Notes written by Rimvidas Jankauskas-Kampas are held today by the Lithuanian Archives of Literature and Art. In one of his notes, Kampas (Lithuanian for “corner“) complained that he hadn‘t created anything in four days. Forcing himself into a corner, unable to find a place for himself – perhaps this was the inspiration for the artist‘s pseudonym.
Kampas lived the life of a nineteenth century romantic, abiding by the principle that art is more meaningful than life, that creative pursuits are more important than human needs and daily existence. A wandering bohemian in the Soviet era, Kampas found refuge in the early days of Lithuanian independence in a closed synagogue in Kaunas.
Constructing something resembling a tiny hut out of discarded and used books, Kampas slept and worked in the synagogue for years. The closed temple became his most important creative motif – a part of Kampas‘ identity. We will come across the abstracted blue silhouette of the synagogue in the next part of the exhibit, but here we see Samurai, painted in the last year of the artist‘s life, unique in the context of Lithuanian art for both its large format and its expressiveness.
What is Samurai? Is it realism or abstraction? Whose head is this, with its enormous black eye? Is it bloody? Perhaps it is a red and black landscape or the silhouette of two people in the distance. Kampas studied Japanese graphic art and was intrigued by Eastern cultures – so, perhaps we should view Samurai as an alter ego, sacrificing everything in the name of art. We don‘t need to force ourselves into a corner, though. There are many ways we can understand the symbols in this painting – we just need to pick our own corner, our own perspective.