Oskars Pavlovskis
Santa Mičule, Student, Latvian Academy of Art

This spring, artist Oskars Pavlovskis (born 1985) received a master’s degree from the Latvian Academy of Art Department of Visual Communication. His name may be already known, first of all, to those who actively follow Latvia’s comic culture and its main platform, the Kuš! magazine, but Oskars is also active in other media, these including graphics, sculpture and animation, all of which are used simultaneously and in mutually complementary fashion in his master’s work Redzamā robeža (‘Visible Boundary’). The series of five art objects which made up the work were on display in an exhibition of the same name at the Kaņepe Culture Centre from 8 to 25 June. The convincing show is Oskars’ first solo exhibition. Up till now the artist has actively participated in group exhibitions, the most noteworthy of these being the exhibition of comics and illustrations Pazudis pilsētā (‘Lost in the City’), which toured Europe in 2009.

Diversity can be noticed not only in the types of media used by Oskars, but also in the aspects of style and contents, as he addresses a relatively broad range of themes and phenomena. Independently of the genre and media selected, Oskars’ works manifest tragically sarcastic moods, which fluctuate between black humour and heightened grotesque. In the Zupa 1 (‘Soup 1’) and Zupa 2 (‘Soup 2’) drawings, Oskars has created an ironic vision which appears to be based on his daily experience as a passer-by: community oddballs and outcasts are portrayed as a crowd of monsters, in which one can see both the harshest features of Eastern European street life, as well as the frightening countenances without which any film dedicated to the peripeteia of zombie or alien life cannot be imagined.
Oskars Pavlovskis. Work No.5. From the series Visible Boundary. Mixed media. 25x60x15 cm. 2012
Courtesy of the artist
Oskars Pavlovskis. Work No.3. From the series Visible Boundary. Silkscreen. 64x45 cm. 2012
Courtesy of the artist
Oskars Pavlovskis. Work No.1. From the series Visible Boundary. Silkscreen. 65x50 cm. 2012
Courtesy of the artist
Oskars Pavlovskis. 2012
Photo from the private archive of Oskars Pavlovskis
In attempting to specify and define the range of associations and phenomena which are referred to in Oskars’ works, the first labels that come to mind and the influence of which the artist himself recognizes, are street art and science fiction. Elements of these in the young artist’s works get altered in accordance with the best classical drawing traditions – well-structured composition, rhythm and line, and an accurate sense of anatomically sculpturesque form, often getting carried away with scrupulous detail. In the structure of images and themes one can also discern Oskars’ many years of experience of working in various kinds of multi-media, including the fields of computer games and design. So as not to get confused in the previously listed jumble of qualities, it should be pointed out that Oskars’ activities in a number of media is also determined by the stylistic differences in each of them, allowing one of the chosen formal techniques to dominate.

The central thematic motif in Oskars’ works is the unusual, human-like images of creatures, whose originality and artistic value are determined by the relationship between the “human” and “non-human” in their visual structure, which is subjected to a deformed and biologically grotesque stylization. In trying to categorize these images, one wants to talk about post-modern mythology – hybrid-type mutants, whose weirdness is engendered by fantastic anatomical features.
Interest in transitory states (primarily physical ones) is also expressed in the title of Oskars’ exhibition and his master’s degree work ‘Visible Boundary’, which characterises the series of works themselves, in which the human-like mutant image gets varied through different biological stages and media. In analyzing these altogether differing compositions, a desire arises to use the terminology of medicine – the images are subjected to surgical slicing, peculiar cross-sections which evoke associations with people’s internal organs, tissue structure or that which is found beyond the boundaries of what can be seen every day with the naked eye. The stylized elements of human physiological structure are visually fantasized into sculpturally expressive forms which even have a value in themselves; as contrast and at the same time culmination there is a realistically kinetic sculpture – a monstrous doll which, possibly, can be interpreted as a unified realistic version of the other compositions.

On the Latvian art landscape, the hybrid and physiological transformation theme of which Oskars is fond was given an airing at the Mutanti (‘Mutants’) exhibition, which took place in May 2011 at the Mūkusala Art Salon, where curator Sniedze Kāle drew attention to the trend for contemporary artists to create deliberate anti-aesthetic hybrid forms in contrast to the cult of traditional beauty dominating in society. This distancing from the classically harmonic and beautiful is evident not just in those of Oskars’ works in which physiological monster forms appear, but also in the many comics and drawings, the style of which reveals features of street art in the garish colouring, in the urban atmosphere and decorative blocks of form etc. In Latvian art, as opposed to the West, these untamed art forms, luckily, have not yet become institutionalized and legalized in the sphere of elite art. Although one cannot deny the influence and expressions of street culture and visual art aesthetics in traditional branches of fine art, art forms such as comics in Latvia’s cultural space are to be regarded more as marginal art phenomena.

In the ‘Lost in the City’ series of works done in silkscreen, the mutant anatomical forms highlight the main images in the composition, creating a typical big city feeling of contrast between the individual and the crowd, a grotesque urban impression. In addressing the thematic motifs of city life familiar to everyone, the author ironizes about various urban culture and everyday clichés (menacing characters, shopping, the necessity of conforming to the dictates of fashion and good taste etc.), as well as the rules of street life, which are included in the compositions verbally. In this way the thematic messages of Oskars’ drawings create entire stories, which are unobtrusive, but can be read easily enough. An interest about the narrative side of visual art is also revealed in the animations and comics created by Oskars, in which a language of form approximating reality is most explicitly used, abandoning formal effects and experiments in favour of stories where the scary characters and bleak plots are based both on real events and memories, as well as the experiences of a specific environment. In this way it marks out its difference from general contemporary comic and animation art trends to forgo a story, a clear plot and linearly directed event as the main content, becoming rather visual epiphanies which increasingly accent the value of the pictorial elements and their capacity of verbal meaning.

As opposed to many of the art phenomena which belong to the so-called “ugly aesthetics”, both in Latvia as well as elsewhere in the world, in the works of the young artist Oskars Pavlovskis the anti-aesthetic elements shouldn’t be viewed as intentional, challenging provocations. We should, rather, praise the author’s ability to combine the language of images borrowed from visual mass culture with a feeling for realistically accurate plastic form or, keeping to the terminology of the hierarchy of art, the ability to combine marginal [or popular] art forms with the visual qualities that are characteristic of elitist [or high] art.

/Translator into English: Uldis Brūns/
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