Atis Jansons
Elīna Pastare, Student, Art Academy of Latvia

Atis Jansons (born 1986) graduated this year with a bachelor’s degree from the Department of Painting of the Art Academy of Latvia, where he worked in the Multimedia Painting workshop. Up until now, Jansons has not been afraid to experiment in his works, and his education in multi-media design has allowed him to do so in other media also, stepping outside the accepted canons of the academic environment. One such experiment has resulted in the conceptual environmental design element Domā! (‘Think!’, 2010). The object is in fact a human head made of joined up wooden boards, topped with lush green flora with a small tree as the dominant feature of the composition. The structure is about 3 metres high and it has been placed in water, allowing it to float above the water’s surface. The location of the object in water and its interaction with it has been the major challenge of the composition, and is also its greatest success. Had it been static, placed anywhere else, the object would have most likely set off associations with “green thinking”, but being subject to the unpredictable fluctuations and changes of water as a natural element, finer nuances of the work are revealed. The complicated relationship between an artificially created structure and the natural environment serves as a contemplation about the daily reality of the human being caught between two spaces – the internal and the external.

Previously in his paintings Jansons has used both a realistic representation of nature as well as grotesque fantasy images, arriving at a fusion of the two. In his work Varoni meklējot (‘Looking for a Hero’, 2011) he builds a space where he sets out purposefully real and existing characters and objects, as well as geometric structures created in his fantasy. These elements do not point to a concrete story or plot, but rather create a puzzle made up of several pieces. By using carefully selected symbols, the artist creates a unified message which, when placed in a specific environment, a seeming vacuum, gains monumentality and eternality. This and also other works bear influences of German art, especially the Leipzig School of Painting as represented by such outstanding artists as David Schnell, Matthias Weischer and others. Possibly certain parallels can also be drawn with the works of Neo Rauch, where the characters and objects when placed in a conditional environment create a multilayered system of symbols. Rauch, however, uses cropped fragments of apparent real life, but Jansons in his paintings creates his own reality, building it from mutually unconnected elements.
Atis Jansons. Think!. Installation. 2010
Courtesy of the artist
Atis Jansons. Traditions. Oil on canvas. 190x250 cm. 2012
Courtesy of the artist
Atis Jansons. 2012
Photo from the private archive of Atis Jansons
Atis Jansons took part in this year’s SEB Contest in Painting, organized by SEB bank and the Art Academy of Latvia, with his work Tradīcijas (‘Traditions’, 2012), with which he also participated in the associated exhibition Talants atmaksājas! (‘Talent Pays!’). The word “tradition” implies a complex mechanism of society collecting certain experience and passing it on, where the central role is held by the connection between the people who are willing to pass on the tradition and those who are willing to receive it. Instead of people, however, this painting depicts a surrealistic uncertain environment, with impersonal objects scattered among the rubble: wardrobes, wall-units, apartment buildings. In the painting, the old Soviet style wall-units and wardrobes stand untouched, closed and silent, while the world surrounding them is falling apart. These objects do not embody tradition, but rather symbolize the disaster of stagnant systems and worldviews, when tradition is dead and exists on a plane in parallel with the processes of real life.

The artist has used cool nuanced hues, which imbue the depicted environment with a cold and detached atmosphere. The wardrobes in the foreground are an exception, and serve as curious accents. They are done in the dark, warm brown tone range familiar to any connoisseur of Soviet furniture. The contrast between the cool greyish blue tones favoured by the artist and the gaudy brown objects renders their existence even more absurd. The surface of the painting is in places furrowed with discernibly active brushwork; it also reveals various experiments in applying the paint, for example, smudging it in one direction onto a larger area, which softens the edges of shapes and makes them much less pronounced. A similar painting technique called the blur is extensively used by the notable German painter Gerhard Richter. The use of such techniques and plays of contrast in colouring can be considered to be if not eloquent, then at least an active means of expression, but in the painting they become pure energy, only partly linking up with the message of the work.

Atis Jansons’ bachelor’s degree work Apbalvojums (‘The Award’, 2012) seems to be a natural conclusion to the experiments and searching conducted during the learning process. The work reflects Jansons’ interest in mechanics, the amalgamation of diverse materials and elements into a single work of art, as well as a desire to convey the message with symbols that are visually laconic yet full of content.

In ‘The Award’ the artist has once again decided to refuse the means of expression offered in classic painting. Instead, he has used two multi-visual mutually connected square objects. The base material is organic glass, where each of the two separate squares is made up of at least 10 separate pieces of organic glass of various sizes and colours, and glued together. The space that is created within each glass object contains a “filling” (artificial plants, textile, water). Even though the objects themselves are immobile, the “filling” is kinetic in character – there is a mechanism which includes a motor, a pump, a power supply unit, a relay and other smaller elements which create the necessary pressure to make the dark blue liquid swirl up and down in the space allocated to it, meanwhile in the second glass frame the same mechanism causes the slight undulation of a line worked into some black textile material.

One could have a quiet laugh and decide that ‘The Award’ is the artist’s gift to himself for the four years spent at the academy, but upon more careful examination of the work and catching oneself thinking that it is difficult to tear one’s eyes away from the fine interplays of movement, it becomes clear that this object is not just the immortalization of the experiences of the artist himself. The work ‘The Award’ is like a small model of a secluded world or a cycle of life that has been concluded. By using abstract elements and pure geometrical forms, and refusing to employ an explicit narrative, Atis Jansons clearly demonstrates that any completed process is made up of the mutual interaction between contrasts and dualities. The visual presentation of the work reveals the dual system of life and death. One object contains life (water, air, growth as a vertical movement towards the sky), the other object – absolute silence, death (earth, artificial plants, the sterile white background). However, just like in other Jansons’ works, even the elements which are in obviously irreconcilable relationships get brought closer by unobtrusive and fine threads, until even the warring sides from opposing camps stand united in the name of a single goal.

/Translator into English: Vita Limanoviča/
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