What can you say about the undisclosed?
Sniedze Sofija Kāle, Art Historian
Inga Meldere. Unwritten
07.01.–13.02.2011. Contemporary Art Centre kim?
Out of concern for the lazier culture tourists who didn’t have the oomph or the time last summer to drive over to take a look at was happening right next door at the 14th Vilnius Painting Triennial and the achievements of Latvia’s representatives there, from 8 January until 13 February 2011 a solo exhibition Unwritten or ‘Neuzrakstīts’ by painter Inga Meldere had been organized at our very own kim? .

Luckily, I had the opportunity to view the Vilnius Painting Triennial in person and to assess how organically and full-bloodedly Latvian artists Jānis Avotiņš and Inga Meldere fitted into the overall exhibition. In both the Vilnius as well as the Rīga show you could see the paintings by Meldere which had been done during foreign residencies in France and in Finland, however the context of their exposition differed markedly – of the artist’s works on show at the exhibition in the neighbouring country half were selected and exhibited as a fully-fledged solo exhibition.

To get to Inga Meldere’s solo exhibition in Rīga, one had to traverse a room strewn with Romāns Korovins’ domestic experiences and witticisms. Korovins’ deliberate coquetry with the boundary between art and non-art unattractively encompassed within it a clearly defined rhetoric, whereas it wouldn’t have been possible to find a more accurate title than Unwritten for Meldere’s solo exhibition. On entering the space, which could well be called “five minutes short of a cube”, we were greeted by 15 paintings arranged precisely along the perimeter, using three wall planes with space for the column posts superbly integrated into the composition among them. There were neither titles for the works, nor any other cheat sheets for the viewer to peruse, having suddenly arrived in such a significantly silent environment after being stunned by the noise of the wild Korovins. The placement of the paintings was at the height of an average person’s face, enticing in its intimacy, as if inviting one to a tête-à-tête dialogue. People usually disengage from such intimacy, however Inga Meldere’s painting, whether you want it or not, makes you strain in an attempt to trace the diffuse paths of the “inhabitants of the works”, which on one canvas transform into shadows, but on another become active nature watchers.
Inga Meldere. From the series 'Unwritten'. Oil on canvas. 40x45 cm. 2010
Inga Meldere. From the series 'Unwritten'. Oil on canvas. 36x40 cm. 2010
Inga Meldere. 2011
I have to admit that this secrecy was a little irritating. Standing in front of paintings which evidently remind the artist herself of a particular story, yet remain unfathomable to the viewer, one was overcome with the feeling of attempting to read a diary written in code. Being unable to find the “Rosetta Stone”, all that remains is the visually perceivable joy of the rhythm of the hieroglyphs and the beauty of the symbols (here meaning – pictorial language). In his time, Leonardo da Vinci wrote a diary in mirror image, however he was led more by practical considerations than an aura of secrecy, inventing a way for lefthanded people to record what they wanted to say more comfortably. As it is, it seems that many of the budding new generation of painters (and not only!) who, in the avoidance of uncomfortable and finally unanswerable questions about the nature of art, have found two approaches, taking as a reference point: me as a microcosm. In the one case the artist clearly defines the task of his work and consciously constructs an image, but in the other surrenders to an impulsive reading of the surrounding world, developing an “evasive” method of communication.

In the list of Inga Meldere’s solo exhibitions attempts to conceptualize the content of the works can also be found, as for example, the Housewives solo project in spring of 2009 at the Pārdaugava Gallery. That was a restrained effort to speak about feminism through paintings and installations, however the evasiveness encoded in the artist’s style left a wide open space for unattached associations. In the end, the question arose whether every work of a woman or a man could be considered ‘feminine’ or ‘masculine’, if it has been created by the respective gender and in the author’s accomplishment one can notice an allusion to ideas on gender, not spoken about in Latvia, but still current around the world.

In seeking interpretations of Meldere’s creative work, the show of the artist’s private collection at the Nabaklab in Vecrīga, which took place in parallel with the solo exhibition (from 14 January to 9 February), was very useful. The exhibition presented a selection of accomplishment by Meldere’s colleagues, chosen according to the sole principle of whether she liked them. Making use of the proverb “Show me your friends (favourite artists), and I’ll tell you who you (the painter) are”, let’s take a little look at the works displayed in the exhibition. In the paintings by Daiga Krūze, Anda Lāce and Inta Stalidzāne one can glimpse a reflection of the world similar to the approach of Inga Meldere, where imaginative derivations are created based on the reality observed around us, shying away from a concrete narrative. It must be mentioned that in addition to the paintings included in the collection, there was also the contribution of younger colleagues to the cultivation of this approach, for example, canvases by Sanda Undzēna or Paula Zariņa. Such an attitude by the artist draws in the viewer more actively, through uncovered areas or unexpressed elucidations causing them to become involved in guesswork, in surges of emotion, as well as meditative processes stimulated by these impulses of feelings. A second qualified division in the exhibition could be made up of the paintings by Ansis Butnors and Ēriks Apaļais. These reveal naiveté and simple openness – a quiet and convincing response to the complex and at times completely incomprehensible outside world. In Inga Meldere’s case, a childlike openness can be best gleaned through the titles of the works. In the Unwritten solo exhibition, by renouncing captions under the works, a second characteristic trait of Meldere’s painting is reluctantly revealed – the “diminutive”, a sort of real sincerity. With the assistance of the titles specifically, the tiny, gently rounded little figures and everyday details come to life in the “puzzling” environmental conditions.

The cause of associations suggested by concrete reality cannot be sensed in all of the paintings, but in Inga Meldere’s works more than anything else it is the feeling for colour that captivates. Nuanced grey and silvery tones, combined with the deep dark ochre or violet coloured interpolations – it all creates an interplay which can be considered a constant quality of her work. Starting with her shining debut in the 2008 Attelpa (‘Break’) solo show, it is the language of her painting and the magnetic mood brought about by the play of her colour tones that has always had and still has the most impact. Even though Meldere’s compositional structure and details disavow an academic understanding of painting, the most essential part of her expression can be found in the foundations of this art form – in her feeling for colour.

/Translator into English: Uldis Brūns/
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