Aušra Barzdukaitė-Vaitkūnienė, 2008 05 12

"Staircase with shooting holes on the ceiling“, 1998, canvas, oil, 80x60 cm

A staircase in Vilnius. 1998, one of the motifs of a painting by Arūnas.

“Everything that is old and full of smell of life is vanishing,” Arūnas used to say. “I am interested only in old real things, old houses, historical, sacral places. Events seemed to be printed on them. I am attracted to these imprints. Contemporary things do not have a story. Only the old ones help me regain the equilibrium.


When I am lost, when it is not clear what I should do, I visit some old staircase “in which something has happened" and I paint. Later I may work in the workshop again. There are fewer and fewer of such staircases. Restoration has touched everything, and no time patina is left after it.“


Some authentic staircases remained in Vilnius, mostly in the station area, Užupis, old town. In 1998 Arūnas and the 2nd and 3rd year students of painting of Kaunas Art Institute left for a summer practice in Vilnius. They lived in the dormitory of the Art Academy in Latako Street, old town. Students painted, visited museums and galleries while Arūnas searched for “staircases full of the smell of life” having chosen small formats of paintings so that it would be more comfortable.


A staircase with sagged stairs, crumbled daub, creaking floor was the container of information about past and present life. Arūnas used to find such staircases, perhaps they invited the painter themselves in order to tell old stories, about losses and sad existence. The mission of Arūnas was to capture information and colour that was not accessible to everybody and to render it to the spectator by brush strokes. He strived to turn that something invisible into a new and concentrated reality, a painting. Looking and thinking about these paintings, the spectator may choose whether to rise up or look around through small windows of light, or fall down without any hope.


A strange painter that smelled of turpentine and that carried a freshly painted work of oil on canvas walked along streets of Vilnius old town in 1998. Nobody worked in this way at that time already. Nobody tortured oneself that way any more by painting motifs in nature.


Arūnas spent much time in one of the old town staircases – he painted, removed paint, worked again. A door of one flat opened up: “What kind of smell is it? It is penetrating the apartment already!”


The politician Kazys Bobelis stepped out to the staircase. When he saw the painting being created, he became interested and started looking around in the staircase himself. He spoke with a justification: “It is not tidy here yet, no repairs have been made.” This was what Arūnas was glad about – the staircase was not touched by repairs. They spoke for a while, Arūnas invited the politician to the opening of a future exhibition and finished the work of that day.


Arūnas painted fourteen paintings on the topic of staircases that summer in Vilnius. He organised an exhibition along with future painters at Arka gallery. Canvases smelling of oil surprised and astonished spectators by the sense of reality. Shades of colours, nuances of nuances, as the art critic Danutė Zovienė observed.

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