The first major retrospective of 40 years of work of artist Lidija Auza (1914–1989)
From 15 March to 19 May 2019, the ARSENĀLS Exhibition Hall of the Latvian National Museum of Art in Riga (Torņa iela 1) will present the first major retrospective of 40 years of work of artist Lidija Auza (1914–1989).
Art experts might be convinced that they know the painting of Lidija Auza. The exhibition will provide both an encounter with famous works and unexpected finds, which will foster re-evaluation of the oeuvre of the recognized yet fragmentarily familiar painter.
Lidija Auza was born in 1914 in Vitebsk, Belarus. In 1919, her family returned to Latvia. Lidija Auza received primary education at the Riga French Lycée, in 1934 she graduated from the Riga Teachers’ Institute and until 1943 worked as a teacher in Vocational School No. 16. From 1937 to 1949 with a hiatus Lidija Auza studied at the Art Academy of Latvia. From 1949 artist started taking part in exhibitions. Since 1956, Lidija Auza was a member of the Artists’ Union of Latvia (AUL).
After graduating from the academy, the main subject of Lidija Auza’s work was ballet – intimate behind-the-scenes episodes in rehearsal halls and dressing rooms or waiting for the entry on stage into the lights. The sheen of the dust of the white Opera House, the impressionistic lightness of the perfume of powder and the creative anguish of thematic compositions of socialist realist painting over the period of 6 years reluctantly convinced the acceptance commission of the AUL about the artist’s readiness to join the organisation. Lidija Auza also felt these limitations to expression, yet did not manage to find a solution until 1961.
The almost unthinkable permission to visit her sister Olga in England turned into a watershed. The visit to London’s National Gallery and the Tate, the opportunity to see the originals of world masters was an encouraging impulse not to fear censorship, and this loosening was radically expressive. The critical polemics that followed in discussions of the artist’s works and exhibitions was predictable, although Lidija Auza was not the only modernist in Latvian art of the 1960s.
It must be kept in mind that in Soviet art the way to exhibition halls for abstract painting was closed all the way to the 1990s. Pure abstraction at the time was seen as a form of protest against the ideological restrictions, therefore the majority of such compositions either remained in studios or were realised in monumental paintings for the interiors of public buildings. The cycle of three large-format wall paintings Kurzeme in Talsi Regional Municipality, The City of Nine Hills in Talsi Art School, Encounter and Union in the premises of the Talsi Registry Office were made from 1973 to 1980 and can still be considered an outstanding example of synthesis between architecture and painting, which imbues the rational interior with emotionality and added value, since that was Lidija Auza’s firmly-held belief – it is possible to reflect on serious matters in abstract, decorative forms.
For many artists of this generation landscape was a significant impulse in the creation of works. For Lidija Auza it became a form for a different content, reaching into the deepest layers of consciousness, which is also revealed in the titles (Stream, Spring Flood) and characterise the painter’s own human situation in time, her nagging unease about the superficial perspective on life in art.
The author works with a powerful system of signs, countering the monotonous Soviet inertia with the mythological spiritual home rooted in the national folklore, transforming a landscape observed in nature into an archetypal scene. The depiction of joy, reflection or suffering in Lidija Auza’s works acquires a universal dimension. Her impulsively expressive style of painting, the ability to work with bright and active colours without losing the refinement of her palette, the dense and laconic presentation of the idea is a way of capturing the mood of the rapidly changing world.
The freedom of Lidija Auza’s style also has to do with a special plasticity. The artist mixes paint with sculptural forms made from PVA tempera and unusual materials – metal cuttings, spirals, plastic covers, fishing nets and mirror shards, which through density uncontrollable and unpredictable in painting lead the viewer into the symbolic field of national archetypes, speak of history, memory and human values, which are commonly found in dramatic contradictions.
The opportunity to experience the effect of this artistic field will come in spring 2019, when ARSENĀLS Exhibition Hall of the LNMA will show 100 paintings from the holdings of the Latvian National Museum of Art, Museum of the Artists’ Union of Latvia, Zuzāns Collection, Gallery Jēkabs and the artist’s family. A unique occasion will be the exhibition of four monumental wall paintings from Talsi (triptych Kurzeme, The City of Nine Hills) in Riga, giving Lidija Auza’s artistic legacy the deserved scale and significance.
Text by Ilze Putniņa
Ilze Putniņa, Curator of the Latvian Painting Collection ARSENĀLS (2nd Half of the 20th – 21st Century), Latvian National Museum of Art, Ph: (+371) 67 357523, E: lze.Putnina@lnmm.lv
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ARSENĀLS Exhibition Hall of the Latvian National Museum of Art / Torņa iela 1, Riga, Latvia
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