|The Academy Goes Public |
Iliana Veinberga, art critic
Shape. Colour. Line: Diploma work exhibition of the graduating students of the Departments of Visual Arts and Visual and Plastic Arts of the Latvian Academy of Art and its Latgale extension branch, academic session of 2008- 2009
12.06.-28.06.2009. Riga Art Space
|I would like to start by emphasizing that in considering the diploma work exhibition of the graduating students of the Latvian Academy of Art (LAA), which took place at the Riga Art Space, we shouldn't go along with the organisers' bid to treat it as an opportunity for getting to know the young artists; in my opinion, it would be of more benefit to view it as the culmination of the study process, works created by young artists to prove their skills and to earn an academic degree. Such an approach would allow for a celebration of a valuable event in the Latvian cultural environment - namely, the venture of bringing the study process into the realm of public critique - and also would not separate the exhibited works from their original context, which in turn determines the specifics of their emergence and the way they are judged.|
Laura Sarkane. Recordatio XIII. Clay, porcelain, wire. 12-50cm. 2009. Photo: Martins Vizbulis
View from exhibition Shape. Colour. Line. Photo: Martins Vizbulis
Oksana Pranča. Family Portrait I-III. Paper, aquatint. 63x95cm. 2009. Photo: Martins Vizbulis
Andris Landaus. Ecological Foot. Glass fibre hemispherical base, metal wire framework, galvanized iron. 2009. Photo: Martins Vizbulis
The greater part of the exhibition consisted of graduation work from the BA and MA programmes of the painting subgenre. The works that were exhibited together, although carefully arranged, still created a situation where the individual qualities or original ideas of one or another painting were undeservedly lost in the total flow of the exhibition; therefore quite naturally it was the works of some already established artists and several MA graduates that stood out the most.|
Among these were, for example, Anda Lāce's triptych, which has already been on display at her solo exhibition at Ivonna Veiherte's Art Gallery, Flēra Fedjukova's work and thematically similar works by Reinis Liepa and Anna Baklāne, Atis Jākobsons, Verners Lazdāns, Linda Freiberga and others. The work Triecienā (‘Impact') by Ansis Butnors was excellent, as was Viesi (‘Guests') by Agnese Stabiņa. Surprisingly, several artists who had debuted in the public space with their uniquely original takes on pictorial language looked rather less impressive in their diploma work, and didn't seem to have realised the full potential of their ideas (Neonila Medvedeva, Anete Vasiļjeva, Jānis Purcens, Magone Šarkovska and others), or had even embarked on new formal explorations, which, although promising, left a rather "raw" im-pression within the context of the original purpose of the task (Sanda Undzēna and others).
Among the new names, or BA graduates, there were some outstanding works whose authors have already achieved a degree of autonomy; the names of the authors of another set of interesting works, despite the strong sense of déjà vu brought on by their formal solutions, are well worth mentioning: Agnese Skujiņa, Ilona Abiļeva, Estella Pumpura, Tatjana Raičiņeca, Artūrs Vītiņš, Oksana Ozola, Romāns Kovaļovs, Dana Zelča, Ingrīda Suharevska, Maigurs Prūsāns. The ideal exhibition review would examine each of the individual paintings, because each of them is the creation of the mind and hand of a particular author - but, broadly speaking, it should be noted that first of all, a graduate of the LAA should be able to demonstrate their technical mastery of their chosen medium; this should preferably be done in their own individual style, and ideally serve to express some content, some conceptual idea which would elevate the work above the flat surface of the canvas. Surprisingly, a rather large number of works, especially at the BA level, looked genuinely weak. These could be acceptable as study pieces, but graduation work, in my opinion, should show some stronger and more convincing qualities.
In this regard a very good impression was created by the works of the printmaking graduates. For various reasons, an absurd situation has evolved within the Latvian cultural environment: printmaking, a discipline which can boast many young and not so young artists who do interesting, quality work enjoys little popularity compared to painting, for example. Therefore it is truly wonderful to see the works of so many young, yet already mature, artists in a single exhibition, and to see them alongside paintings. It seems the medium of print is so time-consuming and technologically exacting that an artist working in this medium has to know precisely what, why and how they want to depict something - and as a result, slapdash efforts are very much a rarity. The works of Anna Orniņa, Natālija Maļinovska, Maija Mackus, Lāsma Pujāte, Linda Blanka, Ausma Šmite, Reinis Eglītis, Svens Kuzmins, Sabīne Vekmane, Alisa Ādmīdiņa, Oksana Pranča, Bulats Ratkevičs and other artists give their audience that special aesthetic pleasure that only the sophisticated and varied techniques of printmaking can provide.
A markedly conceptual approach in exploring the mastered art medium has been chosen by painter Krišjānis Rijnieks, whose graduation work is a video on the subject of (actually) printmaking, painter Oksana Ozola, printmaker Katrīna Šauskina with her video and environmental installation Menu, and Kate Krolle with her audio-sculptural installation Dārgais, vai tas esi tu? (‘Is That You, Darling?'). Sculptor Elīna Poikāne is likewise irreverent of the classic boundaries of medium and material in her piece Kontrasts I, II, III (‘Contrast I, II, III'), as is the glass artist Agnese Rimša in her Projekcija X Y Z telpā (‘Projection X Y Z In Space'). Full exploration of the multilayered art experience created by these works would require a separate essay, and I hope the names of the abovementioned authors will feature on the contemporary art scene more frequently.
Recordatio by ceramicist Laura Sarkane merits a special mention: within the context of the exhibition this was one of the best-rounded works. It offered the spectator a thoughtful - ironic, endearing - idea and skilful execution in the package of a porcelain skeleton of a teddy bear and personal genealogical records. It is worth noting that the subgenre of ceramics, whose existence remains a secret even to some students of the LAA, quite often produces some of the most interesting diploma works, but ceramicists, similarly to printmakers - and to an even greater extent - seem to miss out on the publicity. The same affliction also affects other "minor" subgenres at the Latvian Academy of Art, so my hope for the future is that such graduation exhibitions will become a good platform for raising the profile of these disciplines, and a way of ensuring informed and appropriate evaluation and promoting a public debate on the successful and failed paths of development in art education.
In place of a postscript I would like to add that in future exhibitions - and I do sincerely hope that such exhibitions will take place - it would be interesting to see somewhat more daring experimentation on the part of the curators: for instance, exhibiting works from the sub-genres of sculpture (sculpture, glass, ceramics, fashion) in a mix with the creations of the Department of Design, prints next to works from the Department of Audio-Visual media, or in some other combination. Changing the "sets" would also change the contexts, making way for many significant and stimulating insights into the true nature of the local art scene.
/Translator into English: Līva Ozola/