Jurgita Gerlikaite’s World of Meditations
By Rio Kojima
If we were to look for a romantic story in Jurgita Gerlikaitė’s works, we would fall into a trap. The world of Jurgita’s artworks, unanimously appreciated in Lithuania as well as in Eastern and Central Europe, is revealed by the use of various artistic techniques, while the digital printing enables it to gain even more aspects, and the world created by her may seem to anyone too quiet and simply beautiful. Its Rococo style, scenes based on European allegories, upon a closer look reveal a Lithuanian landscape and create an illusion of being in the labyrinth of Vilnius Old Town. The Old Town of Vilnius, as far as I have seen throughout Eastern and Central Europe, is the best place to play hide-and-seek. Born out of innocent cruelty intrinsic to children’s games the labyrinth of this city is unrivaled. It reflects not only the extraordinary landscape and architecture, but also something essential to the history of Lithuania, Paganism is still alive here side by side with a fanatical Catholicism, and a search for one’s identity pushes one toward alienation.
Jurgita is undoubtedly a Vilnius’ person. While wandering through the city, she captures people and beautiful images, which she then transfers to an imaginary space. Together with non-existent participants, they are embedded in a two-layered or three-layered space, and then pure beauty is inevitably accompanied by cruelty and awfulness. These two or three layers hostile to one another interwoven into the inner storyline make Jurgita’s work unfold even to an outsider. Looking again at the “Meditations” series (17 works in total, 2007), whose secret theme is the city, we would see that the juxtaposition of Jurgita’s works with the features of Vilnius is far from accidental. Jurgita’s urbanity is, I would say, original in that she is falsely reminiscent of M. K. Čiurlionis, who also chose the theme of “Meditations”, but he was keen to reveal links between Paganism and the East. In general, paraphrasing Picasso’s statement about Cézanne, we could say about Lithuanian artists: “They all come from Čiurlionis.” It is true that many of the authors who have taken over his motives have remained at the level of repetition, and Jurgita Gerlikaitė’s “Meditations” series is a laudable example of fruitful interpretation.
Although in the artwork of the “Meditations” series we see a beautiful world of fairy tales, their scenes undoubtedly carry the symbolism of a pre-determined harmony. This is evidenced by the theme of the subject’s transformation, fragmentation or dissolution, as well as the effort through colour and by telling a beautiful story, to convey the disappearance of the subject in the “story for the sake of the story”. Each figure is necessarily accompanied by a shadow. Intoxicated by this beautiful shimmering world, we unwillingly question our intoxication. The view is skewed, turns into a patchwork of colors, the plot breaks down and disappears into the void, or perhaps it’s the storyteller of the meaningless “story for the sake of the story” stares astonished at his own non-existence or even the antithesis of existence. The entity fleeing from the devil quickly turns into the devil. It’s hide-and-seek in the labyrinth of Vilnius, no less.
It should be said that the beginnings of the “Meditation” series appear in the digital works from 2006. First of all “Matter, Energy, Space, Time”, which is also printed on the cover of this publication [Arena – Ed.]. It’s a portrait of a meditating person en face – a face without expression, even with, I would say, “anti-expression”, similar to the Noh Theater mask. It is the face of a person who, as in Zen meditation, sees the emptiness of the sleeping ego, then destroys the gaze of the seeing ego, and finally overcomes the very awareness of destruction. Whether knowing the origin of the work facilitates understanding of its essence or not, it should be noted that Jurgita, while studying at the Vilnius Academy of Arts, explored deeper the Japanese Zen aesthetics. So it is not surprising that the idea of Zen liberation from the subject, is an axis of Jurgita’s intellectual and aesthetic context, in the “Meditations” series is revealed as an already fully formed world in this place of the game of hide-and-seek – Vilnius.
In “Equinox Moon” (a splendid picture that most clearly reveals Jurgita’s aesthetic strategy), we see an unnatural moon hanging above the city, which deforms and transforms the space, is inserted as a “body for a body’s sake” and becomes objet d’art. Finally, we see the concept of the “body for body’s sake” in “Meditation XVI”, where Jurgita herself unexpectedly appears in the role of an intruder. It is not a mistake to say that this kind of inserting of objet d’art creates a certain polyphony of space.
The picture “Man and Woman”, which should be seen as a continuation of the “Matter, Energy, Space, Time”, also represents the subject’s transformation, portrait en face, and this motif is repeated in “Meditation VI”.
Jurgita Gerlikaitė studied Art History & Theory at the Vilnius Academy of Arts, followed by three-year studies at the Icelandic College of Arts & Crafts, and graduated upon returning. After three years of studies in Denmark and creative work in a printmaking studio in Copenhagen, she returned to Lithuania.
In the mid-1990s, immediately after the restoration of independence, the Scandinavian countries offered great opportunities to young Lithuanian creatives, and Jurgita became one of the representatives of the Scandinavian school generation. Jurgita writes articles on aesthetics and art criticism, she is studying for a Master’s degree in Cultural Management & Cultural Policy at the Vilnius Academy of Arts. She is also known as a researcher of her grandmother’s, the folk artist Petronėlė Gerlikienė’s art. Jurgita’s digital works, mainly exhibited in solo exhibitions in Lithuania and abroad, are gaining international recognition. She won the first place at the Minsk International Printmaking Exhibition in 2008, her works were exhibited at the Latvian Embassy in Washington. The first publication of a collection of her works released in January 2009, also received a lot of general resonance.
Arena, Nr. 6, p. 1–4, Fubaisha, Japan, 2009
Kultūros barai, Nr. 7/8, Vilnius, 2009