Pulling into empathy. Overview of the exhibition “Paintings of Great Dacia” / Day

The enviably regularly exhibited works of the artist Dace Liela have been formally belonging to the landscape genre for many years, although the author herself claimed that “she is not a landscape painter, but paints nature” (Liga Rusheniece, Artist Dace Liela: There are no man-made landscapes in my works, NRA.lv, 06.06.2019). It is further specified that this is a “traditional” and “stereotypical” landscape; although these stereotypes are not concretized, one can feel their connection with a stable tradition of expressively “reinforced”, pictorial realism. Also recent exhibitions of Dace Great Paintings the annotation states that “the exhibition is devoted to natural processes, where the focus is on the mood of the painted scene” (Diana Barczewska), can be safely attributed to a longer period in the art of Dacia Majora.

Starting with the exquisitely tonal, almost monochrome and academically toned figurative painting of the 80s, continuing it with postmodern quotations and retro romance, the painter increasingly consistently turns to laconic natural motifs. At the exhibition Sea (2016) exhibited only two-part works, consisting of the interaction of differently lit sky and water surface. On the other hand, at the exhibition Paintings (2019) dominated by close-ups of bubbling water with airy expressive splashes of white bream “decorations”. This exhibition was nominated for the Purvīša Award 2021, which prompted experts to connect global environmental issues with the personal revelation of “special moments of nature”, “which are read to the viewer on a subconscious level, literally involving them in empathy” (Laima Slava).

More space

Compared to the 2019 performance, the last exhibition that can be seen in the gallery Daugavacloser Sea to minimalism in that the compositions mostly consist of a horizontal division of stripes: sky, water, foreground earth or sky, distant earth with clumps of trees, foreground water, etc., etc. With the exception of a few blades of grass on the beach sand or water lily leaves in the lake, there is almost nothing concrete in the paintings, only known elements – earth, air and water. A certain intrigue is caused by the lack of an “advertising face” in the exhibition, that is, what is designed in rusty colors cannot be viewed. Autumn (2023) with gracefully enclosed reed beds. However, there are several seas (Beach I-II; Jurmala), as well as lakes (Lake I–III) dated this year, on the other hand Spring water (2021), which represents a slightly earlier time, is the only one without a patch of sky, which is replaced by a brittle birch stand. At zoom, an almost mechanical technique of dots and stripes can be seen, creating a mimetic illusion as the viewer steps back, but the previously practiced splash and drip effects are less pronounced.

The aforementioned mood dominant also resembles a “mood landscape” (Stimmungslandschaft) as a well-known phenomenon in the history of art at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, when the experiences of romanticism, impressionism and symbolism were synthesized in emphasizing emotional states, reducing naturalistic detail. Are there elements of continuation of this tradition? The foreground motifs of the Great Beaches of Dacia can be remotely compared, for example, with the elegiac seashores of the early period of the characteristic mood of the landscape painter Johann Walther (Jurmala (calm sea), circa 1900, Latvian National Museum of Art, etc.). However, the Great Shores of Dacia are compositionally more stable and horizontal, they lack a more diverse pattern of rhythms and strokes. The emphasis on mood cannot be denied, but these scenes definitely move away from the direct impressions of observation that were more important to other Latvian landscape painters, such as Vilhelms Purvītis or Konrads Ubanas, in whose work some parallels can be found. After the painting department of the Latvian Academy of Arts (1975–1981), Dace Liela studied at the workshop of Purvis’ student, the prolific and popular navigator Eduards Kalniņš (1984–1987).

Absolute nature

Rather, I want to evoke a synthesized landscape based on the traditions of classicism, which is confirmed by the emphasis on panoramic distances. The author’s creative method is also unusual: working from memory or from memory, without using sketches or photographs as auxiliary materials. Therefore, the hyperrealistic illusory effect of presence may seem even more surprising, masking as much as possible the proportion of any pictorial and expressive gesture. The emphasis could be placed on nature “as it is”, not only without the depicted human presence, but also without the prism of an artistic-subjective view. In this sense, there is also a noticeable reference to another direction of Latvian painting, which is best revealed in the impassive objectivism of Bruno Vasilevskis in search of “absolute reality” – mainly in the genre of still life.

Of course, the argument about the inevitable presence of subjectivism is difficult to refute, but its abolition as an ideal all-encompassing goal can retain its role, being drawn into empathy with the abolition of the self-evidence of a stamped individual handwriting.

Dace the Great

Exhibition Paintings

Gallery Daugava to 5.VIII

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