The Blizzard That Destroyed My Studio Didn’t Interrupt a Russian Choir Rehearsal, 2009
Jonas Gasiūnas began painting in the mid-1980s and was one of the founders of “Angis,” an artists’ group that held joint exhibitions and explored unusual methods and spaces for displaying their work. They shared an embrace of expressive colors, bold brushstrokes, and large formats. An artist who offers ironic interpretations of history and the present day, critiques pseudo-patriotic beliefs, experiments with new materials, and regularly challenges himself personally and as a sculptor, during the last decade Gasiūnas has focused on drawing and developing a unique painting technique.
Gasiūnas has said: “I needed a more universal method. Smoke lines solved this dilemma. Everything that I portray using this method can be understood as fiction.” In creating the painting before us, Gasiūnas employed a technique that has been used since the days of the surrealists: painting with candle smoke. After applying paint to his canvas, Gasiūnas then uses a burning candle to add lines to the work.
This painting is full of recognizable imagery calling to mind the days of the repressive Soviet regime: the Red Army‘s Alexandrov Ensemble Choir; a morgue or operating room gurney; a loudspeaker; and lines that resemble those often found on the pages of official files and protocols. The title of the painting refers to a particular personal experience and is an attempt to reflect back ironically on the blizzard of the past that continues to blow to this day, while associating it with artistic fictions and poetically unexpected narrative combinations.
The use of graffiti-like sketching here may suggest a particular perspective on reality: we must look at both history and the present – whether experienced or imagined – openly, suspiciously, and personally, so that we are continuously rewriting, extinguishing or reigniting them. Even after it has dissolved, smoke leaves its traces on us, on the canvas, and on contemporary Lithuanian art.
Lithuania has been no stranger to the #MeToo movement that has swept the world in recent years. Several renowned artists have been accused of inappropriate behavior toward their students, including the painter Jonas Gasiūnas, a veteran instructor at the Vilnius Academy of Arts. MO Museum condemns all forms of intimidation or discrimination, but it also adheres to the belief that the works of a renowned artist should not be dismissed. This particular case begs the question: is an artist inseparable from his or her artistic creation? Should we discuss a work of art and disregard the artist? Is this even possible? What do you think?