Aušra Barzdukaitė-Vaitkūnienė, 2008 11 26   St. George Church in Kaunas (altar), 2000, canvas, oil, 120x100 cmEvents happen in life which only emphasise that there are no coincidences. I would consider the interview with Arūnas prepared by the former A. Vaitkūnas’ student Gvidas Latakas from the Painting Department of Kaunas Art Institute, Vilnius Art Academy on December 6, 2004, one of such events.While answering questions of G.Latakas, Arūnas generalised his entire life and expressed the main thoughts about painting in the interview.Arūnas: Andriušis (art critic Alfonsas Andriuškevičius) asked me in his book “72 Lithuanian Painters about Art” when I became a painter. I responded that I did not think about it. Perhaps it was not the main thing. Are you a painter after you finish some school? You study that subject, but graduation from an institute does not assure that you are a painter already.I wanted to search for truth, real feeling. I thought that it was enough to paint one good work. I tried to make it real. Therefore, I am grateful to A. Andriuškevičius for his compliment. It is other people that have to say that you are a painter. Works should testify this. The aim was the search for the truth and essence using means of painting.A.Lukštas lectured at the Art School (J. Naujalis Art School). Later my lecturers were Jonas Švažas, Vladas Karatajus at the institute (Vilnius Art Institute, present Lithuanian Art Academy). I may not say arrogantly that I had no good lecturers. One could have no knowledge about many things while studying at the institute. J.Švažas had travelled the world. He had information about art. This was significant to us.I really enjoyed A.Monticelli. His paintings are really beautiful. There are five works of this artist in Paris, d‘Orsay Museum. Van Gogh discovered him and cried at his works. Later he took over the short curved stroke from this painter.We used to travel to Moscow and St. Petersburg to visit exhibitions and see works of old masters. I remember that an exhibition of Zurbaran works was opened in Minsk. I also admired De Chirico, Chaim Soutine, Francis Bacon’s colours, Nicolas De Stael.Was there any competition felt among course mates? Everything proceeded in ups and downs. The course was stronger one year and weaker another year. Raimundas Sližys, Mindaugas Skudutis, Mindaugas Navakas studied at that time. They had many ambitions, organised art exhibitions. Arvydas Šaltenis bubbled with energy. Art exhibitions served as an alternative for yearly works reviews. Šarūnas Sauka studied in the lower course. There were people who painted really well but chose another road in life. They did not keep their feet in the art field. It is competition.We never missed painting and drawing lectures. Good paintings were taken to the fund of the institute, and we considered it to be an honour.I have painted several portraits of Justinas (Justinas Mikutis) while studying at institute. After graduating from the institute, I made five more variants of Justis’ portraits. I endeavoured that it would be a painting and not only a portrait. Later Justis used to tell me that portraits could be painted for living, he only gave no permit to paint Lenin’s portrait.My graduation work was the portrait of Juozas Mikėnas at the institute.Creative environment, daily life? Justinas Mikutis had some original thoughts at that time. We used to speak about art. Justis was human, he loved wine. We, painters, have read all F.Dostoyevsky’s books. Real existence is pictured in them. He is very heavy and suitable for the soviet years. Augis Varkulevičius and I even shared the roles from "Brothers Karamazovy”.At that time Justis used to cite while picturing Mandelstam. It was very precise at that time: “...Kak бoлъшaя птицa вылeтeлa из грyди, пycтaя клeтka пoзaди, a впeрeди гycтoй тyмaн.” The system was trying to take away belief from people, to leave an empty nest. God remained with us.After graduating from the institute, I remember an empty workshop in Kaunas. I noticed that I had nothing to do. We realised during the last years at the institute that we would not be able to leave anywhere and we did not want to make compromise. We remained here. But what should a painter do? I discovered staircases. They started speaking with me. It is important to feel the relation. I used to search for them for several months and, when I discovered one, I had to paint it in several hours. You have to be like a well-tuned instrument for this purpose. Then you do not think about painting. I take a glance at some staircase now as well.Later we travelled in Samogitia. With Justis, with Antanas Obcarskas. Augis (Eugenijus Varkulevičius) painted stations in Samogitia. I travelled in Samogitia, South Lithuania on my own. When it was very hard, I read Knut Hamsun, a stoic writer. I used to speak with people, visited Pelesa, stayed at Kruopienė’s house. I helped her with the wood. She baked me omelette. I travelled in summers for some four or five years painting Lithuania in my notebooks. Later I created large format works from those sketches in my workshop.There were some rather different periods in my painting. When I painted staircases, people asked me why I was painting them. Meanwhile, later collectors started buying these works. When I created large format works, the Contemporary Art Centre organised my exhibition in 1992 and kept some works. They spoke in Kaunas then: why are you changing, you should paint staircases.I feared to start copying myself. Kampas enjoyed my large works. And when I started "brush" paintings, some people criticised them as a nonsense while others congratulated me that I finally started painting. I am a free man, I paint what I want. Now I returned to oil again.When you do not know how a painting is born, you feel sense in painting. If it were possible to find it out, there would be no meaning to create.The best works were painted without thinking about painting at all. One does not think how to paint, one thinks what he paints. For example, I need to paint warm air. I do not know how to do it but I am thinking about air only. I have to paint the essence rather than think about the thickness of paint.I believed: a good painting had to be like a swamp which pulled you in. You are going deeper and find no ground, like in a quagmire. If a work is shallow, you rebound. Meanwhile, meaning is endless in a good work. The works of late period of Tiziano were painted by hands, fingers. Nothing special but you may not take your eyes from paintings. I think that it is the experience of a man, you have to get old to be able to create such paintings. Deep layers. Art for eyes.What betrays essence, does it come from God? Yes, it may be so. It is so for me. Perhaps it is different for others. Everybody has to use his own methods. One should not think how to work. One should find the moment which is important, doubtless and paint.Who is a spectator? First he/she has to admire painting. When I painted staircases, one worker from a factory said that I painted a staircase known to him. Something happened for him in that staircase. The man recognised the place and his case via the painting. He saw the essence and we communicated via the painting. Not every critic would be able to do this. Common people sense real things. It is not only a theory.One may speak formally about composition and meaning of a painting on the basis of the general education. I offer to poets to write annotations about poetry. Justis was like this. At the beginning he knew more about philosophy, poetry. We introduced painting to him and then he started naming things well after sensing them. The viewer who traces and says more is interesting.The question of meaning of art does not exist. One may dip into philosophy, but this is only philosophy. Art exists even in case a man denies it and is not knowledgeable about it. It is only a problem of that man. Exhibitions, Venice biennial, Documenta in Kassel. One should realise his aims and visit art centres to check the ideas. Still, a viewer in some remote place may feel your ideas and tell very deep things.Sometimes I think that tools and methods are not so important. It is important to achieve the main purpose. For example, Russian intellectuals say about postmodernism that it is lower than the asphalt (nyze asfalta) as the entire postmodernism is based on horizontal thinking. It lost its relation with the vertical. Times change, and it is impossible to stick to the same methods mechanically. One has to search for suitable methods in every case.I remember how we thought with the rector Palys that Kaunas Art Institute should be joined with Kaunas University of Technology. Perhaps a new direction of painting – laser, chemical painting would have emerged. I did not dear to bring it to practice as I did not have knowledge in this, but this could have happened. Colour could be used in a new way, without oil paint.Students should search for their road. Of course, one feels influence at the beginning. Still, copying is not bad. One may learn boldness by copying and following. One may watch how works are done rather than learn mechanically. Later students have to discover their own colours, the painting, objects and motifs they would trust.Yes. Pedagogical work consumes much energy. I come to the workshop after lectures and may not work. This is psychic fatigue.The relation with students, giving exists; still, the problem in Kaunas is to survive after graduating from the institute. There is nothing to do in Kaunas. It is the problem of society. After graduating students leave to Germany, Holland, some other country. There is no exchange of ideas, they no longer fly in the air. Perhaps there are more possibilities in Vilnius? It is hard without a creative climate. You may give away much but gain nothing. You may establish exclusive schools but not the whole city. If you are a lecturer in Paris, you give and you gain. Former students become artists, their works return to the city atmosphere. Everything ends in Kaunas.Is painting dying and attracting no interest? It is important not to lie to oneself. I thought how painting was born. Let us say, Fayum mummy portraits in Egypt. These were portable paintings. However, if something is born, it has to disappear. There is a supposition that such painting, such form of it may disappear. Still, the principle of colour should remain. Only in what form?Now the Renaissance of painting is observed. And the death of photography. However, painting is different. Like in music – has opera died? Nonsense. The same is with colours. Painting gives ideas, it is combined with new technologies, shows that it is alive. Other new art forms evolved from painting. Moreover, painting occupies the entire history of art. It may link new and old art directions.Painting is like a live transformer. One could investigate what it really is. I remember the time when I received the workshop of Antanas Martinaitis after his death. We tidied up his works. Edmundas Saladžius, Laima Drazdauskaitė and me. When Laima cleaned the painter’s works, she noticed that when she touched paintings they disseminated certain heat and power.One could analyse various aspects of painting. The eye, its retina was researched, and completely different things were found out than it had been expected. It is the same with painting. We think only due to inertia that it is only a format. One scientific institute of Chicago published a book about painting like about alchemy. It is written in it that painting is coagulation, drying, wetting of paint, the entire process. One may speak untraditionally about painting, not like we are used to.There is no colour in fact, there is light and shadow. The colour is certain cells, pigments, which gain the colour due to the light. They have no colour in the dark. Then everything changes. How is it with painting then? This is what has to be researched. And we are still speaking like in the middle ages that the earth is held by four elephants. Painting is an open question. Now a person passes a painting thinking that it is painting, and one should analyse its existence instead.What is important – a plot or plastics of painting? The psychological reality is significant. The deep justification. First I am searching for conviction. If it is only a decorative layer, it irritates. I prefer a subsided, dark work of Antanas Samuolis, which is real. Every stroke and form should make an essential impact.A painting attracts by its aura first of all. Plots are sometimes interesting, but a plot and painting have to be related; otherwise, there is no work. The truthfulness of work, its aura should come first. Later one may analyse what it consists of.Every century writes the history of its colour. Alphabets and colour grammar books have been written. We have to create texts ourselves. I am a sceptic, all things may not be described. It is impossible to speak about everything in words, one has to see. It is thinking in colours, visual thinking.Painting is a special language. A plot is not bad by itself. Let us say leaves start rotting on the ground in autumn. It is existence, basic change, existential status. It is a process – the colour changes from green to yellow. The change of leaves forecasts death. It is the scream of nature before death. A signal of death. Information is transferred via colour that something has already happened. These may be cultural, social events. A nuance of colour speaks about an event. The eye reacts and renders information.This is sufficient for me.

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