(Retrospective exhibition of paintings of Alfredas Šatas “Creation is My Life” at Kaunas Picture Gallery)Kotryna Džilavjanaitė, 2008 10 02

"Patient". 1979.

"A Chair". 1984.

"Swinging Clown". 1985.

"Pieta". 1989.

Portrait of the actor A. Masiulis. 1989.

"Mist". 1999.

In brief: The retrospective exhibition of paintings of Alfredas Šatas “Creation is My Life” at Kaunas Picture Gallery should have become one of the most interesting exhibitions in the panorama of all art exhibitions. The audience has really longed for the painter who did not leave more vivid signs of creation during the latter years. Therefore, A. Šatas was remembered as one of the most skilful Lithuanian painters of the end of the 20th century, a legend.

Dozens of retrospective paintings – portraits, nudes, still-lives, figure compositions testified the certain skill of the painter to create multi-sided works and enabled one to rejoice for the pure, colourist painting based on academic colours, which has been pushed out to the shadow of art novelties stage lately.

However, despite the advance factors that promised an unforgettable view, the exhibition left a rather unexpected and frustrating impression. The logics and concept of exhibiting works seemed inscrutable, not to speak about the image of the author himself, how he wanted to be represented in the main exhibition of his life.

On the one hand, A.Šatas revealed himself as a master of deep, painful, drastic artistic themes and motifs, who experimented boldly with colour and lack of it (black, white), who developed certain mythology of paint and disease in paintings consistently.

On the other hand, the exposition was so full of decorative examples of saloon painting that a suspicion appeared whether the exhibition was not organised for commercial purposes. Such suspicions were supported by a group of new rich people met in the gallery who selected works for decorating their living-rooms openly.

A.Šatas is really capable of painting a bucket of flowers beautifully (there is much evidentiary material of this in the exhibition), an interior of a room, romantic streets of old town. Still, the artist created his most important and social works at the end of the 8th decade and in the 9th decade: it is the time of originally rephrased pietas, psychological portraits, series of patients in his creation.

Looking from the perspective of today, the most interesting fact is that works created several decades ago are still persuasive and actual to the spectator of the present days.

Several pietas of the artist are completely black, look like vacuum, but tousled facture forms a silhouette when one comes closer. The big impression is left by “Pieta” of 1989, and the pieta of A. Šatas in a wheelchair (1986) is the most astonishing. The motif of a disabled, ill pieta shocks much more than the image of suffering Mother of God in Christian paintings.

Black colour is the sharpest tool of the author of the exhibition. Dark substance locks the scattered look and draws like a black hole. Sometimes black colour takes revenge against the painter – much mastery is required for emphasising all its nuances, and black colour does not “sound” in some paintings of A.Šatas (e.g., “Man’s Torso”, “Woman’s Torso”).

Looking to single-coloured paintings of the artist in which view may hardly be seen or is fragmented, hidden under black or white paint, an idea occurs that A.Šatas is an iconoclast of the modern times. The most interesting is that he “destroys” idols created by himself – he seems to be performing an act of creation and destruction at the same time.

Not only pietas, but also nudes, psychological portraits are worth attention among works of the painter. There are really many works of different genres and themes in the retrospective exhibition that have long-term value. Still, the author lacked critical thinking while selecting his works for the exhibition.

The exposition architecture was not managed well in the exhibition, no visual and notional accents were made. More respect could have been shown to the portrait of the actor Algimantas Masiulis, who died recently – a more open space would have been found for it.

Despite the expressed notices, the retrospective of A.Šatas became a significant event of Kaunas art life. It is an exhibition of an artist who attentively observes the black-and-white chess board of life, in which he is both the king and the pawn.

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