PHOTO: Ritums Ivanovs opens an exhibition with works by Maija Tabaka, Viju Celmiņš, Džemma Skulmi

Ten large-format portraits show Latvian artists of different generations, while charcoal drawings show self-portraits. “People tend to have a ‘flame’, and I watch it,” says Ritums Ivanovs. All works are exhibited for the first time.

The portrait has been in the center of Rituma Ivanov’s 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 the connection of the face with psychological and symbolic translations. It has been revealed to viewers since the artist’s significant solo exhibitions – “Being and Watching” (1999), “Girl” (2000), “Heroes” (2001), “Erotic Film” (2002), “Dreamers” (2008), “Stars. In the Rays of Light ”(2010),“ White Light ”(2018). Ritums Ivanovs paints portraits of presidents Valža Zatlers (2012) and Andris Bērziņš (2018) as public orders. Along with Miervaldis Polis, Ritums Ivanovs is one of the most consistent contemporary Latvian portraitists. All works in Ritums Ivanov’s solo exhibition “Observer’s Time” are pre-publications.

Optically illusory and harmonious portraits of Rituma Ivanov are created by taking photographs as nature. In “Observer Time”, two different images (paused video frames) with visible joints and asymmetries are used for one portrait. Ritums Ivanovs uses this technique for the first time, moreover, the spatial challenges of the Art Station “Dubulti” determine the monumental dimensions of the portraits. But in general, it corresponds to the artist’s interest in a pictorial optical illusion that can say something important about a person. Photorealism, pop art and opart (optical art) are from the 20th century. on the other hand, modern art phenomena that have influenced Ritums Ivanov’s paintings, but classics are also important (for example, Rembrandt). Ritum Ivanov follows contemporary portraiture (Lik Tuimans, Elizabeth Peiton, Glenn Brown, Michael Boreman, Chuck Clouse, David Hockney, Gerhard Richter, Alex Kacs, Linete Yadoma-Bockey and others).

Ten Latvian artists with their works and photo portraits can be called long-term partners of Ritums Ivanov’s contemplation in the solo exhibition “Observer’s Time”: Maija Tabaka, Inta Ruka, Aija Zariņa, Ieva Iltnere, Džemma Skulme, Vija Celmiņa, Mētra Saberova, Dace Lielā, Helēna Epnere. Although the central author is interested in portraits as such and painting as such (“Painting is a very sophisticated thing,” the crucial role of professionalism is still emphasized by Ritums Ivanovs), there is also a social and political context to the exhibition The Observer’s Time. “Women are not valued,” Ritums Ivanovs justifies his choice, but an important remark of this finding is the artist’s interest in the mythical layers of “femininity” and “masculinity” in culture, personality constructions and expectations (Ritums Ivanovs refers to Jung). The mythical and the “hidden” are always together with the social and representative in the portraits of Ritums Ivanovs.

The exhibition “Observer’s Time” also includes in its story 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. The ten artists portrayed in this exhibition belong to the category of masters in one of the stages of Ritums Ivanov’s life or contemplation sessions – Maija Tabaka, Ieva Iltnere, Dace Lielā, Helena Heinrihsone in the 1990s, Vija Celmiņa – between 2000 and 2010, Džemma Skulme – with visions of “living color”, Inta Ruka and Ieva Epnere – as portraits in photography and video, and Mētra Saberova – as an artist whose body, including her face, is not only the material of art but also the message of politics, the synthesis of life and art.

Balancing his role in the process of observation and becoming an observer, Ritums Ivanovs draws self-portraits (paper, charcoal), turning himself into an optical and mythical illusion. Relationships are formed between self-portraits and paintings. Self-portraits play a relative role behind the scenes in the drama of the exhibition, the role of explanations. 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 a gaze in nature that can be portrayed and two interpretations of this gaze are the gaze of the creator of the photograph (or video image), the gaze of the artist and the gaze of the viewer when 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 (photo, painting) is manifested as an image of the person being portrayed. So the first, second, third, fourth and fifth are embodied in one picture. The viewer’s gaze is the notional goal for which the artist has chosen, summed up, and interpreted all of the above. The artist has a good command of postmodern mirror structures and uses them. Ritums Ivanov’s charcoal drawings, along with their impeccable overall form and similarity, also include graphic elegance in the form of discrete material self-esteem (harmony of paper and charcoal textures).

Ritums Ivanovs paints the works of this exhibition with acrylic on canvas, applying paint only with a foam roller. Following the principles of similarity and optical illusion, the artist has created an author’s technique that includes knowledge of drawing, anti-color effects (colored, warm primers) and paint application techniques (light is pasty, shady – transparent), and includes numerous observations in the painting process. which the artist is able to combine in a meaningful and subjective range of techniques. Professional experience in painting, creating an individual language and understanding “painting” historically, is equally intuitive and cognitive.

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