Baltic Artists in Australia – Celebrating 100 years

Baltic Artists in Australia – Celebrating 100 Years is a retrospective group exhibition of artists living and working in Australia, with origins from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

2018 marks 100 years since all three Baltic countries – Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania – first declared their independence. These have been rather eventful 100 years and unfortunately following the World War II all three countries were occupied for several decades. During the war, many people escaped its horrors and afterward the pressures of an occupied society in search of freedom and peaceful life. By now a third generation has grown up calling Australia their home, with origins from one of the Baltic countries.

The exhibition is showcasing works by selected artists with Baltic origins with different backgrounds: some may have fled their country during World War II as children or youths, others being descendants of Baltic origin or moved here in more recent times. Over decades they have integrated into Australian society and many have made significant impact on Australian culture.

The selection of venue – Fountain Court of NSW Parliament – is also a meaningful choice for the exhibition as it was designed by an architect of Latvian origin, Andrew Andersons.

The exhibition will be open for public viewing:

Tuesday 29 May – Thursday 28 June 2018, 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday
Fountain Court, NSW Parliament House, 6 Macquarie Street, Sydney NSW 2000
It it free entry for viewing the exhibition during the above times

 

Below are a few introductions to the artists represented at the exhibition.


IMANTS TILLERS

Imants Tillers, born in Australia, is the eldest child of Latvian immigrants. Imants is a visual artist, writer, curator, and lives and works in Cooma. As one of Australia’s most significant artists, Tillers has been at the forefront of contemporary art for over three decades. Tillers has exhibited widely since the late 1960s, and has represented Australia at many important international exhibitions. He has had major solo surveys of his work both internationally and in Australia, such as “Imants Tillers: one world many visions” at the National Gallery of Australia 2006

“Layering, repetition and variation are the central tenets of my art practice. Since 1981 I have been working primarily on canvasboards, arranged together in grids to form larger composite images. The individual paintings, which include imagery sourced from reproductions, are also part of a larger “Canvasboard System”, in which each panel is numbered consecutively and becomes part of an ever-expanding whole. A total emersion in this process over the years has allowed me to address diverse themes such as the centre/periphery debates of the 1980s, issues of diaspora and displacement, and most recently, the connection between landscape and identity.”


HARIJS PIEKALNS

I am a first generation Australian, born in Melbourne, from a Latvian refugee family. I use Latvian folkloric symbols or runes as a device to instil meaningfulness within geometric abstractions formed from grids. Ochre is used as the pigment in my work. Ochre is also a tangible/tacit link to specific sites on ‘country’ from which the extracted ore originates. I prepare the ochre pigment and paint using Medieval and Renaissance techniques. The use of ochre from different locations in the same works extends the metaphorical and metaphysical landscape encompassed in the runic design. I have come to recognise many similarities between the culture of Indigenous Australians and that of my own heritage. Art and crafts using traditional symbolic designs, ritual practices and ceremonies (such as fire ceremonies), the recognition of sites of significance and living at one with nature and the seasons are common to Aboriginal and Latvian culture. “Auseklis/Morning Star” is formed from a drawn meditation on the trisected square. The Morning Star is celebrated by all so called ‘primitive cultures’ worldwide. Latvia was regarded as a primitive culture when invaded and eventually subjugated by the Teutonic Knights in 1203.


GUNĀRS KRŪMIŅŠ

Gunārs Krūmiņš, born in Latvia, was a self-taught artist. While living in post-war Germany he worked in the field of arts and crafts. After migrating to Australia in the late 1940’s Gunārs focussed on painting with water colours. He exhibited frequently in the Latvian community in both solo and group shows, and also regional Sydney exhibitions, such as the Sydney Royal Easter Show, winning several first prizes. Gunārs is one of the founders of the Australian Latvian Artists Association and initiated and organized material for the publication of the book “Latvian Artists in Australia”, published in 1978.


VACLOVAS RATAS

Vaclovas Ratas dedicated much of his life to raising the awareness of graphic arts and printmaking in Australia. Among many things he was responsible for establishing the Sydney Printmakers Society in 1960. In Australia Vaclovas’ work is represented in the National Gallery as well as major state art galleries. He has exhibited extensively throughout Europe and USA, his works also form 
an integral part of the collection of Lithuanian Art Museum.

Arriving in Perth 1949 as an established printmaking artist, Vaclovas Ratas was surprised to find little to no awareness of this fine art form in Australia. Upon moving to Sydney in 1954, he joined the Contemporary Art Society and started working towards the first graphic arts exhibition in Australia.

Back in Lithuania Vaclovas drew much of his inspiration for woodcuts from folk art. Upon arriving in Australia, he started looking at Aboriginal myths for inspiration. The most varied and complex part of his career was the Sydney period. Vaclovas began experimenting with using colour to its full potential, developing a distinctive style in the medium of monotype. Unifying elements of Vaclova’s work throughout the years are simplicity, stylisation, hierarchy of composition and precise attention to technique.


TIIU REISSAR

Tiiu Reissar has done much for raising the awareness and standard of printmaking in Australia. Tiiu was the President of Sydney Printmakers Society 1986-1993 and has been a member of the organisation since 1982. She has also worked as a lecturer of Drawing, Printmaking and Painting at TAFE NSW, passing on her fine skills to next generations.

Born in Estonia before World War II, Tiiu’s family migrated to New Zealand when she was a young teen. In 1960 Tiiu moved to Sydney and soon started to hold regular solo exhibitions as well as participate in many group shows. Tiiu Reissar has been exhibiting since, both in Australia as well as Estonia, she is also a member of Estonian Artists Union.

“Since moving to live in the Wimmera, I have worked on a series of etchings attempting to express the effect of droughts and floods on nature. I have observed how the dead and broken trees have been sculptured into new dynamic forms of life. I use the medium of drypoint as this is a form of intaglio technique which enables a most spontaneous expression of the the theme.”


GUNNAR NEEME

Gunnar Neeme was born in 1918 Estonia – year when the country first declared its independence. In 1944, together with his wife, he fled the invasion by the Russian army to find refuge in Germany. Subsequent to the Allied occupation of Germany, Gunnar worked for the American Red Cross as a teacher of painting, drawing & sculpture. During this time he participated and exhibited with various artist in exile groups as well as with local artist societies.

In 1949 Gunnar Neeme migrated to Australia with his wife and two sons, eventually settling in Melbourne. He joined the Victorian Artists Society in 1952 commencing a long association with them as a teacher, exhibiting member, respected art judge and adjudicator. In 1992 he was made a fellow of the Society and in 1994 was made an Honorary Life Member.

Driven by his passion for color, light and form Gunnar revelled in the difference of the Australian landscape to that of his homeland by sometimes combining, sometimes creating discrete techniques to capture the individual characteristics of these two worlds, one from memory the other from the land in which he now lived. Gunnar’s work covers a vast spectrum of sculpture, oils, watercolor, hand printing & graphic design. He is also a published author, poet & playwright.


VELLA PIHLAK

Vella Pihlak is well known amongst the Estonian community in Australia for her enchanting works in her favourite medium, monotype.

Vella was born in Estonia before World War II. When she was a young child, her family fled to Sweden to escape the Soviet occupation. They arrived in Australia in 1948. Upon graduating from the National Art School with a diploma in design, Vella worked as a designer in Australia and Sweden. She found her calling in painting while living in Fiji 1969–1975.

“I am exploring the thread connecting me to my distant ancestors, the Finno-Ugric people of the far north, where the climate is harsh, the winter long and dark, the summer short but intense. Racial memory connects me to these people, whose life was a struggle, yet they still found time and energy to express their sense of beauty in everything they made, their garments and their artefacts.

I have always been interested in how the indigenous culture of Estonia has absorbed foreign influences over the centuries. My works express preservation of cultural heritage and its susceptibility to new trends. I feel a deep gratitude to these people, my ancestors.”


EVAN INDREK PANK

Evan Indrek Pank is an emerging printmaking artist and the winner of last year’s prestigeous Fremantle Arts Centre Print Award. Evan was born in Australia to a father of Estonian background and a mother of Korean background. Having been surrounded by Estonian culture throughout his life, after high school Evan spent seven months living and working in the Estonian capital Tallinn.

The artistic practice of Evan Pank stems form his interest in football (soccer) and politics. Being an avid Sydney FC fan Evan loves the atmosphere generated by sport in Australia as well as globally and how it reflects the local communities, politics and cultures. Furthermore, he likes the way football helps connect people in our local communities and with those overseas.

“The three works at the exhibition explore the connection of football between countries and myself. “Sydney Derby Day” and “Tallinn Derby Day” both depict the passion of the fans in their local derby fixtures. “Christmas in Bohemia” also shows the connection of a European team with Australia. Bohemians 1905 was the first European team to visit Australia in 1927, bestowed two kangaroos to take home. The club adopted a kangaroo for their logo after this trip and have represented a link between European and Australian football since.”


LEEKA GRUZDEFF-KRAUCEVIČIŪTĖ

Leeka Gruzdeff-Kraucevičiūtė has been an Associate Member of the Royal Art Society of New South Wales since 1990, has held over 20 solo exhibitions over the years as well as participated in many group shows.

Leeka was born in Kaunas Lithuania in 1939. When she was only five years old Leeka’s father, who had been a major in the Lithuanian Air Force, was deported to Siberia as her mother escaped with the kids to a refugee camp in West Germany. From there Leeka, her mother and brothers migrated to Australia in 1950. After first graduating from the Metropolitan Business College, Leeka decided against pursuing a career in business and continued her studies at the National Art School instead.

Australian landscape has been the recent source of inspiration for Leeka Gruzdeff-Kraucevičiūtė as she loves painting ‘plein air’.

“I wish to express the bright sunlight of the Australian hot countryside and the fresh colours of the seaside. I prefer to paint my present day surrounds as the memories of gruesome World War II are too distressful, having escaped the war as a 5 year old child.”


BERNADETTE PILLI

Bernadette Pilli is dedicated to promoting the work of Estonian artists in Australia. She has been actively involved with the Estonian community and the latest project she has been working on – Living Space – brings contemporary Estonian art to Australian audience, which is a great initiative in strengthening the cultural ties between the two countries.

The inspiration for her Mapping series comes from journeys she has taken, before and after her late husband’s death. The earliest maps are thought to have been created to help people find their way and to reduce their fear of the unknown. Bernadette’s intention is to revisit the feeling of places she has travelled through, to transform memory and to record something specifically recalled from that experience.

“I have travelled to Estonian a number of times to participate in festivals and to visit friends and relatives. In this particular painting series, MAPPING THE BALTIC, I have explored the question: Did the Estonian refugees 60 years ago have maps, either in hand or in the mind, of where they had been and where they were going and how they would return?”


VAMBOLA VEINBERG (1914-2011)

Vambola Veinberg is best known for his design of the ceremonial scissors used by NSW Premier Jack Lang at the opening of Sydney Harbour Bridge in 1932. Vambola migrated from Estonia to Australia as a young boy and in 1926 set to learned engraving at Young Men’s Christian Association. He designed the ceremonial scissors when he was just 16 years old, working for Angus and Coote jewellers in Sydney. The scissors are a monumental part of the collection of NSW Parliament.

Later Vambola Veinberg became the first artist-engraver at the Royal Australian Mint. Prior to the establishment of Australia’s first government engraving section in 1964, led by Vambola, all official engraving took place in London. Along with hundreds of coins and medals, Vambola has also hand engraved the official seals for High Court of Australia, Supreme Court of Australia and the Grand Seal of Australia.

The story of Vambola Veinberg is that of a young migrant boy, from one of the Baltic countries, with creative mind and enthusiasm to learn new skills integrating into the Australian society and culture.


JUTA PUUST

Juta Puust regularly exhibited with Contemporary Art Society of South Australia as well as The Royal SA Society of Arts, displaying her works alongside the likes of Nora Haysen, Roland Wakelin and John Coburn. Apart from the Australian art scene, Juta exhibited continuously in all Estonian festivals and exhibitions throughout Australia.

Juta was born in Estonia 1904 where she worked primarily as a teacher. In August 1949 she arrived in Australia with her husband and kids, settling in Adelaide. This marked the start of a creative peak for Juta, which lasted in its prime for a decade.

At the time Juta Puust was mentioned by Australian art critics as an artist who was genuinely creating a style of her own. Using built up textures and swirling paint, Juta painted romanticised landscapes and figurative compositions in a blur of soft curves and golden colour.


VIRGE NIELSEN

Aside from being one of the organisers of this exhibition, Virge Nielsen is currently also involved with establishing the Estonian Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Virge came to Australia more recently (18 years ago) for the love of a man and has ended up loving the land as well. Although her country of origin, Estonia, seems quite opposite to Australia in scale, weather and many other acpects, she has also found many parallels in the two.

“Despite its small size, Estonia is a country still half covered by forests. The roots of everyone growing up there are deep under the moss intertwined with the roots of trees in those forests. Estonians feel very deeply connected to the nature and environment, thinking of it as a place of respite from troubles of life. I find the same solace and refreshment connecting with the Australian bush.”

Virge has been exploring the ways to push the boundaries of ‘plein air’ landscape painting. Works exhibited here are part of an ‘action painting’ series which involves wearing paper strapped onto hiking boots and recording the impressions of environment by mixing dirt from location with more traditional medium of watercolour.


PĒTERIS CIEMĪTIS

Pēteris Ciemītis is a Perth based artist who has been an Archibald finalist twice and won the 2010 Black Swan Portraiture Prize. He has represented Australia at the Qingdoa Biennale in China, the G20 Exhibition in Hangzhou, and the ‘Personal Structures’ collateral exhibition of the Venice Biennale 2017.

The unlawful incarceration of Australian journalist Peter Greste by Egyptian authorities in 2013 triggered worldwide protest, fuelled by both the personal incarceration suffered by Peter, and also by the political and symbolic gesture of supressing free and balanced speech and media reporting.

The portrait of Peter erases context and detail surrounding the event (except for the metaphoric red figure-ground) and attempts to deal with the multiple facets of Peter’s ordeal through the process of mark-making, gesture and expression. It explores the institutional stripping and dissolution of personal identity, the muting of speech, and the attempt to calmly and resolutely express truth.The work is part of a series depicting Peter, following the artist’s meeting with him shortly after Peter’s release in 2015. Ironically, the final work in the series was included in the G20 Summit Exhibition in Hangzhou in 2016, whilst Peter himself was denied a Visa to cover the Summit.


VAIKE LIIBUS

Vaike Liibus was an artist with particular talent for capturing strong characters on canvas and an appetite for getting to know more about them in the process.

Her impressive portfolio includes some extremely captivating portraits of John Coburn, Florence Broadhurst, Elwyn Lynn, Henry Šalkauskas, her close friend Eva Kubbos and of course Sir Eric Willis, the former Premier of NSW. Sir Willis was a long time friend of Vaike’s and performed the official opening of her first major solo exhibition in 1976 as well as her retrospective exhibition in 1993.

Vaike arrived in Australia 1929 as a young girl from Estonia. She studied fashion drawing, millinery and window dressing at East Sydney Technical College – opening her own millinery shop at Piccadilly arcade at the age of twenty two. Alongside Vaike studied art, first at Max Meldrum’s Painting School and later at Julian Ashton Art School. When Vaike’s husband Eugen died suddenly in 1954, she found solace from grief and hardships in painting. A fellow Australian artist, Joshua Smith, supported Vaike and encouraged her to focus on the true talent that she had in portrait painting. And so it was, that in 1956 Vaike entered her first portrait to the Archibald Prize with the subject being Joshua Smith.


HENRY ŠALKAUSKAS (1925-1979)

Henry Šalkauskas was a graphic artist and a monumental watercolourist who made a lasting impression in the Australian art world, winning over sixty art prizes and awards in Australia and overseas.

Henry was born 1925 in Kaunas, Lithuania. His father, being a major in Lithuanian army, was arrested and sent to Siberia during the Soviet invasion of the country. Henry and his mother escaped in fear, eventually migrating to Australia in 1949 and settling in Kirribilli.

In the fifties, Henry Šalkauskas helped to make graphic art and printmaking recognised art forms in Australia. He was a foundation member of Sydney Printmakers Society in 1960 and represented Australia at international graphic art exhibitions in Tokyo, London, Sao Paulo, Ljubljana and Lugano. Henry was a strong proponent of abstract expressionism in the Sydney art scene and in the sixties began to experiment with watercolour – somewhat neglected medium in contemporary Australian art at the time – joining the Australian Watercolour Institute in 1963. In his huge watercolour paintings he used mainly black in translucent shades.


EVA KUBBOS

Eva Kubbos was born in Lithuania and arrived in Australia in 1952. She has represented Australia in several international art exhibitions and has made a significant contribution to Australian art scene overall, particularly in the areas of watercolour and printmaking. Eva was a foundation member of the Sydney Printmakers Society, has been a member of Contemporary Art Society and currently still is a member of Australian Watercolour Institute.

Eva Kubbos has been well recognised for her semi abstract landscape paintings, having won the prestigious Wynne Prize four times and the Pring Prize for the ‘best landscape executed in watercolour by a woman’ for eight times. Eva’s work has truly pushed the boundaries of landscape painting in Australia, adding a deep sense of awe to this traditional genre.

“I have to sense my theme and understand it from inside in order to convey any significant idea about my environment and the world I know, and then through my own effort, strength and experience I am able to transfer it into visual terms. My watercolour painting “Rockface – South Coast” is one of my paintings that was inspired by this area.”


IRENA SIBLEY

Lithuanian born Irena Pauliukonis-Sibley graduated in Fine Arts in 1964 from the National Art School in Sydney. After marrying artist Andrew Sibley in 1967 she moved to Melbourne where she taught art in several preparatory and high schools.

Irena wrote and illustrated over a dozen children’s books including Rainbow, The Bilbies’ First Easter, When the Sun Took the Colours Away (1991), and Zara’s Zoo (2001). Sibley’s art works are held in the collections of the State Library of Victoria and the National Library of Australia, as well as many private collections. Sibley has published six handmade limited-edition books, and many bookplates for private collectors. Her artwork employs a range of techniques, including hand-coloured linocuts, scratchboard, and, later in her career, acrylic painting. Stylistically, her work can reflect Eastern European printmaking traditions, as well as contemporary representations of Australia’s natural environment.

Irena Sibley was a passionate environmentalist, with a love for Australia’s native flora and fauna. This love is reflected in many of her works, particularly An Alphabet of Australian Wildflowers (1988) and her Easter Bilby series. Irena supported moves to replace the Easter Bunny with the “Easter Bilby” in Australian Easter celebrations.


LEONAS URBONAS (1922-2000)

Leonas Urbonas migrated to Australia in 1948, after spending few years in a refugee camp in Hanau, Germany. After completing his migrant work contract in sugar cane plantations of Queensland, Leonas moved to live
in Sydney.

In Australia Leonas Urbonas exhibited regularly with the Contemporary Art Society and took part in art competitions such as Archibald. However, his major success was exhibiting in USA where he toured 1966-1967 and then again in 1969. Leonas’ work attracted great attention and he was a special guest of honour in many parties and dinners. When taking part in an international exhibition ‘The Thirty Five’ in California, Leonas Urbonas’ work was hanging alongside the likes of Picasso, Salvador Dali, Diego Riviera and many more.

Urbonas was an abstract painter whose works also include touches of surrealism, mysticism and action painting. The key concepts of his work are spontaneity, subconsciousness, vision and fantasy, influenced by his dynamic and passionate personality. Leonas Urbonas himself has said “Art is adventure and discovery of other worlds unknown even to the artist.”


VENITA SALNĀJS

“Fleeing from the invading communists during World War 2 , my Latvian parents escaped to Germany where I was born in Zwickau. When peace was declared, we spent four years in displaced person camps, established by the allies. In 1949 we arrived in Australia as Baltic refugees.

All men were assigned to work on contract for two years. With my father working in Sydney, my mother and I settled in Greta Migrant Hostel until in 1952 when we moved permanently to Rydalmere, NSW.

Drawing – “The Good Soil”: Growing up in Australia has greatly influenced my art work. The physical surrounds of the environment – its light, undulating soft hills, rugged mountains, the rhythm of farms, the contrasts of great beauty. All predominate in my landscapes.

Painting – “Finding me again”: Though technically I am stateless, my identity I have found is not so much tied upwith nationality or residency or my private world of memory, but rather defined by an undercurrent of ever present love.”


JAN SENBERGS

Latvian born Jan Senbergs is one of Australia’s leading contemporary artists. In an art career spanning 50 years he has had numerous one-man exhibitions, with a major retrospective show at the National Gallery of Victoria in 2016. Some commissions, prizes, appointments, awards include: Helena Rubinstein Travelling Art Scholarship 1966, represented Australia Sao Paulo Biennale Brazil 1973, Creative Arts Fellow ANU Canberra 1976-76, relief mural High Court of Australia 19770-80, Travelling exhibition “Voyage Six-Antarctica” 1988, William Dobell Drawing prize Art Gallery NSW Sydney 1994.
Jan Senbergs is represented in the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra and all State galleries, and internationally in several leading galleries in the USA, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York and National Gallery Washington DC.
“I have generally tried to make paintings that are indirectly meant to be a reflection and observation of my time and circumstances. What I would call a development of one’s visual vocabulary over time. For me, the less artists try to explain their work the better”


ULDIS ĀBOLIŅŠ (1923-2010)

Born in Latvia, Uldis Āboliņš graduated in Architecture from the State Institute of Technology in Rīga, Latvia in 1942, and later studied art in Germany.

The unique watercolours of Āboliņš made an impression on the local art scene as soon as the artist arrived in Australia in 1949. His Sydney exhibition in 1954 at Professor Bissietta’s Pitt Street Studio was described as being a “long awaited spring storm”. The use of pure colour and expressive gestures was exciting for both the artist and the viewer. This excitement carried over to his stage designs for the Sydney Latvian Theatre, which were often controversial and always challenging. Along with a number of Baltic émigré colleagues in the contemporary art society he took on the role of mentoring young painters in his community and was involved in 1978 with the ALMA publication of Latvian Artists in Australia. A prolific artist, he also contributed articles on art in the Latvian press.

Āboliņs work is in collections in the Art Gallery of NSW; Museum of Modern Art Melbourne; Newcastle City Gallery; State Museum of Art in Rīga, Latvia. He has held 28 personal exhibitions nationally, and received over 30 watercolour art awards.


KATERINA APALE

Katerina is a relatively recent arrival in Australia from Latvia. She received her art education at the Art Academy of Latvia, in Riga with a Master of Arts Degree in Fine Arts, and did further study at Daugavpils University, Latvia and at the Berlin University of Arts, as an Erasmus program student.

Katerina has participated in group exhibitions in many countries including Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Finland, Russia, Belarus, Austria, Germany, and now Australia. She was the 2016 winner of the 22nd Margaret Smith Memorial Art Prize (conducted annually by the Central Coast Art Society). Katerina was a finalist in the Gosford Art Prize in 2015 and 2017, and a finalist in the Percival Portrait Painting Prize 2018.

“Australian nature never stops inspiring and surprising me. I see its decorative potential and aim to capture it through the use of bold colours and patterns. Expressive brushstrokes and bright hues help me to represent nature in new ways and depict the joy that I feel when encountering it. I use large canvases and brushes to capture the initial impression and eliminate unnecessary details. Acrylic paints allow me to create vivid colour combinations and trigger positive emotional response from the viewers.”


JURIS CERIŅŠ

Juris Ceriņš was born in Riga, Latvia 1940 and came to Australia as a young boy.

“My family arrived in Australia from Latvia as displaced persons in 1949 on the basis of taking up a compulsory two year contract to work on Coolabah Station near Bourke. Thus the arid outback region, rather than urban life, was my introduction to Australia. My interest in and fascination with the Australian landscape is reflected in my art practice.

The realisation of the extent to which the Australian landscape has penetrated my inner space came on my first trip to Europe nearly twenty years after arriving in Australia. In Europe I related easily to the people and customs. However, the landscape there did not offer the same feeling of comfort and identity I experience in my adopted country.”

Juris Ceriņš regularly exhibits in Australia as well as overseas. Among other notable art awards he has been a finalist in NSW Parliament Plein Air Painting Prize several times, exhibiting in this very Fountain Court.


PĒTERIS CIEMĪTIS

Pēteris Ciemītis is a Perth based artist who has been an Archibald finalist twice and won the 2010 Black Swan Portraiture Prize. He has represented Australia at the Qingdoa Biennale in China, the G20 Exhibition in Hangzhou, and the ‘Personal Structures’ collateral exhibition of the Venice Biennale 2017.

The unlawful incarceration of Australian journalist Peter Greste by Egyptian authorities in 2013 triggered worldwide protest, fuelled by both the personal incarceration suffered by Peter, and also by the political and symbolic gesture of supressing free and balanced speech and media reporting.

The portrait of Peter erases context and detail surrounding the event (except for the metaphoric red figure-ground) and attempts to deal with the multiple facets of Peter’s ordeal through the process of mark-making, gesture and expression. It explores the institutional stripping and dissolution of personal identity, the muting of speech, and the attempt to calmly and resolutely express truth.The work is part of a series depicting Peter, following the artist’s meeting with him shortly after Peter’s release in 2015. Ironically, the final work in the series was included in the G20 Summit Exhibition in Hangzhou in 2016, whilst Peter himself was denied a Visa to cover the Summit.


BIRUTA CLARK

Biruta was born in Latvia and trained as a ballet dancer at the Liepāja Opera Ballet School in Latvia. Not long after arriving in Sydney in 1948 she appeared on the opera stage and later joined the Bodenwieser Ballet Company, touring the country. After retiring from ballet, Biruta turned to painting and has been actively exhibiting. Her work is in private collections in Latvia, Estonia, Germany, England, America and Australia.

“Painting to me is a further expression of ballet in visual art. Expressing movement and rhythm are absolutely essential to my work. Therefore the subject of my paintings is seldom still. Every work has its own rhythm. I look at one of my works months later and pick up its particular beat instantly. I’m versatile in styles and in the subjects I choose. I began with watercolours and then worked with pastels, oil, acrylics, mixed media and collage. Painting is now my whole life, because painting is forever challenging and aesthetically rewarding.”


IGOR DIMITS

“Art had been one of my interests from early childhoood, and I pursued it at first opportunity by joining the National Gallery Art School in Melbourne, which I attended with interest for several years, but then abandoned my efforts in fine arts for lack of resources. However, I continued to develop my skills in photography, which was less time consuming and yet afforded me artistic expression.

In later years, following vast technological changes with photo processes transferring from darkroom and chemistry to light room and digital manipulation, I decided to revert to the artistic activity of my youth, and took to charcoal and pastel drawing. Charcoal and pastel drawing suits my character and I delight in their purity and permanence of colour.

In my vision I am a realist, more related to the feel of an impressionist tempered by the construction of Cezanne. In that sense I am not a contemporary artist even though I do not mind contemporary times. My subject matter could be the human figure, a landscape or still life, in all of which I try to see the characteristic shape, movement and colour, whilst also considering how I compose my two-dimensial space.”


JOLANTA JANAVIČIUS

It isn’t often that one finds a woman artist who successfully combines being a trusted wife, a caring mother of three children and a few grandchildren that needed and still need her attention and care, a teacher of ceramic art in the Mulawa Women’s Prison for twenty eight years, a ceramics lecturer-teacher in Evening Colleges in Mosman, Neutral Bay and fifteen years in the Lane Cove Arts Centre.

To vary her experiences of mainly city life she explored the Barrier Reef, visited Quilpie opal Fields in Northern Queensland, made a trip around Australia, went to Crete and trekked in the Himalayas. These varied activities would suffice to fill a woman’s life twice over, but for Jolanta the widening of horizons and recreating impressions she had gathered from various places in ceramics, watercolour paintings or graphic art was most important, the essence and justification of her existence and the mainspring of her art.

Her amazing fountain of physical energy and positive attitude in life affords this enriching, pleasurable and at times exhausting variety in her activities.
The painting, “Such is Life”, expresses Jolanta’s feeling for the fullness of life.


JURGIS JANAVIČIUS (1927-2012)

Jurgis Janavičius is a self-taught painter, art photographer, poet and writer. His approach to art is casual and carefree. His swift sketches are like snapshots from the window of a speeding car, and capture the essence of particular moments or places. It seems that Janavičius neither has the time nor feels the necessity to labour on intricate compositions or the studied application of paint. By never correcting or changing anything he retains spontaneity and simplicity in his work.

Jurgis was born in Lithuania and migrated to Australia with his parents in the late 1940’s. Jurgis brought with him from Europe not only a proficiency in several languages but a deep interest in European history and culture. These Old World influences happily co-existed with the knockabout persona he acquired in his travels through Outback Australia. Being an avid student of human behaviour, he took notes of events, major and minor, which piqued his curiousity, and which he later used as material for his paintings. His human subjects are found in everyday situations, sitting in traffic jams, staring at monuments, walking down the street. They often seem quirky and absurd but there is no feeling of satire.


FIONA KATAUSKAS

Fiona Katauskas is born in Australia of Lithuanian and Anglo-Australian descent. Fiona has an unusual profession – she is a freelance cartoonist who is working for our national and State newspapers, magazines and has illustrated many books for publishers.

Fiona studied broadcast journalism at Charles Sturt University and politics at the Australian National University, where she did an Honours Degree in International Relations. Her cartoons have appeared in a wide range of publications, including the Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, The Australian, The Australian Financial Review, The Bulletin, The Chaser, Eureka Street and New Matilda. Fiona has also illustrated lots of books for publishers such as Random House and Allen & Unwin, designed cards for the Ink Group and T-shirts for Mambo.


KARL MANBERG (1914-1993)

Karl Manberg was an extremely productive artist who onwards from 1962 collected several dozens of 1st and 2nd prizes from the Royal Easter Show and other competitions. Manberg is best known for his innovative sculptures in both metal and wood, but his artistic career started off painting in oils.

Karl was born few years before Estonia first declared its independence. In 1944 he left the homeland in fear of the occupation. Like many others, Karl ended up in one of the displaced persons camps in West Germany where due to abundance of free time he started to practice fine art and wood cutting. Eventually Karl migrated to Australia under the category of ‘light labourer’ which on arrival turned out to be working in a mine. Not long after he managed to find a job in a mechanical workshop to complete his two year migrant contract.

After completing the compulsory contract in Victoria, Karl Manberg moved to Sydney, which he liked very much as it reminded him of home town Tallinn with its bendy streets. Karl was actively involved with organising art exhibitions in the Sydney Estonian society. Coinciding with the move to Sydney, his own artistic output grew rapidly. Karl took part in all exhibitions of the Sydney Estonian Society, often in multiple categories.


DZIDRA MITCHELL

Dzidra Mitchell was born in Stuttgart, Germany and arrived in Australia with her parents in 1949 and now lives in Sydney. She studied art and taught art in High School. Dzidra has been a finalist in the Blake, Mosman and Waverley art prizes, received the P.J. Ireland award and a Kedumba Drawing Award. She has exhibited in many solo and group shows in Sydney galleries.

“I am interested in the possibility of depicting human being-ness rather than doing-ness. Figures in art usually evoke assumptions of there having been a model to gaze at as object, as form, or heroic deeds to recount. I am engaged by the idea of “getting under the skin” of the being-ness of humans in a moment of existence, the space before or between the emotions and actions that will inevitably ensue. That moment of possibility, the private moment of existing. Gradually, one has moments of glimpsing the bigger picture – the land in a moment of abundance, as in my painting ‘Good times’ and the magic moments when one imagines becoming one with the landscape.’”


ANITA REZEVSKA (1938-2018)

Born in Rīga, Latvia. Anita Rezevska arrived in Australia in 1949. She studied painting with the Desiderius Orban studio 1963-68, and later sculpture at the National Art School Sydney 1966-69. In 1988 she spent a year studying and painting in Italy, Greece and Egypt. She was was winner of the Portia Geach Portrait Prize in 1998 and was a finalist four other years.

“Art is my sacred passion, my love, my refuge, the alchemizer into art of my pain and joy, the tranquilizer of my fear of loss, and my challenge against the invisibility of Woman.”

“I hold my life with both my hands
To see if it is there.”
Emily Dickinson, poet

“I revere the gentleness of Giotto’s frescoes, the outrage against war in Picasso’s “Guernica”, the humanity in a Rembrandt, the silence of a Vermeer, the bravado in Frida Kahlo’s self portraits, the grandeur of an Ancient Greek Kore, and the maternal tenderness in the paintings of Indigenous Australians for their land. I am a child of Latvia and a woman of Australia with one artist’s soul.”


ILZE ŠĒNBERGA-NĀGELA

Born in Latvia, Ilze Šēnberga-Nagels graduated from the Riga Applied Arts School in1973. She has taken part in solo and group exhibitions in Australia, Latvia, Germany, Lithuania, Russia, Japan, and Saudi Arabia. Ilze lives in Melbourne.

“Flowers are the almost exclusive subject of my art. Decorative flower compositions in acrylic, tempera or gouache on wood, canvas, silk or paper. I don’t paint flowers naturalistically or traditionally, but create a variety of decorative, generalised flower forms.

The layered composition of my early paintings evoked meadow fragments or framed close-ups – a unified unbroken pattern of very dense flowers, leafs, grass. Simultaneously, diagonally arranged flower groups induced motion. Alternatively, a single colourful flower or centrally placed small expressive plant group, with a backdrop of transitioning colours contributing the major content and emotional load. These diverse decorative backgrounds were especially effective in triptychs or series. In nocturnal compositions the flowers, their silhouettes, are painted in a palette of dark colours on a lighter toned transitional background with a mystical golden twilight effect.”


VIJA SPOĢIS-ERDMANIS

Born in Latvia, Vija is an artist, textile designer, theatre designer, and teacher. She graduated from the National Art School, Sydney, in design in 1961, winning the College Medal. Vija has widely exhibited textiles and paintings in both solo and group exhibitions, and has designed many sets and costumes for the Sydney Latvian Theatre.

Since 1993 Vija has been a teacher of Events, Design and Illustration courses at Enmore TAFE.

Vija’s painting “Etna 1” is an early work combining her interest in painting and textiles.

“The fragmented batiked linear patterns on the smooth silk surfaces break into many fractals and inspire me to observe and interpret the never ending dynamic subdivisions in the crystalline structure of the many minerals that make up the complex crust of the earth. They are like precious gem stones transitioning colours from yellow, orange rustic red to the darkest browns, majestic and mysterious as the planet evolves.”


JOHN JĀNIS SUPE

Jānis Supe is of Latvian heritage, born in Sydney. He has painted using many media and currently focusses on creating works with India ink on paper.

“I create my artworks to satisfy an undeniably urgent desire and need. This desire is to express my feelings by making them visible and somehow more real. The need is to better understand myself, and to resolve these feelings, by the process of making them visible, externalising them. This process is the actual creation of the artwork, which involves choosing the visual elements and composition, and the materials and method of their depiction, all to eventually achieve a communicable message. In resolving these issues of content, media and technique, I am also analysing and understanding my thoughts, which might then be put to rest.”

Jānis has been President of the Fairfield City Art Society “Arts Alive” since 1998. He has participated in solo exhibitions and many group shows in the USA, Italy, and Latvia, and numerous venues in Australia, receiving over 75 prizes and awards. Jānis was an exhibited finalist in the Dobell Drawing Competition AGNSW 1999.


ZENTA ZEBERGS

Born in Sydney, Australia, daughter to artist parents Latvian-born Anita Rezevska and Australian-born Antony Symons .

“Inspired by the global lineage of rock art, humanity’s most ancient signature of communion and response to the mystery of Creation, first painting on stones, shaman drums and then eventually canvas, my relationship with painting has always been as an instrument for deepening into Spirit.”

The painting ‘Girl and the Wolf’:
“As a young woman, I dreamed I was standing alone. Afraid. Unsure. Behind me a Wolf appeared. I turned to the wolf and we became One. The wolf and I. The strength of its body watching my back. Its fur the coat of my protection. We walked together from this day. Where did the wolf come from? Lands far from here. Lands in the distant past. Far far away. From the landscape of snow and stars and wildflowers upon the ground.”


REINIS ZUSTERS (1918-1999)

Born in Odessa, Ukraine. Reinis Zusters studied art and architecture at the Rīga Art and Technical College in Latvia. Arriving in Australia in 1950, he soon established himself as a full-time artist.

Zusters’ almost epic works in oil, watercolour or mixed media, are a response to his fascination with the rawness and extremes of the Australian landscape. Through his paintings he sought to explore the cycle of birth and decay, as manifested by the trees and lichens of his beloved Blue Mountains. The Australian countryside provides Zusters with the motivation for much of his painting, and here the forms and colours of nature are magically changed to a rich and luscious panorama.

Zusters was not only stimulated by the mountains. He also sought to capture the vitality of Sydney, a city he saw as “an explosion of colour, a harbour of changing reflections and man-made mountains of construction, the pathos of forlorn people against a background of gaiety”. Zusters saw life’s conflicts and ambiguities as the basis for the dreams and observations needed to inspire the artist.

1 COMMENT
  • Suellen Jonusys
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    Looking forward to seeing your exhibition

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