Aušra Barzdukaitė-Vaitkūnienė, 2008 04 02

“Stairs from the Cellar”, canvas, oil, 1984, 75x101 cm

In brief: After the death of the painter Didžiokienė, the Artists’ Union took over the house of Didžiokai and the homestead in Dovainonys. Artists could live in that house, create there and look after the homestead.


In 1983 -1984 Arūnas used to come to Dovainonys in summers. When the house remained empty, he moved to live there in winter as well. From 1985 he started working at Kaunas J. Naujalis Art School. The flat of his mother Teresė was packed in Kaunas, and there was no place for painting. When lessons finished at the Art School, he hurried to Dovainonys.


From the stories of Arūnas: “I come to Dovainonys, step out of the bus, and a long road through the forest to the homestead remains. It was dark in winter already. I was going, the snow was creaking and shining in the moonlight. The still dark forest was around it and silence prevailed. The house was cold, no electricity was present. First I lit candles, started fire in the furnace, cooked turnips and beetroots in oil. This was how I lived alone.


The only relation with the world was an old transistor. Also, a big wolfhound attached to me. When he felt that I was present, he used to run up. A big brown cat lived in the house called Cirmušas by Justinas Mikutis. When I went to sleep, the dog settled at my bed, and Cirmušas slept in the bed. In the morning both of them used to wake me up. (…) I forgot how to speak from loneliness in Dovainonys. Sometimes I did not know how to communicate with people.”


Arūnas has created deep paintings full of feeling of existence in Dovainonys. In 1984 he painted the canvas “Stairs from the Cellar”. The depressive and gloomy mood of the painting seems to create a hopeless situation. The old broken stairs are rising above in the middle of the painting, and only two small light patches express hope of escape from the damp and dark underground to another light world. The painting of dark brown and greed colours was created at a time, at one touch. Everything is stated exactly and firmly, without any decorations.


Arūnas discovered motifs with vespiaries, house interiors, still-lifes of old things in Dovainonys.


He told the circumstances of one still-life painting: “It was dark, and dim light penetrated the house from the outside. I was painting a still-life. Suddenly I heard steps behind me. Clear, heavy steps approaching me. I was completely alone in the house at that time. I petrified, I felt how my hair stood on end from incredible fear. I understood intuitively that I should not turn back in any way. Thus I walked slowly and turned the radio on without turning back.


All of us who lived in the house heard steps in the attic. Somebody told that a man was killed by an axe in the yard earlier. The house was haunted. Augis (painter Eugenijus Varkulevičius) and I brought and built a sanctified cross in the yard. Afterwards the steps ceased.”


Justinas Mikutis, Eugenijus Varkulevičius lived in Dovainonys several summers, the poet Genadijus Aigi and his wife arrived to live for a while. Arūnas has painted the portrait of G. Aigi. He painted the portrait of his wife as well but did not finish it. The wife was very temperamental, she had some Gipsies’ blood and played the guitar expressively. It was no longer silent in Dovainonys at that time. As more people settled there, no peace was left for concentration and creation. More conversations, disputes and communication appeared.


People, farmers living around the homestead looked at artists in Didžiokas’ homestead distrustfully.


The autumn was coming and nobody from the artists intended to spend the winter in Dovainonys. They decided to organise an impressive farewell party in the homestead. They placed straw heaps round the territory of the house and prepared a fire. A real party with drinks and layout was organised. The farewell party was similar to an art action. The fire was burning on a dark autumn evening, and the straw was lit.


From the memories of Arūnas: “A piano was brought to the yard. We dressed Augis (Eugenijus Varkulevičius) with a thick coat steeped in oil. He sat down to play and his back was lit with fire at that moment. Augutis was playing and the back was burning. Impressive and cruel.”


The surrounding people mentioned “those artists” for a long time subsequently.


Later the homestead became empty, there was no sense to go there. Everybody disbanded. They took everything what was necessary for creation – motifs for painting or for poetry. Time and place was generous for artists in Dovainonys.

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