Ivanovs Explores The Public and Private Faces Of Ex-president

"I wanted to explore the difference between the official, the
imagined, the discussed, the rigid and a free, more subjective
interpretation," Latvian painter Ritums Ivanovs commented on his exhibition "Public and Private" that opened December 18, 2012.  Displayed alongside the official portrait of Valdis Zatlers, Mr. Ivanov’s portrait was rendered in the unique linear painting technique of the artist and concentrated on ex-president's personality. "The goal is to give people the opportunity to compare and discuss the meaning of the official portrait and of the tasks art has," Ivanovs defines the aim
and through his works gives room for a discussion
Public and Private by Ritums Ivanovs depicting Valdis Zatlers
"I think also in the context of democracy and the republic, it is
beautiful that something like this is being made," Imants Lancmanis,
the Museum Director at Rundāle Palace, commented on the former Presidents
portrait gallery.  He had a seat in the council of Riga castle renewal
when in 1995 the portraits of Jānis Čakste, Gustavs Zemgals, Alberts
Kviesis and Kārlis Ulmanis, painted by Roberts Muzis, were displayed  in the Hall of The Coat of Arms. "This is a part of national
history, every individual personality stands for a whole era of state
and society.  Therefore, it is very good that this international tradition
continues in the castle of Riga," the art historian, Imants
Lancmanis adds. Later on, the paintings of Guntis Ulmanis un Vaira
Vīķe-Freiberga, made by Miervaldis Polis, were added to the gallery.
As of April this year, it was revealed that the commission of the portrait of
Valdis Zatlers will be awarded to Ritums Ivanovs.

"Portraiture interests me from altogether different aspects," Mr. Ivanovs  says. While working with the official portrait of the Latvian
ex-president, Ivanovs returned to classical oil painting and created
the portrait according to the criteria of parade portraits. "It fully
follows the rules chosen by the Chancery of the President of Latvia
and continues with the style found by Miervaldis Polis when depicting
previous presidents in official portraits," the Riga Gallery informed
us before the exhibition "Public and Private".

"I am astonished by the fact that an Ivanovs piece does not show its
characteristic stripes," Imants Lancmanis commented.  He claims
that the artist can achieve great similarity with the depicted subject using his usual style, and that the work mastered in that style would fit well in the contemporary gallery. When recalling the restrictions set in Lancmanis' time when ordering the first portraits of
Latvia's ex-presidents, he said, "At that time, it was the request
of the commission that they would not step out of certain imaginary limits
and would apply coloring that was distanced.  I think those requirements
were justified, because the four portraits fit the gallery and form a
whole. At that time, it was a matter of style and mood, but when
continuing with the gallery, each artist can work following his usual

Doubly careful

"This kind of official art should be perceived very carefully, and the
institutions and their representatives in that field should be treated
with special care," said art critic Vilnis Vējš on the
commissions of ex-presidents' portraits. He considers the tradition to
be a bit theatrical, and sees it as a sign of duplicity rooted in
official art of the Ulmanis (PM and head of state) and the Soviet
era.  Mr. Vējš thinks the topical discussions are merely pseudo-criticisms
that are being created for one's own benefit.  As far as commissions and their set requirements, he says that they should only judge an artists competency within their chosen medium. Further examination of an artists work should not be allowed, since this would continue the worst traditions of authoritarianism judgement of prior
Latvian art. "I am actually against such a feeding process
that creates something unnecessary, but a bit profitable for all, the
processes that have the financial means the real creative processes do
not have, that's the most important thing," Vilnis Vējš emphasizes.
"In addition, it is quite sad that even people from the field of
culture participate in all of this this.  They sit within commissions and
make decisions, e.g. the coins' design commission in Latvian Bank.
This is a pure example of conjuncture and cooperation with power."

Discussing commissions, Ritums Ivanovs admits he has always
followed the developments of depicting those in the exercise of
authority. He points out that nowadays a parade portrait has its
niche, which does not always fall into the boundaries of established portraiture. "As we
know from history, very many official portraits fall into the field
of art, but today these interests are split.  Also, the criteria of
the commissioners is different than it used to be."

Ilze Auzane, Diena
Dec 26, 2012
Ivanovs art in Latvian Parliament