Elīna Alka
Dita Birkenšteina, Student, Art Academy of Latvia

Elīna Alka. 2012
Photo from the private archive of Elīna Alka
Artist Elīna Alka (born 1986) graduated from the Department of Graphic Art at the Art Academy of Latvia, and quite recently, this past summer, she also got a Master’s degree in painting. Thanks to her training in these two artistic disciplines, her works transmit a painterly visual image without losing at the same time the gracefulness that is characteristic of graphic art. The artist has broken down the boundaries between the two media in favour of a single creative goal. Up to now, her works had been available for viewing in several group exhibitions, the last of which was Migrācija (‘Migration’), an exhibition showing the works of 2012 Master’s degree graduates and their teachers which was the central event at the ceremonious opening of the new wing of the academy. The exhibition ‘Migration’ is on view until 10 November in Brussels, at the Permanent Representation of the Republic of Latvia to the European Union.
Elīna Alka. Untitled. Coloured lithograph. 27x36 cm. 2012
Publicity photos
Courtesy of the artist
Elīna Alka consistently sticks to the landscape genre and lithography as the main instruments of her art. She turned to this particular technique of printmaking during her bachelor’s studies. It’s the entire work process that holds attraction for her: starting from etching the stone to the finished run of prints, because, both from the physical and mental aspects, lithography requires the undivided and in-depth attention of the artist. Elīna emphasizes that lithography is a technique which allows for the most expressive way of achieving the aesthetic qualities that she considers indispensable: light, airy and soft forms. Besides, in order to be able to feel and control the specific nuances, the artist herself does the actual printing of her lithographs. Given the peculiarities of the lithographic stone, the works are printed in small editions. Elīna justifies her choice of portraying landscapes with her fondness for the instant changeability of nature, and she compares landscapes with the lithographical stone – both possess a living and changeable nature.

The search for her own artistic handwriting or individual formal means of expression had started already during her bachelor’s studies, and resulted in her final course work, a series of colour lithographs Ainavas (‘Landscapes’, 2010). This series reveals the artist’s gentle and painterly artistic expression, where the depiction of natural objects is divested of unwanted details in favour of laconic forms. As a result, the main value of the works is in the relationship between the fields of colours. Due to the stylized and simplified forms, these landscapes are far from what could be considered realistic depictions of scenes from nature, therefore within the context of these works it is difficult to speak about definite subject matter or concrete motifs – the images of living creatures that sometimes feature in the compositions are of secondary importance, and play the role of being additional “stage props”. In her works the artist accentuates nature and the feelings that arise when interacting with it. Here you won’t find landscapes revealing dramatic and expressive views of nature. The artist’s interest in the peculiarities of human vision (she is drawn to the issues of visual acuity, for example, the sharpness with which each of us sees an object placed at the same distance from the eye), as well as her wish to formally illustrate her musings on the theme impart a completely different character to her works: the outlines of shapes are slightly blurred and fuzzy, and the nuanced light hues of the lithographs create the lyrical mood typical of Elīna’s artistic signature – which is to be considered one of the main qualities of interest. It would be impossible not to mention the obvious similarities with the works of the English painter and innovator of the landscape genre Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), whose main artistic goal was to render the “heart” or the essence of the landscape, using a minimal range of means of expression (particularly the watercolour sketches of Turner’s trip to Italy in the 1820s).
Elīna Alka. Untitled. Watercolor on paper. 45x50 cm. 2012
Publicity photos
Courtesy of the artist
In “Turner-like” manner Elīna chooses a free and impulsive style of depiction, which should not be taken as a self-absorbed enjoyment of the technical possibilities but rather as a consciously chosen method which will help to achieve an engaging atmosphere. In the works of the young artist it is worth noting the skilfully laconic means of expression and details, which are reduced or totally discarded in her compositions in favour of the dominance of mood over the subject matter. A similar tendency can be seen in Elīna’s paintings: there is the same airy and gentle atmosphere which is present in her graphic art works, and the artist uses the means of expression already mentioned – the relationship between space and colour. Given the artist’s experience in printmaking, it would seem natural that Elīna has turned to watercolour, which could be considered an “easier” and more graphic medium than oils.

Over the couple of years studying in the master’s programme and trying out her hand in painting, Elīna gradually returned to lithography, but she has not completely turned away from painting. Watercolours serve as a supplementary aid for achieving a painterly form of expression: the composition is painted in water colour and then transferred to the stone surface. As a result, her lithographs imitate the painterly qualities of aquarelle –
there are washes, softened and indistinct outlines of shapes, and muted colours. Working simultaneously in both techniques, Elīna has found an attractive idea of playing with the perception of the viewer: even though the watercolour paintings are only part of the creative process, they remain important also after the lithographs have been printed. In her final course work for the Master’s degree, the artist offers identical compositions in two different techniques. She does not reveal which work belongs to which medium, in this way creating a communicative game of erudition with the viewers, as they are encouraged to determine which of the compositions is a watercolour and which one a print. The compositions created in this interplay are done in a painterly manner, but given the subservient role of watercolour in the artist’s creative process, we would be justified in calling Elīna a painterly printmaker and not the other way round.

Having obtained her Master’s degree, Elīna Alka now continues her creative activities independently, working on new graphic art works which are likely to be displayed in a solo exhibition.

Translator into English: Vita Limanoviča
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