From 12 July to 1 September the Mūkusala Art Salon will present Folk Maidens and Youths, an exhibition of visual art that is devoted to the Latvian ethnographic folk theme in works of art created from the beginning of the 20th century to the present.
What is the motivation to include characters and subjects of ethnographic nature in works of art? The claim that the presence of such characters attests to an interest in national values may sound like a simplification and balance on the fragile border of banality, nevertheless the presence of these images in contemporary works (also, works of contemporary art) call for treating this situation analytically.
The exposition at the Mūkusala Art Salon reflects the Latvian art scene of the said period, turning to the presence of the feminine and masculine archetypes based in folk traditions in the context of cultural space.
At the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries the earlier patriarchal cultural dominant changed, with a decisive role being played by the rapid emancipation and modernisation of the society. Despite the initially ambivalent attitudes, the image of woman gradually gained stature in public space (in illustrated magazines, works of art and elsewhere), at first being constructed as the embodiment of innocent femininity, but gradually undergoing change and revealing the dynamics of contemporary life. Women were the affected the most by societal transformations. Their status changed and their image began to embody the spirit of the new era.
One of the calls came from the late 19th century nationalist movement, whose programmatic positions gave a prominent place to patriotic upbringing, which called for women's education in order to be able to participate more fully in the schooling of their children (the future citizens), as a result of which the image of woman as the mother of the nation begun to take hold in the visual space, embodying the highest ideal of woman.
The visual image of the folk maiden, the creation of which can be linked to the social and cultural trends of the late 19th century (First Latvian Song Festival took place in 1873), merged naturally with the newly-created image of woman that embodied beauty and wisdom, gradually becoming a symbol of the ideal based in Latvian traditions.
The 19th and 20th century fin de siècle cultural scene contains motivations for the existence of different types of women, whose presence can be found in a broad spectrum of artistic fields. The exhibition at the Mūkusala Art Salon proposes to look at its subject's fin de siècle spectrum of feminine types in the context of Latvian art, recognising some of them in the exposition at hand.
The exhibition includes works by Jāzeps Grosvalds, Ansis Cīrulis, Niklāvs Strunke, Romāns Suta, Džemma Skulme, Maija Tabaka, Miervaldis Polis, Hilda Vīka, Juris Utāns, Ieva Jurjāne, Olga Šilova, Ilze Avotiņa, Jānis Deinats, Ernests Kļaviņš and others. Works from the Zuzāns Collection, the LNMA and private collections.
Exhibition curator - Diāna Barčevska.
Publicity image: Niklāvs Strunke. Folk maiden and Masons. 1930s. Gouache on paper. 27 x 22 cm. The Zuzāns Collection