Paula Zariņa
Dita Birkenšteina, Student, Latvian Academy of Art

Paula Zariņa (born 1988) graduated from the Latvian Academy of Art Department of Painting with a bachelor’s degree. Zariņa’s favourite medium of expression is painting, and she mostly employs oils and canvas because she believes that the technical possibilities offered by these materials have not yet been exhausted. The focus of Zariņa’s artistic interest is the person, a mysterious figure appearing in just about all of her paintings. For some time now she has been examining existential questions of why someone is the way they are and what goes on in their head, assuming that a person is in essence a unique whole and our egocentric nature is rooted in the mind, a place where each of us is a lonely prisoner. Possibly this may be why the human figure in Zariņa’s works almost always appears swathed in sheets of glimmering light, creating visual associations with the figure’s individual space of thoughts and feelings – its aura, perhaps. Although the person usually looks tiny when set against a natural landscape, he or she can never be consigned to a supporting role, since the human being is primary. Zariņa calls these figurers “the lyrical “I””, and as in literature, her painting helps the viewer to engage with the situation. The artist has a refined sense of colour and skilfully achieves nuanced tonal depths; her works are characterised by a mysterious femininity, often hidden in laconic compositions that leave space free for the imagination.

Zariņa’s emergence on the exhibition circuit was aided by participation in 2009 in the SEB Contest in Painting, a competition for Latvian Art Academy students sponsored by SEB Bank. This led to a successful collaboration with Diāna Barčevska, curator of the Arsenāls creative workshop, and Zariņa taking part in exhibitions both in Latvia and abroad. At that time, Zariņa presented a pair of small-sized paintings, Conspiracy Theory (2009) and Criminal Information (2009). Looking at the first, after a three-year gap, it seems to have been painted by an entirely different Paula Zariņa. This painting stands out for its expansive, strictly defined fields of colour and their intense contrasts, which is gently dissonant with the painter’s more usual floodings of paint in endless layers, achieving a subtly nuanced ripple of colour, as can be seen in Criminal Information. Here the many layers of colour interact with the runoff and contrast with the homogenous field of colour in the human figures.
Paula Zariņa. Hormone of Hapiness. Oil on canvas. 130x130 cm. 2011
Courtesy of the artist
Paula Zariņa. The Moon has come close to the Earth. Oil on canvas. 180x180 cm. 2011
Courtesy of the artist
Paula Zariņa. We are searching. Oil on canvas. 150x200 cm. 2010
Courtesy of the artist
Paula Zariņa. 2012
Photo from the private archive of Paula Zariņa
During the competition exhibition these two works were noticed by the talent-scouting curator Barčevska, who then invited Zariņa to take part in the young artists’ exhibition Pilsētas bērni (‘City Children’) (Arsenāls, 2010; printed catalogue of the exhibition available). This has been Zariņa’s largest and most prominent exhibition to date, and it established her on the art scene as a promising young talent. In this exhibition the two aforementioned works (in 180x180 cm format) were joined by a third work, Time Capsule (2010), which continues with the subject of the space or capsule for a person’s individual thoughts and feelings, the only place where one can truly be alone. At the centre of the painting there is a person helplessly “glued” to the bed and encapsulated in their own world, while the environment around it has lost meaning and vanished away. In the ‘City Children’ trio Time Capsule stands out with its ethereal colouring; the tonal centre of gravity is the half-collapsed figure enveloped in a multi coloured, tonally nuanced bubble, while the white space surrounding it does not claim to represent a concrete environment, leaving its interpretation up to the viewer.

For the final year project of her bachelor’s course, Zariņa presented a series of paintings titled Incubator of Joy, featuring four large-scale works: Time Capsule, Eskimo Kiss, The Moon is Here and The Joy of a Walk (all from 2011). This ensemble is united by a common theme: that the primary aim of any human being is to find happiness, and there are differing paths in this quest, from walking the dog to observing celestial bodies to kissing in the park. In Zariņa’s works the person is always searching for something, in physical and emotional motion. In winter of 2011, the exhibition Kur es esmu? (‘Where am I?’), organised by Una Meiberga with the participation of Artūrs Bērziņš, Kristaps Krievs, Daiga Krūze, Anda Lāce, Reinis Liepa, Andrejs Strokins, Māra Viška and Paula Zariņa, was held in Sigulda. It featured Zariņa’s painting Searchers (2010), in which a pair of mushroom-pickers are wandering amidst a brightly coloured thicket of trees, looking for something. Since her bachelor degree work, the artist has concentrated on small canvasses, creating a series of paintings which are distanced from real space and which focus on a central figure, surrounded by an aura and swimming alone in infinite space. One such work is Incubator of Joy (2011), which was presented as the Secret Patron’s Award to the actor Andris Keišs at the 2011 Spēlmaņu nakts theatre awards ceremony.

The fruitful collaboration with Barčevska is continuing. From 5 June onwards Zariņa’s works Hormone of Happiness (2011) and I am here (2011) will be on show alongside works by Rihards Delvers, Ieva Lapiņa and Laima Puntule at the international art festival Memorial to Arkhip Kuindzhi in Ukraine. This year Zariņa participated for a third time in the SEB Bank competition. For the exhibition Talants atmaksājas! (‘Talent Pays!’) she presented the works Seekers (2011) and Seeker of Happiness (2011), in which the painter returns to a realistic environment: the action takes place in a forest, where muted figures wander amidst darkened clumps of shrubbery. Considering that the main accent is always on the dreamlike human figures, in this case the natural landscape serves as an unobtrusive background which, unlike an urban setting, does not demand defined forms that distract the attention from the essential. Nature presents unlimited opportunities for expression through form and the rhythm of lines, which can be freely subordinated to the main image.

/Translator into English: Filips Birzulis/
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