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Museums, including the Latvian National Museum of Art, are starting to reopen as the Government of Latvia ease Coronavirus restrictions. Starting from May 19 visitors are be able to attend Eriks Apalais personal exhibition titled Family. In this interview, you can find out more about the exhibition, Eriks study years, and the art business.
How the current situation is affecting you? Is it somewhat generating new sources of inspiration or, conversely, is it becoming a factor of disruption of your usual routine?I try to see an opportunity in this situation. To affect what I can affect and not to worry about the rest. To act according to circumstances. I have had more time to improve my cooking skills, to practice basketball, to paint and to reading interesting articles.
Family, your personal exhibition, is extended. You are one of the few artists who, in the last years, has been able to have a personal exhibition at the Latvian National Museum at a very young age. Do you agree with the notion that your exhibition can be considered a retrospective display of your work to this day?Yes, the LNMA exhibition will be extended until 31 May, which makes me feel happy. When we started working with Katerina Gregos, we went through my works over different periods in time, in order to understand how I become what I am. It would be a nuanced portrayal of the progression of my message and artistic expression. We ultimately decided to set up this exhibition in several clusters – conceptual reflections of critical points in my autobiography.
While the Family paintings present viewers with a broader range of new painting methods and topics, the works exhibited at Signet Bank embody the metaphysical mood and subject matter that are uniquely yours. You have revisited many of the subjects (such as the snowman or the typewriter featuring in a number of works). Why did these exact objects crystallise?Desire is at the core all of it. To begin the process of painting, I must have a wish to paint. The snowman as an object sort of stands in for autobiographical memories. Through materiality of the sign, I try to record the process of linguistically relativising direct and adjacent references to certain memories. I am currently returning to the sign as an object worth of admiration. After the process of translation, a specific sign can be constructed from abstract building blocks in language.
Your alma mater is the School of Visual Arts in Hamburg. Was embarking on your studies in Germany and establishing an international experience a deliberate step?I went to Hamburg because I wanted to learn from specific professors, and I liked the teaching method practiced at this institution, which is focused on critical thinking and students’ self-actualisation.
Did the process of study with Professor Andreas Slominski help you to determine the current painting style, or was this a process of independent searching?Slominski certainly affected my style, perhaps opening my eyes to the possibility of particular observations, which I have adapted, subsumed and integrated as a facet of my work. The studies were aimed at each of us developing an individual view of art. As you work with material and learn various theories, intent and form can crystallise.
You took part in several art fairs, including Art Berlin 2018, Art Cologne 2018 and Artissima 2016. How did the art business environment affect you as an artist?Art fairs are places where artworks are presented, allowing the artist to bring their work to a broader set of industry professionals. The identities of the various galleries are extremely different, so their priorities and context regarding fairs will also differ. This format is currently undergoing a process of critical review.
Do you believe that the artist must distance themselves from the trends of the art market, focusing solely on the process of creation and research?I think it is a matter of one’s preference. Distancing should be done with reason and a proper attitude. There are artists who get involved and reflect on these trends to criticise them from within. There are those that are happy to live off their art and keep going. For me, it is best to focus on the creative process and cooperate with professionals who approach things in similar ways.
Professionals and connoisseurs in the art space of Latvia have the opinion that Latvian artists are unable to sell. Would an artist need this sort of skill at all?This is a common problem in Latvia. An artist should not be scolded for lacking a skill; this is a matter that should rather be addressed through the prism of culture policy competencies, by establishing an adequate environment. On a personal level, this is a matter of choices and preferences, nuanced compromises, and prevailing attitudes. I believe artists often think that any shining “light” represents the totality of happiness. Artists in the midst of these flashy “fireflies”, on the other hand, would often prefer greater independence.
I know you admire cinema, literature, philosophy and psychoanalysis. In these past few months, you must have watched a new film or read an interesting publication. Could you share something that has made an impact on you?Yesterday, I watched a movie about Swedish painter Hilma af Klint. I have been drawn to the notion of re-enchantment. I have a feeling that our rationalised world sometimes lacks the magical, missing the ability to value and celebrate our surroundings. Mythical perception in a new framework could present an appealing way of looking at the world with fresh eyes, instead of rushing to devalue the essence of every thing through a critical lens. Reflective scepticism helps get rid of dogma, but it also has the tendency to lunge at things it is not always prudent to doubt.
Eriks Apalais is considered one of the most successful Latvian artists of the new generation. His alma mater is the School of Visual Arts in Hamburg, which the artist graduated with the Karl H. Ditze Award for the best Diploma and the DAAD (Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst) prize for outstanding achievement. In 2019, Apalais was shortlisted for the Vilhelms Purvītis Prize with his Earth Diaries. In 2020, Family, the National Art Museum of Latvia is hosting his personal exhibition curated by art theorist and practitioner Katerina Gregos – representing the scope of Eriks Apalais’ work so far.
The Signet Bank Art Collection features two paintings by Apalais united by their greyish tonality and archetypal language. Both works integrate semantic elements characteristic of the painter’s creative method.