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Petras Mazūras
About the author
  • Sculptor.
  • Born 1949 in Šiaulaičiai.
  • 1967–1973 studied at Sculpture Department, Lithuanian State Art Institute (today Vilnius Academy of Arts).
  • Since 1989 a lecturer at Sculpture Department, Vilnius Academy of Arts.
  • 2001–2006 Head of the Sculpture Department at Vilnius Academy of Arts. In 2004 awarded with National Prize of Culture and Art.
  • Member of artist group „Vilniaus skulptorių sodas“.
  • Member of the Lithuanian Artists’ Union.
  • Works owned by private collectors in Lithuania and abroad.
About the Artworks
From his first public appearances in 1974–1976, Petras Mazūras has been a favourite with art fans and critics alike. During the entire late Soviet period, curious fans followed the sculptor’s every move – each one of his new works was anticipated and discussed while still in progress, and its final presentation was a real event. Art pilgrims would follow Mazūras’s sculptures throughout Lithuania, travelling to Vežaičiai to see Žemės motina (Earth Mother, 1978), to Panevežys to see Paukščių takas (The Milky Way, 1979), to Varėna to see Vilkas (The Wolf, 1982), to Alytus to see Genijus (The Genius, 1983), to Klaipėda to see Juodoji moteris (Black Woman, 1984), and to Kaunas to see Žmogus (Man, 1989). While still within the tradition of figurative sculpture, not one of these works had anything to do with the vapid and decorative art that generally filled art exhibitions and public spaces during that era. Mazūras invited his viewers to understand sculpture as knowledge – as a way of understanding the roots of humanity, a recreation of the same symbolic signs in new, contemporary forms.
Some people who understood this celebrated the sculptor, while others rejected him. Genijus was accused of conceptual irresolution, while the works Moteris and Palikuonys (Descendants), both from 1983, were criticized for depersonalizing their subjects by draping the women’s faces and further emphasizing their sexuality, i.e., drawing attention to uncovered parts of the body, in particular the abdomen and breasts. But it was the sculpture Žmogus, erected by the Mykolas Žilinskas Painting Gallery in Kaunas, that inspired the biggest wave of protest. Some people were shocked by the vulnerable man’s nakedness, others by the work’s cold monumentality, which recalled the sculptures of the Nazi genius Arno Breker. Žmogus drew demonstrations by Catholic radicals and the controversy around Mazūras’s sculpture even led to the production of other artworks. For example, in a work for the 2005 Kaunas Textile Biennale, the feminist artists’ group “Coolturistės” was inspired by Mazūras’s work to create the site-specific project Mis(s)apropriacija (Mis(s)appropriation): they put an arc of magenta sparrows into the man’s hand, in this way connecting it to Juozas Mikėnas’s allegorical sculpture Pirmosios kregždės (First Sparrows, 1964) and inserting Mazūras into debates about national classics.
Mazūras’s sculptures have successfully survived the test of time, but they are also a true, if not typical, product of their times, i.e., the late Soviet period. These works grew out of the artist’s cultural explorations in reaction to the stagnation of the Brezhnev period, and from intense thinking about art’s relationship to reality. With his characteristically rigorous logic and insight, Mazūras polemically engaged with his immediate context – Soviet-era Lithuanian art. Purging socialist realism’s falsified, imitation reality of its layers of propaganda, the artist instead drew forms from the inexhaustible resources of nature, the natural.
By the end of the twentieth century, culture and nature were equally important to the sculptor. On the one had, they both intrigued him because of their boundless variety and the relatively simple means with which that infinitude could be expressed. On the other hand, if Mazūras had ignored nature and not studied it in pedantic detail, his works would not have their seductive sensuality, which have only become more appealing with the passage of time.
In Mazūras’s sculptures the muscular tension, the elastic skin covering soft layers of fat, the gentle curves of the female figure and the angular forms of the male torso become more beautiful with time, in contrast with their prototypes, which time eventually destroys. This tension has been part of sculpture’s magic since antiquity, and Mazūras masterfully succeeded in applying it in his works.
Although one could speculate that the timeless vitality of his sculptures connects them to Surrealist works, this is only a superficial impression, because Mazūras is exceptionally rational; he has never sought to shock, and loathes any kind of artificial mystery.
From his early youth the sculptor was drawn to technology and the use of technology in grappling with nature. For that reason he is always concerned with the material of a sculpture – its handling and its impact. It is not by chance that he was one of the first, according to Mindaugas Navakas, important sculptor-technologists.
During an era of intermediate sculpture materials – plaster and terracotta – Mazūras poured under household conditions, polished marble and basalt with his own hands, combined coloured rocks and used incrustation. His curiosity about the possibilities offered by different technologies and materials was further encouraged by the changes that took place during the late twentieth century. As soon as the opportunity arose, the sculptor tried out synthetic materials before ultimately moving over to natural objects, which he integrated into his artworks using mechanisms he constructed himself. The best known of this category of Mazūras’s works consists of floating fig trees protected from the environment by a special “smart” shell.
From the second decade of the twenty-first century the sculptor made a decisive turn to conceptualism. This was a natural turning point in Mazūras’s work because he was always drawn to this tendency in art. Although Soviet art and the professional context of that time simply did not allow him to veer from traditional sculptural imagery and manual approaches, Mazūras’s relationship to sculptural tradition was based on a rethinking and recreation of its conceptual foundations.
Giedrė Jankauskaitė
All works by this artist
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