The exhibition will be on view at the Museum of Liepaja from January 18 to February 24.
The UPB art collection, being a collection of contemporary art, expresses the primary aspiration of giving a personal insight into that realm of artistic values which is developing right here, in our presence. It is a new collection, little more than a decade old, going back to late 2002, when regular exhibitions commenced at the UPB offices in Liepāja, and when the first works were purchased. UPB Chairman of the Board Uldis Pīlēns reminds us in the introduction to the catalogue: “We’re not collectors of the classic kind. This means that we’re not putting together our collection on the basis of very precise, consciously developed principles, but the emotional component is very important in forming this collection. Essentially, this collection is an extension of our own hearts, how we subjectively view the world, how we perceive the values around us, created by our own contemporaries. How we line them up. It’s not always the largest tree in the forest that’s the most beautiful one.” Following the exhibitions in Liepāja, Ilze Freimane initiated exhibitions in the UPB “Wine Studio” on Elizabetes iela, and later in the establishment on Stabu iela as well. Nowadays it constitutes a significant contemporary art collection, representing active artists from various generations.
The exhibition and collection present an impressive array of painters. At its core is a balance between two contrasting figures. We find work by the accomplished master EDVARDS GRŪBE (1935), inspired by impulses of light and speaking with conviction of the omnipotent language of colour, of its capacity to convey the vividly expressive, as well as the sublime and the hallowed. Against this we have the Fish created by EDGARS VĒRPE (1958), their mystery of peace and silence conjured up in closely similar tones, using a monochromatic, textured language of colour, despite which they are immensely diverse. The range of possibilities offered by the palette are tested by figuralists and by artists pursuing abstract themes. ZIGURDS POĻIKOVS (1955) seeks the equivalent of colourfulness in his experience of the landscape, while HELĒNA HEINRIHSONE (1948), with her passion for a challenge, triumphs in depicting the moods of existential experiences through laconic areas of local colour. Meanwhile, IVARS HEINRIHSONS (1945) offers a temperamental portrayal of male pride and energy in his stark black and white outline of the horse as symbolic image. The asceticism of the black and white painting by IEVA MAURĪTE (1971) approaches abstract graphic art.
Using variations of colour plasticity in similar tones and directional brushstroke patterns, INTA CELMIŅA (1946) strives to express the dual nature of the feminine world, the paradox of gentleness and remoteness. This is what LAIMA BIKŠE (1970), too, seeks to capture in her delicate paintings, representing the perspective of the turn-of-the-millennium generation. Through her vividly contrasting, luminescent spectral colours, ILZE AVOTIŅA (1952) presents a different world, a world centred on ferocious sorrow, but sheathed in apparently vivacious colour. Bright as enamel, the graphic-style, ornamental paintings of KRISTĪNE LUĪZE AVOTIŅA (1983) betray a wide geographical range of visual influences. The works by actress and painter ELĪNA DZELME (1986) are inhabited by fleeting, visionary, ghostly figures, while GITA ŠMITE (1973), in contemplating her protagonists, does not avoid an encounter with herself. The grotesque aspect of the everyday woman’s world is contemplated, with an emphasis on rotund female forms, by Liepāja artist LĪGA ĶEMPE (1975).
The vital brutalism of the early work by AIJA ZARIŅA (1954) in this collection refreshes our memories of the breakthrough in Latvian painting that came in the 80s. In formal terms it resembles the bright works on silk cloth, saturated with feeling, by fashion designer and painter ELITA PATMALNIECE (1964).
The artists of the 1980s New Figuralist generation are also represented in this exhibition, expressing the individual development of their personalities twenty years on. Engrossing as ever are FRANČESKA KIRKES (1953) intellectual games, inspired by the old masters, whereas the works of IEVA ILTNERE (1957) halt us in our tracks: in their exquisite texture and elegance, depicting the world of contemporary ideals of beauty, we may also perceive the voice of deadening loneliness. A sense of balance is introduced by DACE LIELĀ (1957) who holds firmly to the unbreakable bond between humans and nature, grasping natural impulses ever more sensitively. A canvas by ĢIRTS MUIŽNIEKS (1956) continues the revelation of the force of colour in painting, presented in a playful visionary world. ANDRIS VĪTOLIŅŠ (1975) likewise seeks to transform his industrial world into orgies of colour. The conceptual supremacy of colour and line, celebrating the romantics’ beloved colour blue as a value in its own right, prevails in the work by SANDRA KRASTIŅA (1957). Also exploring the possibilities of monochromatic expression is BARBARA GAILE (1968), with abstract works revealing a new approach to the use of pigment and imparting significance to the texture of the painted surface as an element of the imagery. JĀNIS MITRĒVICS (1957) is represented by a work that once surprised us, presenting the new possibilities of technology in a classic still-life format. In his still lifes, Liepāja artist VALDIS MACKARS (1952) continues his quest for stylised reality, while ALDIS KĻAVIŅŠ (1938) transforms into a new context his old surrealist dreams.
Presently, the core of the collection consists of paintings, but it does also feature some unique graphic art: a work by the virtuoso draughtsman and engaging performance participant VILNIS ZĀBERS (1963–1994), and silk screens by this year’s septuagenarian ILMĀRS BLUMBERGS (1943), who realises his ideas in various media. These include his symbolic series Serving. There are also exquisite ink drawings by artist ANNA HEINRIHSONE (1970), winner of the 2012 Latvian Theatre Award. Back in 2002, the ‘foundation’ of the collection was laid, appropriately enough, with the Mental Meteorites in stone by OJĀRS FELDBERGS (1947), who brought about an upheaval in Latvian sculpture. EGILS ROZENBERGS (1948) monumental tapestries remind us of the significant role of this technique in the decorative application of the visual arts over the course of a century. This collection, being a truly contemporary creation, also incorporates photography. Painter NORMUNDS BRASLIŅŠ (1962) presents us with fascinating photographic observations of Venice in the power of water, while the photograph Beer Planet, by the legendary Liepāja figure JĀNIS GRODUMS (1958–2010) supplements the collection with a flavour of the watering holes of his native city.