Vineta Kaulača, bard of the city
Sniedze Sofija Kāle, Art Historian
Vineta Kaulača. Exercises in Mnemonics
13.01.–08.02.2011. Māksla XO Gallery
After a longer interval, painter Vineta Kaulača has reminded us of her existence convincingly with a solo exhibition Exercises in Mnemonics. The city landscape has nearly always been the focus of attention for her, albeit in that contemporary understanding where it’s not possible to evade the steely discipline of demands enforced by time and viewpoint. Each free moment becomes a rarity and a privilege, and to be used in concentrating on the essential.

The Exercises in Mnemonics solo exhibition brought together two approaches which have crystallized in the artist’s creative work up till now: the fixation of a fascinating moment in a city landscape, static yet enriched by light moods (Light along the Way, Spaces. Red Light), also seen in the 2004 Stroll series of paintings, and the capture of movement sliding past (Spaces. Walkway II, the triptychs Acceleration and Decrease) – as in works from the 2005 Simultaneously exhibition. By choosing the same iconographic images – tunnels and passages – both approaches became fused into an organic whole.

The arrangement of the exhibition should be commended – it had been created as a unified whole. By deftly varying the sizes of the paintings and drawings, as well as the exposition of the works themselves (the scattered small format frames, the carefully strung together little boxes of light and the solemnly displayed triptychs), an attractive yet at the same time balanced exhibition arrangement was achieved. A lively interaction within the space. This was particularly expressively evidenced by the work Spaces. Walkway I, a synthesis of photographic, three-dimensional, and painted reality, demonstrating the variation on a specific place offered by each medium. How laconic and mysteriously silent was the pedestrian tunnel in sculpture, how romanticized it was in the photograph. Whereas in painting, Kaulača’s surgical skill in fragmenting or dissecting concrete reality and composing this into a suitable format on canvas in a way that the details become essential and a value in themselves was fascinating.
Vineta Kaulača. Acceleration II. Acrylic on canvas. 120x150 cm. 2010
Vineta Kaulača. Acceleration I. Acrylic on canvas. 120x150 cm. 2010
On the basis of one characteristic – manipulation with sensory reality in a way that brings it closer to a person’s perception, Vineta Kaulača’s painting could be “dragged kicking and screaming” into the photorealist crowd. It wouldn’t be sensible to sacrifice the artist’s originality in order to satisfy a desire to slot every manifestation into a correspondingly numbered and systematized category – especially since with Kaulača reality is used as an instrument to engage with a person’s visual perception and the realms of its explorations. In choosing to paint the city in a distinctive light, in the sloping rays of the winter sun, in a golden late afternoon, in the dusk or in the twinkling of artificial lights, a powerful wave of memories is sparked in the viewer’s perception. The heightened lighting has a compelling sensuality which can become just as material as smell or touch, and can bring back moments from the past.

The slide-sized drawings ensnared in the little boxes of light (Spatial Memory) immortalized the features of specific cities. For a person with little travelling experience, they didn’t reveal familiar places but rather carefully organized and rhythmic structures. In everyday life they form swathes of obstacles that have to be surmounted within the city – tall and wide buildings that split the space of the metropolis, fences to go round or footpaths to traverse. A couple of fine lines drawn in with a Flomaster pen and arranged in an organized way fool the vision and make one think in a vertical, horizontal, diagonal space, where the sense of time and experience unobtrusively steals in.

The means of expression used in the paintings encouraged aesthetic experiences rather than philosophical reflection. Vineta Kaulača had chosen to immortalize the space in between – the tunnels and passages which we use every day to get from one point to another. Without the figures of people, these spaces become fields for the play of light and invite associations with the impressionists. Claude Monet once spent a whole year studying the transformations of Rouen Cathedral caused by changes in light and atmosphere. Today’s artist, economizing on rent and time, has – thanks to the development of photographic equipment – the opportunity to follow the play of light whilst working in the workshop. The Rouen Cathedral tower was, for a short time, the tallest church tower. Completed in 1876, it embodied the achievements of construction of its time in an aesthetic form and its continuity with the legacy of the past, whereas metro buildings represent one of the most fundamental aspects of our world: functionality and the possibility of moving quickly from place to place. The sun shines on the tiled floors with a dazzling smile, like in an advertisement, while the glazed and metallic surfaces sliding past creat a moving, pulsating impression, at times throwing reflections like the surface of water.

The appearance of movement and visual reality has engaged Vineta Kaulača’s attention every so often as, for example, in 2005, in the Distance solo exhibition at the Artists Union of Latvia or the Speed of a Glance exhibition at the Māksla XO Gallery in 2006, where the cars flashing by and highway lights sliding past were more dominant. This time in the depiction of movement, in addition to the bluish yellow, a more silvery, cooler or cocoa tinged colouring has slipped into the static works.

The uniqueness of Vineta Kaulača’s art shouldn’t be overstated. If we were to look around even within the radius of our own locality, we would find similar investigations in city environments and the “sliding effect of people passing by”, employing monochrome tones and a greater level of abstraction, which artist Mārīte Guščika also has cultivated for a number of years. In her paintings, Kaulača has concentrated more on specific concepts of viewpoint and time, and she does this very consistently, putting thought into their arrangement in space. Tried and tested experience in painting guarantees an unchanging quality in Vineta Kaulača’s solo exhibitions, however the Exercises in Mnemonics were particularly “fresh” and effective with their impact as a unified ensemble.
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