Jaunā Gaita nr. 144, (3) 1983

< JG 143   JG 145 >

JG 144

This issue begins with the literary section, offering poetry by Raivis Madars (Canada), Maija Meirāne (USA), Lidija Dombrovska (Denmark), Valentīns Pelēcis (USA), Elga Leja (Australia), Olģerts Rozītis (Australia), Astrida Stānke (USA), and Jānis Sirmbārdis (Latvia).

Uldis Siliņš' play "Kade pārnāksi, bālēliņ?", begun in issue No.143, concludes here. The play deals with two themes of great emotional importance to Latvians in exile: relations with occupied Latvia, and the fight, or lack of it, for Latvia's political freedom.

Valija Ruņģe begins an essay on two folktales that have provided much material for Latvian writers: the tales of Kurbads, or the Mare's Son, and of Lāčplēsis, or the BearSlayer. This portion of the essay contains an overview of Latvian folk-tale collecting and the recognition of Latvian folktales in international folktale studies, as well as a comparison of the Kurbads type as it appears in Aarne's and Thompson's catalogue of international folktale types and in the 82 variants of the tale in Latvian folklore.

Edīte Zuzena looks at three books of literary biography and critical essays by Saulcerīte Viese, whose special interests are the life and work of Rainis, and the elucidation of artistic creativity. The critic J. Veitners has called Viese's book Raganiezis (1976) an excellent source for understanding the Latvian psyche by non-Latvians.

Poet and artist Lidija Dombrovska contributes her analysis of the symbols of decorative art, while Nora Kūla describes the week-long Latvian writers' gathering before the 1982 Portland song festival, comparing it to "a comet, whose blinding tail still reminds one of itself, here catching a memory neuron, there lighting a connective synapse".

A future event of possibly equal brilliance is the sixth World Latvian Youth Congress, to be held near Melbourne, Australia, from 31 Dec. 1983 to 6 Jan. 1984. The theme of the congress is a quotation from Rainis, roughly translated as: "To survive is to change." The lectures and work sessions of the congress will be devoted to changes in Latvian social, cultural, political, and religious life in response to the conditions of the 1980's, both in Latvia and in exile, and to survival strategies for the future.

Our regular columnists Imants Sakss, Tālis Ķiķauka, and Nikolajs Bulmanis each have an article in this issue. Sakss contributes some fictionalized memories of Jānis Ivanovs, an eminent symphonic composer, who died last year in Latvia, and his teacher (and Sakss') at the Latvian Conservatory, prof. Jāzeps Vītols. Ķiķauka discusses recent documentary films from Latvia, and Bulmanis, among other things, discusses two recent exhibitions of Latvian artists in New York - one by minimalist painter Vija Celmiņa at the David McKee Gallery, and the other of contemporary Latvian poster art at the New York Institute of Technology. Part of the catalogue commentary by curator Latvian Poster Art Exhibition Sandra Bašēna is presented here:


Latvian poster art created over the past decade has only just begun to appear in Western exhibitions and publications. One reason for this delay is the stolid image evoked by the mere mention of socialist realism as practiced doggedly in the Soviet Union over the past fifty years.

Along with a number of other national minorities, however, the young post-war generation of Latvian poster artists has been able to overcome stultifying official art policy to meld characteristics of a long-standing and pervasive folk art tradition with international influences in creating a new brand of art within the Soviet context.

Latvian folk art elements found in these contemporary posters include a palette of earth tones, the simplification and geometrization of forms, and use of metaphors and symbols as an abbreviated means of communication. The images depicted vary from the concrete, imbued with sentiment or humor, to the highly abstract. These ancient folk design principles are echoed in the minimalist movement, a style favored by a number of the artists represented here.

Other influences infusing these works include the constructivism and predilection for photomontage of the 1920s; areas of whimsical brushwork reminiscent of Japanese painting; the brooding manner of 1950s and 1960s Polish poster art; and 1960s trends as diverse as psychedelic art, Paul Davies-inspired disembodied limbs, and minimalism ą la Fontana.

The seventy-odd posters shown here employ a wide range of media and techniques (oil, gouache, tempera, acrylics, photomontage, offset) and formats (typographic, photographic, drawn or painted image, image juxtaposed with text). Favorite themes are the theater, events, particularly exhibitions; well-known Latvian personalities; and the ubiquitous propaganda poster, ranging from blatant political messages to the espousal of environmental and other causes.

As they have become increasingly better known, these artists have garnered critical acclaim through international competition and reproduction in publications. It is the intent of this exhibition further to acquaint the public with these works in the hopes that it, too, will find reason to acclaim contemporary Latvian poster art.

Finally, the winners of the recent "Ceļinieks" literary translation competition are announced in this issue. First prize is shared by Juris Kronbergs (Sweden), Ilze Muellere (USA), and Bitīte Vinklere (USA). Ojārs Krātiņš (USA) wins second prize. Third prize is shared by Inese Auziņa-Smith (Britain), Inta Ezergaile (USA), Ojārs Rozītis (W. Germany), Skaidrīte Leja (Canada), and Sarma Draviņa (Sweden). An interesting evaluation of the relative merits of modern Latvian writers came out of the competition, which had 31 participants: the authors deemed most worthy of translation were first Imants Ziedonis, second Gunars Saliņš, and third, all equally, Alberts Bels, Aleksandrs Čaks, Regīna Ezera, and Jānis Jaunsudrabiņš.

The cover is by Ilmārs Rumpēters.


Ilze Valdmanis

Jaunā Gaita