Review of 1999 exhibition "To be and to see" in Riga Gallery
Ritums Ivanovs could have presented this unique and very open painting method, vertical lines of acrylic paint, thereby gaining an illusory quality on the canvas, in an abstract way by imitating a non- alive relief with bright lighting. Instead, he chose portraits. "People's faces reveal shadows and light," said Ivanovs
One immediately notices that his paintings have a lot in common with photography, and not just because they have been painted using proportion and precision to bring the content of small photo onto a large painting format. The decisive role of light in the creation of proportions is the first thing noticed; like photographs, the facial expressions in these paintings would not be readable if they were not lighted.
These are confusingly realistic faces. Our analytical senses are a little angered because they cannot touch the material in the portraits. Even looking long and intensely at the paintings we are not sure if the depiction will not just evaporate. Won't the woman's and the artist's evasive looks disappear like gentle, slightly deformed sliding shadows across the canvas, leaving lonely sectors of vibrating color - blue green,gray, cool red, warm orange?
We even have reason to be suspicious because these large scale presentations lack a permanent dramatic weight. This means that they are closer to games of light on canvas. Suddenly we undarstand that the artist has painted light, and the deceptive look in the woman's eyes is part of this game.
We are forced to admit that our desire to psychologize what we see is stopped at that border which the artist has professionally defined; in these paintings he has painted the plasticity of the face by gently following the play of light. Light dictates the look of every object in photographic reality. This reality- both self-created photo creation and this photographic method - has been used by the artist to fix an object in its plastic totality. In the paintings he has struggled not with the resistance of "human material", in skin color, type and character, but with the boundaries set by light, which in this case are in a person's face.
The dimensions of the painting seem such that have in art history been traditionally ascribed to pathos. But nobody has yet succeeded in giving orders to light. Ritums Ivanovs knows this too. The fields of colors shown in his work make our eyes detect light while we ourselves quietly fill in the shadow areas. Connection after connection can be sought: explaining that painting that stands near photography has lost its element of realism thanks to the "digitalization" of the method. The self-technique of the artist, which divides the whole painting into infinite though concrete lines, has been given virtual space through digitalization (as we have understood this until now) and a characteristic coolness and naive cleanliness. A sentimental wish enters our minds, because in seeing these paintings we are sent to cracling, old, happy cinema.
The plasticity of a moment. These five paintings which are brought together in Ritums Ivanovs' personal exhibition promise us much and lead us to expect much from the author. In the near future we have every chance to follow how these bright and talanted offerings of the language of plasticity create more and more permanent structures in the context of art.
Text by art critic Inga Steimane