Jaunā Gaita nr. 142, (1) 1983

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JG 142

This issue is primarily devoted to the visual arts, and in part to Latvian arts in an international context. Literary matters will be more prominent in our next issue.

Laimonis Mieriņš contributes a survey of artistic life in Soviet Latvia in 1982, emphasizing its great variety and vitality. The Artists' Union of the Latvian SSR sponsors some 450 exhibitions each year, so any survey must be highly selective, but, paradoxically, because the Union is growing by about twenty new members each year, many talented people do not receive enough public exposure. Last year's all-Republic folk arts exhibition, featuring 2720 works by 1346 artists, is one symptom of this. It was not characteristic of most of the Union's multi-artist shows, however, in that it exhibited exciting applications of traditional techniques to non-traditional, urban and industrial subject matter. As a rule, most such exhibitions are characterized by a high level of technical mastery but shallow and uninteresting conceptions. For a more encouraging view of Latvian art, one must turn to individual and small-group exhibits, which were abundant. Mieriņš touches on the most significant of these, covering painting, watercolour, book illustration, posters, sculpture in various media, industrial design, stage design, and many others. He finds considerable disagreement among painters over the current level of achievement: some regard it as meeting international standards of excellence, while others consider this view complacent. It is hard to come to firm conclusions, though it is clear that the stylistic uniformity that dominated Latvian art in the two decades following the Second World War has been replaced by a bewildering array of individual styles. Under the circumstances, Mieriņš concludes, it is reasonable to wonder whether the continuing emphasis on socialist realism in artistic theory has any connection with the contemporary reality.

In "Art on the Borderline: A Few Words about Pēteris Martinsons," Nikolajs Bulmanis discusses one of the most energetic and many-faceted of Soviet Latvian artists. Architect, painter, actor, ceramicist (first prize, Concorso internazionale della ceramica d'arte, Faenza, Italy, 1980), and much more, Martinsons is a figure of world rank whose work unites Latvian with international traditions and celebrates the world's beauty in all its aspects.

Bulmanis also appears in this issue with his regular column, where he considers Australian art critic Paul McGillick's analysis of the portraits and landscapes of Soviet Latvian artist Uldis Zemzaris. McGillick's essay introduces the catalogue of an exhibit of Zemzaris' works at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Sydney (6-20 October 1982), and emphasizes their conservative and Eastern European flavour, which he finds challenging to the Western viewer. This is very much an outsider's opinion, and one that merits careful consideration, since Latvian artists have always attempted to be progressive and Western. Bulmanis comments as well on exhibitions in New York (Edvīns Strautmanis at the Alan Stone Gallery) and Chicago (Ojārs Šteiners at the Evanston Public Library), on factual errors in a Soviet Latvian article on Laris Strunke, on the lack of good Latvian Scholarship at the AABS Symposium on Baltic Art (Toronto, 20-21 November 1982), and on other subjects.

A production in Toronto of an English translation of Sidraba škidrauts (The Silver Veil) by Aspazija (Elza Rozenberga) is the subject of a thoughtful review by Juris Mazutis in his column, "Travels - A Diary." He distinguishes three different texts here: Aspazija's original, produced in 1905, Astrida Stahnke's translation, and the liberally modified acting version of Baņuta Rubesa. The production is very effective theatre, and this is a landmark occasion, but Mazutis has reservations about the integrity of the adaptation in both language and theme.

Imants Sakss, in his column, "Sounds and Echoes," also comments on the meeting of English and Latvian, in this case in the very fine work of conductor Leslie East, who orients himself in Latvian music better than many Latvians. In addition, Sakss reviews the yearbook, Latviešu Mūzika (No. 15, 1982), and reminisces about composer Jāzeps Vītols.

The literary section in this issue includes Aina Kraujiete's essay commemorating the seventieth birthday of celebrated Latvian poet Veronika Strēlerte and poetry by Strēlerte's son, Pāvils Johansons (Sweden). The other poetry is by Rita Laima Rumpētere (USA), Juris Dilevko (Canada), Inese Baļķīte (USA), Erna Ķikure (Australia), Valdis Arvis (Australia), Alma Bēne (USA), Ontons Zvīdris (Canada), Dzintars Rubenis (USA), and Māra Zālīte (Soviet Latvia). The prose is by Laima Kalniņa (USA) and Tālivaldis Ķiķauka (Canada).

The cover is by Ilmārs Rumpēters.


Jānis Svilpis

Jaunā Gaita