About the artist Nijolė Sivickas de MockusApolonija Nistelienė , 2010 05 17

Nijolė Sivickas de Mockus. Photo from

Nijolė Sivickas de Mockus with son Antanas

In brief: The most talented Lithuanian artists: writers, painters, musicians, actors left the native nest and flew like birds across the seas at the end of the summer 66 years ago, when they felt the red autumn. They did not return in spring. The fate determined that they could visit their homeland only half a century later. Others could visit Lithuania only by their works: books, paintings, notes, films.

One of such artists who cherishes the hope to return to the homeland at least by works is Nijolė Sivickas de Mockus, a famous Columbian monumental artist.

Nijolė Sivickaitė was born in Kėdainiai on the 25th of May, 1925. She studied in Raseiniai and, after her father, physician Antanas Sivickas was arrested in the summer of 1940, she and her mother moved to Panevėžys, where the girl attended and finished studies at Panevėžys Gymnasium in 1944. The artist studied in Stuttgart State Art Academy in 1944 -1950, where she met her future husband, student of architecture Alfonsas Mockus. When they had to leave Germany, they were accepted by Columbia only as the husband was ill with tuberculosis. A.Mockus died in a plane crash in 1966.

Nijolė has a daughter Ismena, who is a professor of endocrinology in Bogota. The son Antanas is a mathematician, philosopher and a well-known political scientist of Columbia, who became famous as the mayor of Bogota and as a candidate to the Columbian President's post in 2010. Nijolė speaks with her children and grandchildren only in Lithuanian as she is Nijolė Lituano!

After moving to Bogota, Nijolė became an illustrator of a magazine. She also worked as a graphic but soon started painting by oil and drawing by pastel. She organised an exhibition in 1955, which drew attention to the Lithuanian artist presenting herself as Lituano everywhere. The graphical works, paintings and later sculptures of Nijolė were close to realism and analysed tragic themes. The artist thought herself that she sold those themes: all of the paintings created in this period were bought, and none of them have remained in the workshop.

In 1966 Nijolė opened her workshop “Stone”. In 1972 she participated in Barcelona World Exhibition, where she presented her ceramic sculptures. Nijolė Sivickas de Mockus organised 20 personal exhibitions and participated in about 100 group exhibitions. She took part in exhibitions in the USA, France, Mexico, Ecuador, Australia in year 1988 only.

Later Nijolė started creating installations-abstractions saying that “I want to discover poetry but I do not know what form should be granted to it: should I cut time or space. I am searching for new spaces for new forms. People do not understand me: I am against form; still, my sculptures are nothing else but form.” The artist plays with clay, iron and fire; she does not improvise but thinks about the desired form in advance. Iron gave a chance to create new forms for new spaces with tension.

Nijolė asserts that work with material becomes a dialogue with universe for her. The aim of her creative works is to cross space. It is a philosophical rather than poetical interpretation of art and the sensitivity to constant change. Nijolė is obsessed with creation of objects which have never been created by nature or human being. She tries not to repeat existing things and to form questions that would shock in every step.

As the periodical press of earlier years shows, the most famous art critics of Columbia evaluate Lituano Nijolė Sivickas de Mockus highly. She was called “an artist giving birth to iron” in 1990. She burns clay in low temperature and uses metal. Works from burned soil – the new clay combustion technique was invented by her son Antanas Mockus. The titles of her works are abstract and philosophical. The artist gives titles to works for practical reasons; moreover, she believes that a title sets an artwork free.

It is a pity that the works of Nijolė will remain in Columbia. It is most probably impossible to transport them to Lithuania packed in huge boxes with titles.

Nijolė is a minimalist in daily life and maximalist in creation; she is a sincere, warm and modest person. She is loved by her children, an interesting interlocutor with a strange and unusual attitude to material things. It seems that the thirst for things, services or other conveniences does not exist for her. When visiting an exhibition of contemporary installations, she understands the essence of a strange idea at once, differently from other people who are not assisted by explanations very often. She is interested in everything she sees around: woolpack clouds, swans on the lake, wooden crosses in a cemetery. She is surprised at flowerbeds seen in Druskininkai and asks why they look like constructed things – there are no such constructions in nature.

It is hard to believe that Nijolė, who lived through many difficult periods, who does not complain about ailments caused by respectable age, who speaks Lithuanian well and who has raised incredible Lithuanian children far from the homeland, is still full of creative ideas, philosophical notices. I saw the friend of childhood years as such during her visit in Kaunas several years ago. One becomes surprised: can one long for the homeland so much in the country where it is always summer, where so much has been achieved and experienced. Nijolė could serve as a reproach for the contemporary countrymen leaving and disparaging the native land.

Congratulations to Nijolė, the childhood friend and distant countrywoman, on her 85th birthday – with the expectation of her return.

Photographs from the personal archive of Apolonija Nistelienė

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