(The 14th international plein air of painters in memoriam of A. Samuolis. Exhibition “New Still-life” at the gallery Meno Parkas) Kotryna Džilavjanaitė, 2007 08 21

Aušra Andziulytė, “Sweet Memory. Uncle’s Candies”

Alvydas Bulaka, “Still-life for Samuolis”

Laima Drazdauskaitė, “Buffet”

Jörg Eberhard, “Rethinking of Samuolis”

Arvydas Martinaitis, “Reincarnation of Samuolis in Still-Life”

In brief: The plein air of painters in memoriam of Antanas Samuolis is turning into the same vital tradition as Samuolis himself and his creative works. Painters have been gathering for fourteen years already to honour one of the first Lithuanian modernists. It is 55 years since the poverty-stricken and abandoned painter died in the hospital of poor people in Switzerland.


During the fourteen years of existence, the event experienced various signs of changes and conversions of artistic expression. The first exhibitions had a clearer link with Ars creative heritage and the Lithuanian school of painting. Later the plein air started reflecting influence of contemporary art: the majority of participants crossed the borders of pure painting and even occupied 3D space.


The exhibition of this year testifies about the return to plane and usual concept of painting, and, thus, it may be associated with the memory of Samolis in a more authentic manner. We will not find any more radical creative expression methods in the exposition as the participants kept on the scale of the modernist plastic. Still, a rather free interpretation of the theme granted unexpected features to the exhibition.


While organisers of previous plein airs took interest in the picturing of a human being (“In Portrait Format”, “Sign to a Human Being”), this year the creators looked back to inanimate nature. The curator of the exhibition Aušra Andziulytė offered to “look closely at the thing – the thing as a sign, as an eloquent object, fragment of history” and entrusted to discover new still-life to the participants.


The magic of still-life has made an effect on Ars group members, Samuolis being among them. It was one of the beloved genres of painting for the artist. In his paintings, Samuolis used traditions of folk art and combined them with novelties: various domestic utensils were arranged along with statues of gods in his paintings. The view was consciously deformed.


Meanwhile, the usual concept of still-life is almost invalid in the exhibition of the plein air. It is evident that none of the participants was eager to repeat the lessons of classical still-life. Silhouettes of things are hardly felt and understood in works, they are constructed according to the contemporary artistic logics. Still-lifes of the Finnish painter Paula Holopainen register fragments of reality crumpled like unsuccessful letters (“Kitchen Games”). The works of the German painter Jörg Eberhard are impressive – the author makes one believe in the optical illusion of a kaleidoscope (“Rethinking of Samuolis”).


Aistė Juškevičiūtė is painting hardly visible ephemeral still-lifes and kills them with monotonous verticals at the same time stating the death of painting in this way (“No.28, 29”). Still-lifes of Alvydas Bulaka may be called landscapes, still-lifes and nudes at the same time (“After the Rain”, “Still-life for Samuolis”).


The new still-life means memories of childhood scattered on the painted tin for Aušra Andziulytė (“Uncle’s Candies”), while it is a dream-like space ruled by absurdity for Arvydas Martinaitis (“Game with Gaga Soldiers”). Laima Drazdauskaitė has remained loyal to her style and has painted several canvases which continue her path. Inanimate nature (natura morta) reincarnates into daily icons full of sacral silence in her paintings (“Doors”, “Buffet”).


The still-life used to reflect the epoch, traditions and habits of the society, it testified about values and outlook in the old painting. Even now the still-life is used as a means for expressing socially urgent ideas, for drawing attention to problems of the 21st century. Meanwhile, the new still-life of the plein air participants seems to be not so new as it could be. Artworks presented in the exhibition reflect internal statuses, introspection, fears and cravings of authors rather than social reality. It is a modernist attitude; however, is it really sufficient for the new still-life?

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