Creative archives today: “Reservists” of Romas Juškelis 0

Tomas Pabedinskas, 2013-06-26
R.Juškelis. "Reservists"

In brief: The organisers call the exhibition of Kaunas photographer Romas Juškelis “Reservists” showcased at Kaunas Photography Gallery a premiere. Works of this cycle could not be displayed until 1990 due to the political situation; the entire series was never presented after the restoration of Lithuania’s independence too. It may also be stated that the exhibition of R. Juškelis “Reservists” continues the series of “discoveries” of archives of photography and their presentation on the stage of contemporary photography.

The classic of Lithuanian photography Antanas Sutkus published his unpublished photographs in a separate album “Archives of Daily Life” in 2003; an exhibition dedicated to avant-garde Kaunas photography of the ninth decade was organised at the National Gallery of Art in 2011; Romualdas Rakauskas published the album of his early works in 2012; the historian of photography Margarita Matulytė is going to surprise by revealing a wider creative panorama of the photographer Vitas Luckus. These are only several examples showing the tendency of repeated actualisation of archives of photography.

Like other similar exhibitions, the exposition of the photography series “Reservists” of R. Juškelis supplements the whole view of the author’s creative work. In the context of Lithuanian photography R. Juškelis stood out by works in which the visual form was liberated from plot, story or lyricism. R. Juškelis refused any “literacy” of images right from the start of his creative road. By developing the chosen stylistics, the photographer created well-known series of photographs: “Reflections” (1980–1985), “Forms” (1979–2008), “People and Mannequins” (1987–1992) and “Forlorn Fortress of Kaunas” (1993–1997).

R.Juškelis also experimented with technologies of photography in order to create visually impressive works. Using the method discovered by him, the photographer coloured photographs of the series “World on Fire” (1990–1995) by reddish and blue shades that reminded of fire. Works of the aforementioned series have already become icons of oeuvre of R. Juškelis that represent his original style.

Still, completely different photographs are showcased in the exhibition “Reservists”. They highlight not so well known aspects of the creative style of the photographer: static forms are replaced by views captured in the most eloquent and unexpected moment that remind of Bresson’s concept of “critical moment”, and the precise quality of view is displaced by movement blur or out-of-focus foreground objects. Also, a story appears in separate photographs and series of the cycle “Reservists”, implicit plots are developed, which can hardly be found in other cycles of works of R. Juškelis.

“Reservists” may only be compared with the not so well known series of R. Juškelis’ works: “Reburial of Partisans’ Remains” (1988), “Reburial of Remains of Poetess Salomėja Nėris” (1992), “Disco” (1986–1992), “Firemen” (1986) or “Festival of Krishna Followers” (1997). These works, like the cycle “Reservists”, were created in reportage method and stand out in the creative context of R. Juškelis full of aesthetical searches.

The emphasis of analogical nature of photographs and their considered exposition placed a transparent veil of contemporary attitude and aesthetics on works of R. Juškelis created three decades ago. This enabled not to turn the “rediscovered” photographs of the original author into “objects of melancholy” and to present them as an important part of history of Lithuanian photography that gains new values in the context of today.

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