Solo show / Contemplating Portraiture

Ritums Ivanovs. Portrait of Mētra Saberova, 2021, acrylic on canvas, 340 cm x 400 cm.
Artist Ritums Ivanovs, who has painted two presidents of Latvia, opens a large solo exhibition at the Art Station "Dubulti" (Jurmala, Latvia). 10 monumental portraits show the Latvian women artists of different generations, while 10 charcoal drawings are self-portraits. "People tend to have an 'inner flame' and I am the observer of this," says Ritums Ivanovs. All works are exhibited for the first time.
Likeness is one of the fundamental challenges of representational art. Historically, it has served to define excellence and drive development - nature studies have long been the basis of art education. The likeness has been overshadowed by abstraction and concepts in modern and contemporary art. However, the likeness still retains its influence, and the portrait is clear proof of that.

The portrait has been in the center of Ritums Ivanovs' painting for more than twenty years and he is among those contemporary artists who focus on the human face, its plasticity and texture, as well as psychological and symbolic implications. It has been revealed to viewers since the artist's solo exhibitions - "To Be and to See" (1999), "A Girl" (2000), "Heroes" (2001), "Erotic Film" (2002), "Dreamers" (2008), "Stars. Lights On”(2010), and “White light ”(2018). As a public order Ritums Ivanovs has painted portraits of Presidents Valdis Zatlers (2012) and Andris Bērziņš (2018). Along with the painter Miervaldis Polis, Ritums Ivanovs is a consistent contemporary Latvian portraitist and popular in a wide audience.

Maija Tabaka, Inta Ruka, Aija Zariņa, Ieva Iltnere, Džemma Skulme, Vija Celmins, Mētra Saberova, Dace Lielā, Helēna Heinrihsone and Ieva Epnere - ten Latvian artists and their works can be called long-term contemplation partners of Ritums Ivanovs. Although Ivanovs is interested in portraits as such and painting as such (“Painting is a very sophisticated thing,” he often emphasizes the importance of professionalism), there is also a social and political context to the exhibition "Contemplating a Portraiture". "Women are not valued," Ritums Ivanovs justifies his position, but an important additional remark is the artist's interest in the mythical layers of "femininity" and "masculinity" in culture, personality constructions, and expectations (Ivanovs refers to Jung). The mythical and the "hidden" are always bound together with the social and representative in the portraits of Ritums Ivanovs.

The exhibition “Contemplating a Portraiture” also includes the symbolism of a master and an apprentice, which increases the feminism of the exhibition. Ritums Ivanovs emphasizes that he has learned the most from art practice, from the works of specific Masters, but has not glorified anyone. Ten artists portrayed in the exhibition belong to the category of Masters in one of the stages of Ivanovs' creative biography or contemplations - Maija Tabaka, Ieva Iltnere, Dace Lielā and Helena Heinrihsone in the 1990s, Vija Celmins - between 2000 and 2010, Džemma Skulme - with her “live color” visions, Inta Ruka and Ieva Epnere - as portraitists in photography and video, and Mētra Saberova - as an artist whose body, including the face, is both the material for art and also for a political message, a synthesis between realities of life and art.

Portraits by Ritums Ivanovs are targeted towards harmony and optical illusion, they have been created by using photographs as the nature. In “Contemplating a Portraiture” two different images (paused video frames) are combined with a visible connection line and asymmetry for one portrait. Ivanovs appropriates this double-image technique for the first time, moreover, the spatial challenges of the Art Station “Dubulti” determine the monumental dimensions of the paintings. Pictorial illusion reveals something important about a person.
Photorealism, pop art, and opart are modern art phenomena that have influenced Ritums Ivanovs' paintings, but classics are also essential (for example, Rembrandt). The doubling and asymmetry of painted portraits resonate with the experiments of other contemporary painters. How to tell something particular about a person? Although the approaches are very different, the principle is to look for a new portrait composition. One can remember the portraits by Julian Schnabel on the fragments of pottery and with a line instead of the eyes, or the comic-like stylizations by Alex Kacz, the famous portraits by Chuck Close using the structure from photography as a conceptual painting unit, Michaël Borremans‘ gothic moonlights, Glenn Brown's multilayer portraits, called 'schizophrenic' by the artist, or Marlene Dumas expressive watercolors. From the Latvian art scene there are eccentric four-eyed portraits by Juris Utāns, the aging bohemians by Miķelis Fišers, the series of portraits from ''new reality" by Jānis Mitrēvics, and portraits of unidentified dead persons from police archive by Kristians Brekte, or Ieva Jurjāne's portrait paintings, conceptually manifested as “normal” portraits.

The face as a shape revealed by light justifies the light and dark areas in Ritums Ivanovs paintings. This formalism by light is like a reliable boundary that the artist respects - his purpose is not to reach the psychological summary. However, Ritums Ivanovs does not exclude subjective reading, which distinguishes him from classical and much more impassive photorealism. Ivanovs, while painting a portrait from a photograph, gives a certain symbolism to a score of light in a person's face, and in “Contemplating a Portraiture”, like in his other projects, the light symbolizes a secret. The secret of personality, the secret of fascination, which the author first perceives intuitively, but during the long painting sessions, it is processed and formulated in a concrete expression. "Complexity and simplicity are not two opposites. As clarity emerges, the number of means of expression increase rather than decrease. Portrait is the central question of my painting and, as such, the most difficult to answer. There is a "flame" in a person and I watch it. In this exhibition, I set in motion the portrait using two images,” says Ritums Ivanovs.

The role of light in bringing humaneness outwards is a substantial thematic of Ritums Ivanovs both in this and in previous solo exhibitions. The light seems to elevate the characters of "Contemplating a Portraiture" across the profane space in the mythical expanses of art. "Mastery is to achieve the greatest clarity with non-ambitionality," says Ritums Ivanovs, affirming his connection to the mysterious aesthetic and mastery criteria of classical art, which is a mixture of intuition and rationality.

Balancing his role in the process of observation and becoming the one who is observed, too, Ritums Ivanovs draws his self-portraits (paper, charcoal), turning himself into an optical illusion. Relationships are formed between self-portraits and painted portraits. Self-portraits play a role behind the scene in the drama of the exhibition, the role of explanation. They emphasize the importance of the gaze and demonstrate more clearly than the paintings that the portrait created by Ritums Ivanovs is the crossroads of at least six gazes. There is the first gaze (the gaze of the depicted person) and two interpretations of that gaze; there is the gaze of the creator of the photograph (or video), and the gaze of the artist, finally - the gaze of the viewers when they are looking at the work. The gaze of the person being portrayed is represented in the exhibition as a double interpretation, but the gaze of both interpreters (person with the camera and the painter) is manifested as an image of the person being portrayed. So the first, second, third, fourth, and fifth gaze all are embodied in one picture, in one representation, summed up by the artist. The viewer's gaze is the notional goal for which the artist has chosen, summed up, and interpreted all of the above. Without a special conceptual framing, “Contemplating a Portraiture” implements the principles of postmodern reflection - images and images of the images.

Ritums Ivanovs' painting method for this exhibition is acrylic on canvas, applying paint only with a foam roller. Following the likeness and optical illusion, the artist has created an author’s technique that includes knowledge of drawing, complementary colors (colored, warm primers), and paint application techniques (eg light is painty, shadows are transparent). It includes researches and conclusions from the process that the artist connects in a subjective range of techniques. Professional experience in painting, creating an individual language, and understanding "painting" historically, is equally intuitive and cognitive.

Visual language and story are not separated in Ritums Ivanovs' art, but there is tension between them, a developing rivalry, thus proving the strong positions of form in the artist's method (art is not literature). Ritums Ivanovs was born in 1968 in Cēsis. He graduated from the Janis Rozentāls School of Art (1980–1987), the Latvian Academy of Arts (1987–1994, graduated from the Indulis Zariņš Monumental Painting Workshop, MA – 1996) and Humboldt University in the USA (1994–1995). It seems important to mark that he belongs to the generation that did not have to be anti-socialistic when they started an independent artistic practice.

Art Station “Dubulti” is the only professional exhibition hall in Europe, located in a functioning railway station in Jurmala, Latvia. The project implements the cross-functionality of the public space. Art station “Dubulti” creates solo exhibitions and conceptual projects of the best Latvian artists, accentuating the exhibition as a dialogue between a work of art and the spectator. The program is implemented with the support of the Jurmala City Council. The founder and head of the Art Station “Dubulti” is art critic Inga Šteimane.

Public events:

17.11. from 2 p.m to 8 p.m. - the first day of the exhibition, possibility to meet the artist Ritums Ivanovs in the exhibition hall;
21.11. at 2 p.m. - an opportunity to walk through the exhibition together with the artist Ritums Ivanovs and the curator Inga Šteimane;
12.12. at 2 p.m. - an opportunity to walk through the exhibition together with the artist Ritums Ivanovs and the curator Inga Šteimane
Ritums Ivanovs' solo exhibition "Contemplating a Portraiture" is open from November 17th 2021 to January 31st 2022 every day from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Free admission. Contacts:

The exhibition is supported by Jurmala City Council, State Culture Capital Foundation, Groglass.

ArtVilnius 2021