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Alfonsas Vincentas Ambraziūnas
Alfonsas Vincentas
About the Author
  • Sculptor and painter.
  • Born in 1933 in Valmantiškiai, Kaunas district, Lithuania.
  • In 1961 graduated in sculpture from Lithuanian SSR State Art Institute.
  • From 1962 to 1997 taught at M. K. Čiurlionis School of Art.
  • Lives in Vilnius.
  • Recipient of State Grant for the Arts (1997–1998).
  • His works have been acquired by Lithuanian Art Museum, M. K. Čiurlionis Art Museum and various art collections in Lithuania and abroad.
  • Official artist site.
 
About the Artworks
As one looks at the Lithuanian cultural tourism map, one cannot underestimate certain monuments that have become the source of pride for various cities and their centres of attraction. In the case of Anykščiai, it is Light of happiness; for Varėna, it is the monument to the deportees (architect A. Klyza); while one of the most famous and important monuments in Lithuania is that of the Ninth Fort, which can now be seen both as a design for a place of memory, and as an example of Lithuanian memorial monumental sculpture and architecture of the 1980s that is found in a public space. One can also remember the monumental composition for Vincas Krėve in Druskininkai, that for Jonas Basanavičius in Mažeikiai, the monument for Vincas Mykolaitis-Putinas in Marijampolė, the one for philosopher Antanas Maceina in Prienai, as well as the monument to the partisans of the Tauras district in Marijampolė. All of them are authored by Alfonsas Vincentas Ambraziūnas who has been active in the field of Lithuanian monumental art for more than half a century. He studied sculpture under Professor Juozas Mikėnas and graduated from Lithuanian State Art Institute in 1961. His activity in the area of monumental art, lasting half a century, left clear traces both in Lithuanian public spaces and in the fields of chamber sculpture and sculptural portrait. But he did not stop there: to this day, the artist has been active creating paintings and prints on clay.
 
In his youth, Ambraziūnas together with sculptor Vladas Vildžiūnas were thrown out of the Art Institute for “activities incompatible with the status of a soviet student”. He then went on to live and work for several years in a kind of spontaneously formed community of artists on Rudens street: the Kisarauskai couple and ceramicist Romualdas Budrys lived in the neighborhood, the artists would also be visited by Antanas Gudaitis, Povilas Ričardas Vaitiekūnas and Kazimieras Valaitis. They were taken under the wing of Professor Juozas Mikėnas, while Eduardas Mieželaitis would come by to purchase some of their works. This festive bohemian environment generated ideas and the author earned his living by decorating churches in Kaunas and Ukmergė. This free-minded way of living and thinking also made its way into Ambraziūnas' works: it is at that time that the author began to develop clay prints (prints pressed using a paint-covered soft clay plate) – a lot of them have also been created by Vincas Kisarauskas and Saulė Kisarauskienė. In the 1960s and 1970s, many artists disinterested in conventional ways of expression took interest in painting, sculpture and particularly clay printing. Ambraziūnas and his generation of like-minded artists – Vildžiūnas, Valaitis and the Kisarauskas couple – were in search of new ways of expression, particularly those featuring bold shapes, composition, abstraction, deformation and an effort to follow, as far as possible, in the footsteps of the few contemporary examples of Western art and avant-garde ideas that were available at the time from across the Iron Curtain. Ambraziūnas' paintings of the time witness to dynamism and emotionality coupled with the ability to construct a solid, stable whole of the painting. Their abstract shapes are monumental, with bold lines breaking the plane. The early sculpture works are also characterized by boldly divided planes, monumentality, emphasis on rudeness, certain details being deliberately played down and, as in some cases, a movement towards assemblage. Wooden sculptures are created directly from sketches and without sculpting model-prototypes; by their incompleteness they resemble the plasticity of folk sculptures.
 
Belonging to a kind of “different” art did not prevent Ambraziūnas from participating, in 1966, together with Vytautas Vielius and architect Gediminas Baravykas, in the Competition for Ninth Fort Memorial, which they won. Following four rounds of the competition that lasted ten years, the works began on the monument that the artist himself considers to be the most important one in his life; it was completed five years later, in 1983. A modern plastic language and allegorical sculptural composition that acted on an emotional level instead of recounting history arouse a great deal of suspicion and dissatisfaction among the authorities of the time; once the memorial was built, however, it was awarded the highest prize of the Soviet Union. The ensemble of the Ninth Fort consists of a museum, a memorial and an administrative building and is the most striking example of brutalism in Lithuania. The monolithic reinforced concrete that has been openly exposed, together with stained glass by Kazys Morkūnas and dynamic, generalized sculptural composition of bold forms – all of this conveyed the idea of resistance in the language of architecture and sculpture.
 
Such bold and free-spirited artistic beginnings laid the foundations for Ambraziūnas' further artistic and administrative career. The Ninth Fort Memorial and the subsequent State Prize were undoubtedly a huge breakthrough in the artist's creative biography, paving the way for further creative endeavours, albeit no longer as an “outsider”. According to art historian Giedrė Jankevičiūtė, as he was further developing the artistic areas that he had discovered in the 1960s and 1970s, he became, along with his contemporaries Silvestras Džiaukštas, Leonardas Tuleikis and Vladas Vildžiūnas, “official artists who no longer needed to fight because their means of expression had turned into a norm that was no longer censurable”. Ambraziūnas was awarded the title Merited Artist in 1983 and became the winner of the USSR State Prize in 1985. For a long time he worked in the sculpture division of Lithuanian Artists’ Association and served on the Association's board; he was also the deputy chairman of the Monumental Arts Council under the Lithuanian Ministry of Culture.
 
Throughout his long creative career, the artist has developed a distinctive style that clearly features characteristics of the generation of “silent modernism” that has survived to this day. Among his works are numerous memorial sculptures in various Lithuanian cities, along with tombstones and sculptural portraits. The latter reflect the attentive attitude of the author towards the subject of the portrait, as well as the ability to break away from reality and to create an abstract image that reveals the personality of the person being portrayed, despite deliberate deformation. Thus, the expressive face of philosopher Justinas Mikutis, who had a tremendous impact on the generation of “silent modernists”, turns into an almost decorative object, wherein one still recognizes the intelligence and sadness so characteristic of him; while in his sculptural portrait, writer Balys Sruoga is depicted as if in flight, all made up of vibrant, sharp, dynamic lines. Among works are also portraits of Ieva Simonaitytė, Antanas Strazdas, Juozas Miltinis and other famous personalities of culture. The chamber sculpture of Ambraziūnas is abstract, of large formats and rather drastic plasticity; it gives the impression of direct dialogue with wood or stone. Anthropomorphic shapes are also visible here, however, recognizability is not one of the artist's goals. What he strives for is an open, breathing work, a three-dimensional shape that combines decorativeness with monumentality. Modernist stylistics and its artistic principles have to this day remained the foundation of Ambraziūnas' work, visible in his sculpture, painting, drawings and prints on clay. As the author himself puts it, “the period of intense changes I've lived through has been accompanied by an echo of the ever falling and re-emerging world as its main leitmotif”.
 
Jurgita Ludavičienė
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