has worked in book design, animation, earned the Latvian National Film Award Lielais Kristaps in the category The Best Animation Artist for the animation film Did You Say Anything? (studio Dauka, 2009). Recipient of the order of the President of the Italian Republic Al Merito della Repubblica Italiana (2004).
Associate professor at the Art Academy of Latvia (since 1995), professor (2008).
Mag. art. Inga Bunkše, art scholar, Editor in Chief of the Studija visual arts magazine
Velga Pule, Administrator of the ARSENĀLS Exhibition Hall / Latvian National Museum of Art