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Rising Star of the Collectors Market Janis Avotins in Exhibition at Ibid. London

  • Janis Avotins exhibition
  • Janis Avotins exhibition
  • Janis Avotins exhibition
January 3, 2016

Every rapture in something that could be named as “historical continuity” has serious consequences for all parts of society that has gone through a dramatic social, political and cultural change. In the European context, this is particularly the case with the societies of the countries of Eastern Europe and the Balkans (be sure to check out our article about 10 Eastern European Urban Artists). Transition from one political, economic and cultural system (socialism and communism) towards a new one (capitalist and liberal democracy) produces a platform for a number of artistic interpretations of the complex relations between the past and the present. Therefore, we shouldn’t be surprised when we see a number of East and South-East European artists dealing with subjects of collective memory, transitional justice and societal transformation. One of these artists is amazing Latvian artist Janis Avotins. Ibid. Gallery in London has organized Janis Avotins exhibition that is entitled Since the Foundation.

Janis Avotins exhibition
Left: Janis Avotins – Untitled, 2015, oil on canvas, 124 x 87 cm / Right: Janis Avotins – Untitled, 2015, oil on canvas, 138 x 103 cm

Soviet-Era Media and Documentation – The Art of Janis Avotins

Janis Avotins lives and works in Riga, Latvia (he was born in 1981). He received his BA and MA at the Latvian Academy of Art (take a look at this amazing art intervention by an unknown artist in Riga). He will have a solo show at the Latvian National Museum of Art in 2016. The artist is known for his dark, ghostly, photorealistic images sourced from forgotten antique photographs and Soviet-era media. Rather than directly copy the subjects—female figures, patriarchal heads and busts, or hands protruding from a shirt sleeve—he reduces them to hazy, isolated forms with an ephemeral quality. However, what is Avotins’ work particularly focused on is 1950’s Soviet propaganda films, post-World War II national picture books, and photographic documentation of poets, artists and intellectuals during the Soviet-era. His paintings awaken a familiar signifier in the collective memory, while neutralizing emotion through the articulation of what lay in the absent or invisible part of the canvas, suggesting or tracing a void. The subjects themselves are a contradiction, for although they are not formally responsible for crimes committed during communism, they nonetheless served as “model Soviet citizens”, photographed for propaganda purposes.

Janis Avotins exhibition
Janis Avotins – Vitrine pencil on paper, dimensions variable

Since the Foundation

The body of work in Since the Foundation has a more expressive and stirring quality, something which was not predominate in the past work. Beyond the historical atmosphere present in his work, there is a longing under the conditions of the decline of western culture for a general desire of beauty and hope and the rituals leading to it. Each work is articulated in a way that is both ineffable and timeless, although rooted in reality. The artist’s technique is quite original – the paint is applied in thin washes of pale, bleached color overlaid with small alternating brushstrokes. Isolated forms and figures emerge through omission. While some of the artist’s scenes mime Soviet-era photographs, others recall the contemporary appearance of his hometown. Many scenes seem to be part or wholly imagined, dream-like visions of the past, or slowly reconstructed personal memories of friends, places, events and situations.

Janis Avotins exhibition
Left: Janis Avotins – Untitled, 2015, graphite on paper, 16.5 x 11.2 cm / Right: Janis Avotins – Untitled, 2015, oil on canvas, 115 x 90.5 cm

Janis Avotins Exhibition at Ibid. Gallery in London

The artist’s recent shows include Only here, The Federal Republic of Germany’s Contemporary Art Collection, Bonn, DE; Gaiety is the most outstanding feature of the Soviet Union, Saatchi gallery, London, UK and After the Fall, Hudson Valley Center for Contemporary Art, New York, US. The visitors of the Ibid. Gallery in London have a truly unique experience to view aesthetically and conceptually amazing art of Janis Avotins. The exhibitions entitled Since the Foundation was opened on December 11, 2015, and will be on view until February 6, 2016 at Ibid. Gallery in London, United Kingdom.

Featured Images: Installation view, Janis Avotins, Since the Foundation. All Images courtesy of Ibid. London.