After logging in, you'll be able to save your favorite works of art in this section. Read more about “My Collection” in the “Project” section.
Push slider to the right
Registration successful.
Username already exists!
Passwords do not match!
Slider error
You are almost done. To activate your account, please click the link in the activation email which has been sent to your email address ( )
A new password has been sent.
Out of the darkness
Around 1980, graphic art turned suddenly to darker tones. Having embraced white etched backgrounds (more difficult to render in linocuts) in the 1970s and black and white intaglio prints in the 1980s, artists became enamored with darkness. Printing presses at the Artists’ Union and the Art Institute refined aquatint and mezzotint processes—the application of acid or other physical means to make etchings in copper plates to give a print a deep velvety or sooty blackness. Strange creatures that could only be conjured in one’s imagination emerged from the darkness from beneath the black dome of a skull. Black meant night, but it also meant fantasy and the subconscious, intoxication, nothingness, or a sleeping mind that gave birth to monsters. At the same time, it symbolized the approaching end of Soviet society with its nihilism, discomfort, fear and despair. The saying “it is darkest before the dawn”applies here for good reason.
Among the first to create disturbing imagery in the darkness of aquatint was Stasys Eidrigevičius, a student of the Art Institute, who was already designing intaglio print miniatures and ex libris in the 1970s. Soon thereafter, grisly creations (the faces of prisoners trapped in a turtle’s armored caissons, a face overgrown with roots, a centipede made of humans or an insect with a woman’s legs perched atop a tower) began to emerge from the darkness of etchings by Danutė Gražienė. Nijolė Šaltenytė created similar works: darkness creeping up like a black cat, a bizarre half-dead city plunged in the gloom, a cloud lord feeding on rat flesh, or a blackened pond full of swimmers. In the dimness of Rimvydas Kepežinskas’ prints we see an endless drama of tiny people wearing long robes and conical hats, as if played out on a darkened stage. The darkness is auspicious for the characters here, but it is not essential—they could easily be transferred to the white pages of poetry.
No less mysterious than the mezzotint prints are the linocut creations by Edmundas Saladžius, telling stories of night and death. The blackness of his silkscreen and monotype prints is also not simply an abstract background of lines, as in the works of Vincas Kisarauskas, but seems to possess notional depth, igniting light and feeding a flame that allows a bloody corpse to glow.
Though lithograph prints may be rendered white as in a sketch, they sometimes can darken as a result of technical errors. We don't know for sure, for example, if the action taking place at Vilnius University as depicted by Birutė Staničkaitė was truly meant to occur at night, but the giant heads with gaping black eye sockets in prints by Danutė Jonkaitytė are clearly creatures of the darkness, while the night shrouds her otherwordly landscapes. Traditional rituals and folk song motifs intertwine to resemble one whole living creature, taking on disturbing new traits as a result, in the dark series of lithographs by Ramunė Vėliuvienė entitled Kalendorinės lietuvių šventės (Holidays of the Lithuanian Calendar). The drama of shifting light became an enduring central element in Vėliuvienė's etchings.
Starting in the latter half of the 1980s, as reforms began under the Sąjūdis movement and calls for independence increased, a modernist hyperreality of multiplying images thrived uniquely in the graphic arts. While the apologists of darkness seemed to create their own, unique imagery in their works, these new, deceptively realistic imaginary worlds appeared to multiply of their own accord, fed by external sources and media.
The exact drawing of objects observed in their natural state is perhaps only possible when rendering simple still lifes of durable, three-dimensional objects, for example, which was precisely the field of activity embraced by the Lithuanian painter Algimantas Švėgžda, who moved to East Berlin in 1982 for health reasons. Artists seeking to create extremely realistic depictions of their subjects, however, usually relied on photographs. The pursuit of the illusion of reality depends on copying, repetition and referencing, which in turn calls for a retrospective approach and the selection and matching method that characterized the era of new media. Improvisation and surprise become essential in the assembly of bizarre and mystical imagery from carefully sketched realistic elements.
In his sketches of hyperrealistic domestic scenes created with pencil and watercolors (and later duplicated by lithograph), Audrius Puipa relied on photographs, sometimes even models (especially animals), tracing imagery from magazines or assembling them from various different pieces. The action in his works usually takes place in artists’ studios or in the kitchens of relatives or acquaintances. His kitchens usually feature people bathing, while his studios containe characters eating or preparing meals. One scene assembles living and long dead historical figures together with imagined characters. These compositions, assembled from different pieces and redrawn studies, seem to illustrate a consistent and seamless three-dimensional space, but the selection and matching method reveals itself through the different sizes of objects and figures, threads of imagery, and unfinished portions of the work.
Puipa also includes written comments about the curious and mysterious stories in his pictures:
Two family friends, Zdyska and Puipa, sit atop a dresser. Klimas was even blinded by the glow.
Šventos Dvasios pasirodymas Klimų bute
(The Appearance of the Holy Spirit in the Klimas’ Apartment), 1985
Šarūnas Sauka drinks vodka behind a column, overcome by glory and his [national] award. […] On the left, Šarūnas Leonavičius sits and studies the Atlantic Ocean, preparing to set sail to America. In another corner, two drunkards exit the scene with a stolen Sližys painting. Sližys himself stands slicing meat for his birthday.
Raimundo Sližio dirbtuvė (The Studio of Raimundas Sližys), 1990
Šarūnas is found with a girl by his mother and father. The elder Leonavičius looks at his son with reproach…
Šarūno kambarys (Šarūnas’ Room), 1993
In the lithographs created by Rimvydas Bartkus (who emigrated from Vilnius to New York in 1991) in his youth, reality appears magically strange: something not quite right seems to be happening in an otherwise routine scene and daily life transforms into a painting viewed through a distorted lens.
Snippets of Lithuanian history or photographs discovered in family albums in Giedrius Jonaitis’ lithographs, etchings and drypoint prints transform into disturbing universes and eternal fantasies. The bell tower of St. Anne’s Church, fettered at the base with a knight’s armor and the skeleton of a giant fish with a dead wolf’s head, flies through the endless space of the cosmos among unknown planets and mysterious machines. Jonaitis often also portrays his face—small, large, winged, or with a bird emerging from a shell—always staring into the eyes of the viewer. Animated images of the world’s end, of weightlessness and change, also possess characteristics common to religious and heroic paintings, as well as science fiction cinema elements, sometimes resembling living organisms. It is no coincidence that these images were later reproduced in animated films. From 1991 to 2007, Jonaitis worked on the designs for the Lithuanian currency, the litas, collaborating in the production of all of the banknote issues for the 1, 2, 10, and 500 litas notes, as well as in two series for the 20 and 50 litas notes.
The compositions of tiny figures and multi-layered swarms of images in a series of etchings created by Šarūnas Leonavičius between 1989 and 2000 have a clear association to one prototype: the altar paintings of the Northern Renaissance. The retrospective nature of his illustrations for a 2013 publication of Kristijonas Donelaitis’ The Seasons were also heavily influenced by the work itself, or more precisely, by the era in which it was written.
Similar influences shaped illustrations for a 1988 Lithuanian edition of Dante’s Divine Comedy by Vytautas Kalinauskas, who represented a more senior generation of artists than that of Audrius Puipa. On the book’s flyleaf we see an illustration of a model of the world—a sketch of hell, purgatory and heaven—that with its quasi-scientific approach has much in common with the Renaissance. The diagram and its component sketches feature precisely rendered, naked, proportional and muscular figures posed at complex angles in various movements. Sometimes their shapes are distorted, as if viewed through a lens. The figures are linked by dotted lines to polished jewels and heavenly bodies. Traces of bituminous varnish, acids and other materials create an ever lighter background, symbolizing natural disasters and the physical world, while geometry here represents that world’s invisible system of order. Man finds himself between these elements. As in the works of many other artists, bodies fly about free from the force of gravity, though some of them are aided by wings.
The repetition of historical means of expression in graphic art work created in the final decade of the 20th century intertwines with parodies of these same styles. In their old-fashioned etchings, Gediminas Leonavičius, Rolandas Rimkūnas, and Žygimantas Augustinas do not present objects borrowed from Dürer, Rembrandt or Goya as direct citations and make no effort to fashion narratives to justify their use. In one work, biblical stories are confused and transformed into hallucinations, while another piece replaces figures from classical paintings with cats, dogs or Mickey Mouse. In a third example, the artist mocks visions of darkness and weightlessness by transforming them into the overcrowded nightmares of rather repugnant personalities.
Marginal notes
A popular trend took hold following the re-establishment of Lithuanian independence that ran contrary to the illusion of reality and which is perhaps best described as the inclusion of marginal notes: lines of text or symbols inscribed into the surface of a print, serving as elements of a diary, document, or a series of citations or study observations. They were meant to be read more than observed, illustrating not only the nature of the visual medium’s surface (a white piece of paper), but also the boundaries of graphic art or any type of visual illustration, and also served to encourage the viewer to explore the relationship between images and the language of words.
For Petras Repšys, prints became daily notes of secondary importance as he painted his famous frescoes in the halls of Vilnius University—liberating the new works from the confines of tradition. When he began work on his series of etchings entitled Improvizacijos (Improvizations) in 1972, Repšys carved studies of natural objects or strange images that suddenly came to mind into zinc plates. These illustrations were supplemented by barely legible texts, printed in reverse, that served to further emphasize the print’s surface. The series of etchings Dienoraštis (Diary, 1987) captures everyday experiences: impressions of reality, objects seen in museums, overheard sayings, texts found by the artist. An erratic composition reveals the element of time—the course of a day’s events and their rendering in sketches—and thus also helps to reveal the creative process. In a series of drypoint etchings created while in Finland and Denmark, Repšys demonstrates the diversity of connections between images and words, as strings of text replace lines to shape human figures, the landscape space, architectural elements. After a visit to the United States in 1995, Repšys returned with a stack of large-format colored drawings that resembled an illustrated encyclopedia of one explorer’s observations.
At the end of the 20th and the start of the 21st centuries, graphic artists took interest in illegible characters, traces of time left on surfaces, graffitied walls or notebook motifs, calligraphy and old maps. Intentionally unfinished etchings appear like the pages of a traveling artist’s sketchbook. Embossed works transformed into puzzle-like images of stamped wood blocks that demolished the myth of rough form and expressed the political views of their creators. Mechanical copying, an integral part of graphic art technique, became a matter of principal: some (like Repšys) attempted to forego it altogether, while others transformed it into an essential creative strategy.
Using images they observed, imagined or discovered on the internet, Birutė Zokaitytė, Eglė Kuckaitė, Eglė Vertelkaitė, and Laisvydė Šalčiūtė disassembled and explored the norms of femininity. Noble or banal paintings of women eventually transformed into images of the artists themselves, speaking in the first person. The creative pursuits by these female artists took place not so much in their minds, but on the surface of their works, which is why they attached great importance to the emptiness of the page and the visible space of ideas. Erratic assemblies of different motifs and seemingly random parallels compelled viewers to explain their interrelationship in words. Their correlation was sometimes revealed in notes or the elaborate titles of each work. The union of image and text, pop cultural references and artistic exploration proliferated in the works by artists of all generations.
Audrius Puipa described imagery in his watercolors with a feigned naiveté:
A dog, wet from the rain, lay down by this painting and, as he scratched himself, he rubbed away the rags and bowls I had been drawing for three days.
Kiaulės pjovimas Šešuoliuose (Slaughtering a Pig in Šešuoliai), 1986–1991
The depicted imagery becomes visible because of references or traces of them, along with the empty spaces in the work’s foundation.
Contemporary drawings are a special type of rendering “marginal notes”. If the study of reality has lost its significance even in art instruction, quick idea sketches and redrawn copies of previous images remain methods favored by artists to liberate themselves from tiresome ideas, impressions and recollections, making them visible through simplification.
Collective drawing was an intriguing phenomenon that existed in Lithuania in the late Soviet period. As they waited for breaks between lessons or for students to complete their assignments, Antanas Martinaitis, Ričardas Povilas Vaitiekūnas and Edmundas Saladžius, instructors at the Kaunas Children’s Art School, created drawings together. Their colleague, painter Laima Drazdauskaitė, collected nearly six hundred such drawings made between 1975 and 1982. The themes and titles—​such as Akies išbadymas (Pierced Eyes)—of these psychedelic improvisations inadvertently reference back to the surrealist work of the artists who had devised this form of collective drawing. Newly coined words reinforced the imagery they created together.
At least two other groups pursued their creative work in the artists’ residences of Vilnius and Palanga from 1976 to 1994. The core of one of these groups consisted of painters Algimantas Kuras, Mindaugas Skudutis, Raimundas Sližys, Dalia Kasčiūnaitė, and Antanas Martinaitis, while the other consisted of graphic artists Kęstutis Grigaliūnas, Laisvydė Šalčiūtė, Rimvydas Kepežinskas, Rimtautas Gibavičius, Vytautas Kalinauskas, Aleksandra Jacovyskytė, and Edmundas Saladžius. Alcohol helped the artists to relax and liberate themselves from their skills and aspirations, allowing them to pursue the automatism (action free of the mind’s control) promoted by the surrealists. Erotic and political subjects predominated in their drawings, full of dark humour, nonsensical imagery and misogynistic pornography. These works were rarely shown by their artists to anyone else. Many of them drew their creations in solitude. In their range of free expression, series of images and haiku verse by Česlovas Lukenskas dedicated to the reality experienced during the so-called “stagnation period” had much in common with the collective creative works created at this time.
Drawings and paintings on paper became widely popular in the independence period because of the simplicity of the materials and tools required, as artists began traveling to artists’ residences in various European countries. It is rather difficult to distinguish between these different forms of art, since both paintings as well as drawings with paint and brushes usually only employed a few colors, leaving a large portion of the medium’s surface untouched. Abstract expressionist drawings were created by the painter Eugenijus A. Cukermanas, while Vaitiekūnas produced nearly abstract works. Ink drawings by graphic artists Stauskaitė and Kepežinskas reveal the influence of Eastern calligraphy. From 1990 to the end of her life, Kariūkštytė created nearly 15,000 large-format drawings, using large brushes on swathes of paper rolled out onto the floor. Her compositions of multiple figures depicting mysterious rites and strange erotic scenes are linked to the neo-expressionism that had spread throughout Europe in the 1980s.
Artists who favored creating new narratives by redrawing and assembling images found in different types of media usually worked with pencil. Linas Jablonskis, for example, assembled images of famous world leaders, scientists and artists alongside animals or naked women, encouraging viewers to explore the links between them. Aistė Kirvelytė redrew and magnified grim photographs she found in the press. Mindaugas Lukošaitis’ series of traditional drawings based on photographs of events from 20th century Lithuanian history were another affirmation of the adage that the “new” is but a suitably remembered “old”.
Graduates of the Vilnius Academy of Arts in the 21st century

Graduates of the Vilnius Academy of Arts in the 21st century, having thoroughly studied traditional graphic art techniques, used them to create works that resembled those of more senior artists. The significance of the pieces, however, was revealed only after reading accompanying explanations of the works.

It is helpful to know that statues of eagles and stags were relics of the Soviet period and also the objects of research study, while scattered lines depicted atmospheric phenomena and computer-generated scientific graphic visualizations were used to create abstract features. Other elements, such as slumbering bedroom communities, athletes without their uniforms, or the modern citadels or portrayals of political leaders, are more easily recognizable.

Female graphic artists continued the artistic explorations begun by their elder colleagues. Elena Grudzinskaitė examined different phenomena and concepts in her attempt to “visually define the boundaries of privacy”; 21 ketvirtadienis, Vilnius: galerija „Vartai“, 2012, p. 4. Laura Grybauskaitė explored the total absorption of imagery and the creative process itself; Laura Selmistraitytė pondered the visual codes of man as a social creature; and Raminta Šumskytė studied the capacity to portray dreams.

Accompanying textual commentary is so vital to Rūta Spelskytė’s drypoint carvings that it is presented in lieu of the work’s title. A film actor in her childhood, Spelskytė later worked in several artists’ residences abroad and spent time traveling alone through the Balkans. In her creative work, Spelskytė seeks inspiration from her travels, art history, and documentary evidence from war time. The parallel presentation of unrelated imagery in her work is an expression of the failure to communicate—itself the cause of so many tragedies. In the process of portraying mass torture and murder, acts of terrorism, or the bodies of victims, Spelskytė found herself alienated from others, so she began a deeper exploration of her interest in catastrophic events, explosions, and sites associated with mass executions in war time. The titles of her works reveal the links between landscape features and the horrific past, as in Tvenkinys Aušvice-Birkenau, į kurį buvo sumesta keliasdešimties tūkstančių sudegintų žydų pelenų (Pond at Auschwitz-Birkenau, into Which the Ashes of Tens of Thousands of Jews Were Thrown).

Tadas Gindrėnas is one of the few young artists attempting to make due without the use of explanatory text, taking a new approach to recreations of black and white linocuts by Juchnevičius and Kisarauskas—who in their own day created these works with a fresh look—in an effort to imbue the works with new meaning. Large prints on canvas resembling comic strips, logos or stenciled graffiti clearly show human heads and the thoughts emanating from them.


Write a comment
No comments.

Sources and links

21 ketvirtadienis
Parodos katalogas, Vilnius: galerija „Vartai“, 2012
[[item.description]] [[item.details]]
You have subscribed successfully.
Patikrinkite savo pašto dėžutę ir paspauskite nat gautos nuorods norėdami patvirtinti užsakymą.