Exhibition “X: Free Space” exhibits the results of a creative adventure – works created by duos of artists from wholly different fields

At the exhibition X Free Space, Panevėžys Civic Art Gallery, Panevėžys, Lithuania (Photo Alisa Palavenis)
At the exhibition X Free Space, Panevėžys Civic Art Gallery, Panevėžys, Lithuania (Photo Alisa Palavenis)

In 2023, March 1-31, the Panevezys Civic Art Gallery hosts an exhibition of creative duos “X: Free Space

Albinas Vološkevičius, the author of the idea of ​​a unique art project and curator of the exhibition, draws our attention to the fact that the stress of everyday life and the confusion caused by fear and desire often overshadows an incredibly satisfying inner peace. By burdening our inner space with things or thoughts, experiences, or rubbish, we stand in the way of accepting our true selves. This chaos often follows us day-to-day, hindering, destroying, or limiting our creative powers. How can one be able to speak out to the world then? After all, creation is not only freedom and courage but also a responsibility. As we embark on a creative journey, we should cultivate and purify our inner freedom, each within ourselves, and learn to respect the world of another, in this case, our co-author.  

A. Vološkevičius explains that the Project “X” series is a continuous art event where creative artists from different fields are invited to work in pairs on a joint work of art, sharing different creative and technological experiences, ideas and leaving free space for the interpretation of the theme. It took place in 2016 for the first time, and Project “X: Free Space” is the fourth in the series. This project is a great challenge, but it offers an invaluable experience to creators who often come up with unexpected, intriguing works that fascinate lovers of art and Lithuanian cultural heritage. 

From the history of creative duos 

According to the Lithuanian art theoretician and critic Virginijus Kinčinaitis, the ongoing Project “X” series makes us rethink the idea of authorship in art history, the position of collective creation, the flourishing of radical individualism and the relationship between artistic worthiness and authorship. It is customary for us to associate a work of art with the name of a particular artist. However, art history knows a lot of oddities: many works without authorship, even more so, with questionable, controversial, or counterfeit authorship.

Let us dive deep into artistic duets and strange co-authorship stories, following the art history investigations of Virginijus Kinčinaitis: “It turns out that even the most famous works are not the fruit of the will of one single artist. For example, friendship can encourage collaboration between artists. The Sleeping Venus by Venetian master Giorgione is one of the most striking paintings of the Renaissance era. The harmony of bodily and spiritual perfection is staggering. But it is not the merit of this artist alone. After Giorgione’s untimely death from the plague, his work was completed by a faithful disciple, Titian, who painted the landscape and the sky. Cupid was also painted at the feet of Venus and Titian, however, it was removed by 19th-century restorers. The sensual eroticism of Venus in this work is balanced by the tranquil background receding of Titian. What a perfect equilibrium!”

Art theoretician V. Kinčinaitis tells us one more story of artistic ‘duos’ where the art business played a significant role: “The great Flemish Peter Paul Rubens left us a lot of creative authorship riddles. He was concerned not only with the quality of Baroque paintings but also with his productivity, which could not have been achieved without assistance. Rubens sketched his future paintings. The master then passed the sketches to his disciples. They had to transfer the sketch to the canvas of the right size. Each assistant performed specific tasks: one painted the landscape, another painted on the leaves, and the third one was responsible for the animals and the fruit. The painting would later be transferred to the large ground-floor studio. Here the master painter finally finished the work, adding colours in this or that corner, adding light in some other areas, and usually lighting the colour tones of the body, folds of fabric, and accessories. His decisive touches on the works gave them completeness and stylistic idiosyncrasy. Rubens would always compare and match the final version of the painting with his original sketch and only then would sign on it. That is why later art experts had much to discuss and argue about which work is pure Rubens, which one half his, and where only a quarter of the real Rubens remains.”

V. Kinčinaitis highlights that one could be more successful in depicting humans, while the other prefers flowers. This was very well understood by the Dutch artist Cornel van Pulenburg (1594-1567). He was not highly talented; however, he was a shrewd businessman. He, therefore, knew how to benefit commercially from co-authorship. Dividing labour is always profitable. Having learned to paint mythological figures in Italy, he organized a massive process of painting paintings at home. Without meeting live, the artists sent each other paintings, and each of them only painted a particular area. Sometimes van Putenburg bought landscapes painted by other artists and enriched them with half-naked figures of goddesses. The price immediately went up, and he had to do only a little bit of actual work.

Finishing this art history trip, V. Kinčinaitis reveals one more co-authoring adventure of the artistic duos. We are all well aware of the famous painting by Ivan Shishkin with bears “Morning in the Pine Forest” (1889). Shishkin was a great botanist, but he was not that skillful at painting the bear family, although, admittedly, he tried. The artist was kindly assisted by his friend, painter Konstantin Savitsky. He painted a family of bears and incorporated them into the old forest painted by Shishkin. However, this painting was commissioned by the famous collector Pavel Tretyakov from Shishkin alone. After receiving the work with two artists’ signatures, he got furious and cleaned Savitsky’s surname with a thinner. This fact did not prevent Savitsky from taking part in the royalty from Shishkin, and later his authorship was returned.

This brief historical tour by art theoretician and critic V. Kinčinaitis shows stories of artists’ duos through the prism of creative collaboration. We may agree that authorship has never been static but rather dynamic and unexpected. This fact opens up new paths for creative activities and opportunities for artistic innovation.

Project X series: from the first exhibition in 2016 till now

The curator of the Project “X” series, A. Vološkevičius, says it took place in 2016 for the first time and was primarily focused on the artists of Panevėžys to encourage their artistic collaboration, as well as to represent artists in a broader domestic and foreign context. Having gained creative momentum, the project keeps growing every year, as participants from other Lithuanian cities and foreign countries are joining this initiative Project “X: Free Space” is the fourth in the series. It brings together 18 creative duos from different fields of art (painting, photography, ceramics, music, etc.), and, as previous projects have already demonstrated, every viewer will come across a work he loves.

All project participants are different concerning their expression, specialties, age, and experience, and all of them are unified by the desire to create a common theme. Five out of eighteen couples are purely from Panevėžys. Two Latvian duos, several other artists from the city of Panevėžys worked with creators from other cities or countries: Indrė Stulgaitė-Kriukienė and Lijana Judickaitė, Eugenijus Marcinkevičius and Rimvydas Stankevičius, Tomas Rudokas and Agnė Juršytė, Andrius Repšys and Liucija Karalienė, Valentinas Pečininas and Osvaldas Juška, Lilija Valatkienė and Juozas Lebednykas, Diana Rudokienė and Ilona Kosabuko, Vilnis Auziņš and Andris Biezbārdis, Edvinas Klimas and Vydmantas Mačiulis, Kasparas Zarinis and Vija Zarinia, Vytautas Tallat-Kelpša and Sigitas Tallat-Kelpša, Sigitas Laurinavičius and Rimvydas Daužvardis, Mindaugas Juodis and Aušra Kleizaitė, Audrius Gražys and Henrikas Gulbinas, Povilas Ramanauskas and Rosanda Sorakaitė, Artūras Stančikas and Arūnas Uogintas, Milda Butkevičiūtė and Giedrius Zaura, Kristina Norvilaitė and Petras Geniušas. 

All project works are donated to Panevėžys city to support the idea of the new Art Center by Stasys Eidrigevičius. 

About Stasys Eidrigevičius Arts Center

Stasys Eidrigevičius is a famous contemporary Lithuanian painter, graphic designer, and director. Stasys Eidrigevičius Arts Center (SEMC) is a modern cultural institution being established in Panevėžys. Its goal is to improve the quality of life in Panevėžys and become an interregional cultural tourism centre by using the work of Stasys Eidrigevičius, the heritage of world art (including cinema), and the pieces of contemporary creators of various genres. SEMC aims to improve the creative conditions of artists, provide an opportunity to present their work, and educate the public. Construction of the SEMC building, formation of the S. Eidrigevičius collection, and planning of future exhibitions are currently underway.

Arranged by Alisa Palavenis, PhD

Photos: Alisa Palavenis

Sources: Exhibition catalogue “X: Free Space”; Panevėžys daily newspaper SEKUNDĖ, March 3, 2023 “Freed from the burden of routine”, p.9.

Mystic Water, 2020. Authors: Lilija Valatkienė and Juozas Lebednykas (Photo Alisa Palavenis)

Last Stop, 2020. Authors: Vilnis Auziņš and Andris Biezbārdis (Photo Alisa Palavenis)

Territory-L, 2020. Authors: Tomas Rudokas and Agnė Juršytė (Photo Alisa Palavenis)

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