July 9-August 14 / Cēsis Exhibition Hall
Works by Bruno Vasiļevskis, Imants Lancmanis, Juris Pudāns, Maija Tabaka, Miervaldis Polis, Līga Purmale, Valdis Līcītis, Līvija Endzelīna, Dace Lapiņa, Jānis Krievs, Jānis Blanks, Zane Tuča and Jānis Šneiders
Curator: Vilnis Vējš
Design and installation by Līga Spunde
The exhibition aims to showcase the significant artistic legacy of Bruno Vasiļevskis and outline ways of viewing it today within a historical and contemporary context. The show comprises three separate sections: ‘Bruno’, introducing the viewer to the personality of the artist and his early forays into art, including the portrait genre; ‘Vasiļevskis’, featuring exclusively still lifes and landscapes dating from the mature stage of his career, and ‘P. S.’, which complements the exhibition, offering a selection of works by artists who could be considered kindred spirits.
The exhibition will show most of Bruno Vasiļevskis’ paintings, as well as some of his drawings and studies. The ‘appendix’ or ‘postscript’ to the show will present a number of works by other artists characterised by an artistically similar approach to the still life, landscape and portrait genres, dating from the time of Vasiļevskis’ life to the present day. Revealing a network of ideas and formal solutions, the show will demonstrate the impact of Bruno Vasiļevskis’ art on painting in Latvia. The works on view will be on loan from Latvian National Museum of Art, Latvian Artists’ Union and several private collections.
Bruno Vasiļevskis had solo exhibitions in 1989, 1994 and 2005. Considering that it is seventeen years since his last extensive show, Vasiļevskis art will be either a new discovery or a long-awaited reunion for different parts of the audience.
The artist is the subject of a comprehensive monograph by art historian Helēna Demakova, ‘The Ideal World of Painter Bruno Vasiļevskis’ (Neputns, 2017), which features reproductions of the whole body of his work and provides an exhaustive insight into his biography and art. As any study, it is open to various interpretations, comments and notes. The exhibition offers a visual commentary on the written word regarding the context of the artist’s oeuvre ‒ not so much juxtaposing as featuring Bruno Vasiļevskis among other artists as a way of reasserting the significance of his contribution.
Bruno Vasiļevskis (1939‒1990) was the most prominent Latvian still life painter of the 1970s‒1980s and also made an important contribution to the landscape and portrait genres.
Bruno Vasiļevskis studied at Janis Rozentāls Art School (1951‒1957) and Latvian Academy of Arts (1957‒1964).
The artist painted on average two works a year, each piece always meeting his own very strict personal standards. A large body of studies and drawings accumulated as part of the process. While Bruno Vasiļevskis’ presence on the Latvian art scene was unobtrusive, the authority he wielded was immense. Vasiļevskis’ time marked a turning point in Latvian art: the lengthy modernist period was followed by a diversity of styles and approaches.
Bruno Vasiļevskis consistently worked only in the genres of still life, landscape and portrait. That alone is enough to place him in the context of tradition. The artist was also quite conservative in his views, looking for authority figures among past masters and staying sceptical regarding current art trends. And yet Vasiļevskis was also a reformer of Latvian art: working in each of the three traditional genres, he introduced a formal language that was opposite to the cult of stylisation and virtuosity that had dominated the previous generation. With Vasiļevskis, a whole new stylistic sub-trend emerged in Latvian art, one defined by faithfulness to observation of nature, a nuanced exploration of light and extremely smooth brushwork. There are a set of Latvian artists who are kindred spirits with Vasiļevskis ‒ different from the mainstream, each with a style of their own yet also sharing some qualities. For this reason, the top floor of the exhibition house will be allotted to a selection of works by various artists, which, shown alongside Vasiļevskis’ own paintings, will provide some context and clarification, featuring still lifes, landscapes and portraits that are similar in style yet dissimilar in nuances. As Vasiļevskis’ own influence grew over the years, some artists of younger generations deliberately chose him as a source of their painterly references.
A number of artists who were Vasiļevskis’ fellow students and shared his ideals ‒ Imants Lancmanis, Juri Pudāns, Maija Tabaka ‒ will be featured in this section of the exhibition. Each of them has, at some point of their career, worked in a style somewhat similar to his. Another group of represented painters belonged to Vasiļevskis closest circle of friends and likeminded artists: Miervaldis Polis, Līga Purmale, Valdis Līcītis. Two artists who belong to different generations ‒ Līvija Endzelīna and Dace Lapiņa ‒ as well as three currently active painters ‒ Jānis Blanks, Zane Tuča and Jānis Šneiders ‒ have been chosen due to similarities in their artistic explorations.