VARTAI 20 Years
7 June - 2 July 2011
Early June, VARTAI gallery will open the second exhibition from the cycle dedicated to the gallery’s 20th anniversary. The exhibition will feature the latest works by the Lithuanian artist Ugnius Gelguda.
The first exhibition of the cycle VARTAI: 20 years was the solo show of the internationally acclaimed artist Žilvinas Kempinas. The show attracted almost 10 000 visitors.
The second VARTAI: 20 years exhibition introduces two projects and the first book by another promising Lithuanian artist Ugnius Gelguda. The artist's work has already been acknowledged by Lithuanian and foreign institutions; in 2010, he was awarded the title of art licentiate by Vilnius Art Academy.
The latest video work by Ugnius Gelguda titled A Paradise Tree documents the rise of a new neighbourhood of artists in Vilnius, Lithuania, which is often artificially compared to the New York’s SoHo.
A Paradise Tree explores the boundaries of documentary and tells about the first forced steps of a new urban community. The story is ‘told’ through a hypertext link with the less known video work A Walk by Jonas Mekas created in 1990. During this one hour walk across the rainy SoHo neighbourhood, Mekas gives an intimate and chaotic recital of neighbourhood creation, tells about the first tree planted in the then industrial area by himself and his colleague Mačiūnas, and notes the transformation of SoHo streets and their inhabitants.
Ugnius Gelguda’s video work revisits a community sustained by the relationship of an urban space and a uniting idea, and the inevitable change of this relationship under the influence of time and strong commercial mechanisms. The video camera slowly follows the shapes of lofts that are being set up on Ševčenkos Street as well as the carcass of a former factory which still exists but has already changed its function, combining the views of rough and dull buildings with the hopes of future settlers and thus transplanting real spaces into a fictional or potential story.
A series of pictures titled Crimescapes, which saw its beginning in 2008, speaks about the symbiosis of symbolic images and text established in Lithuanian press. The project analyses the discrepancy between the visual and the textual messages in the ‘dark’ pages of the Lithuanian press deriving the concept of the ‘crimescape’ from this discrepancy.
The analysis of the illustrations accompanying crime news in the Lithuanian press shows that separated from the text they usually become random pictures with a wide range of meanings. They do not document the crime events themselves, but instead show the sites of crime or general images implicitly representing crime events. However, being consistently used in relation with the same content, they become recognisable: a body of water represents a drowned person, a homestead shows a family tragedy, while a landscape stands for a found dead body.
Crimescapes is a unique recreation of images found and selected from Lithuanian dailies where they are used to illustrate criminal acts without explicitly showing crime, or by simulating it.
During his artist residency in Salzburg, Ugnius Gelguda noticed similar patterns of image and text combination in the Austrian press. This encouraged him to carry on with the project and led to the show in Salzburg’s Fotohof gallery.
Ugnius Gelguda (born 1977, Vilnius) was granted a degree of art licentiate by Vilnius Art Academy in 2010, but he has been active in exhibitions since 2000. He has participated in many shows in Lithuania (Lithuanian Art 2000–2010: Ten Years, Contemporary Art Centre, Vilnius, 2010; ARTscape: Italy, Vartai gallery, Vilnius, 2009; Lithuanian Art 08. Photography, Contemporary Art Centre, Vilnius, 2008, etc.) and other countries (Gender check, Zachęta National Gallery of Art, Warsaw, 2010; Three, Fotohof gallery, Salzburg, Austria, 2010; Gender check, MUMOK, Vienna Kunsthalle, Vienna, 2009; Prague biennale 3, Baltic Mythologies programme, Prague, Czech Republic, 2007, etc.) Ugnius Gelguda has received two awards from the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Lithuania – one for the audiovisual installation Žalgiris in 2010 and one for the best debut in 2006. The artist’s work covers the media of photography and audiovisual art.