The painting Dutch Stories 6 (2013) is a narrative about the relationship of westerners with the history of culture. To tell the truth, it will only open up to those who will not be misled by the deceptive first impression and the title of the artwork. Let us come inside: it may not feel that comfortable, but surely interesting.Uždaryti
Patricija Jurkšaitytė (b. 1968) is a painter who lives and works in Vilnius. She is known for her manner of painting which is reminiscent of the old masters (objects in her paintings are portrayed in a realistic manner; she uses oil paint and the glazing technique). However, the glazed surface of her paintings is only illusory, because both her content and artistic strategies are contemporary.
Jurkšaitytė often creates entire series of paintings. One such well-known series is titled Paintings and Interiors (2005) where the artist repaints works by famous old masters, such as Sandro Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, Jan Vermeer, and others. Here two things appear to be of major importance. First, the painter copies artwork by the old masters by using really small reproductions of the originals. Second, in doing so she removes all the human figures portrayed in the original paintings. Thus, the empty space in the room and the light rather than Christ and his disciples turn out to be the main characters in the painting of The Last Supper. The series of paintings Last minute (2005–2006) portray repainted hotel ads from photographs. Rooms, swimming pools and reception halls are also absolutely empty, cleared of people and their personal belongings. The first awkward impression that strikes the viewer looking at such empty spaces is gradually replaced with inquisitiveness and understanding that the artist provides us with an opportunity to take a better look at all that is usually left in the background: floor tile ornaments, chair design and the softness of curtain fabrics.
Non-eloquent components appear to be equally important in Jurkšaitytė’s series Dutch Stories.The painting Dutch Stories 6 is part of the series, too. However, this time different components represent different periods in the history of Western culture. In the history of art, Holland is first and foremost associated with the so-called ‘small Dutch paintings’. In the 17th century, there was an economic upheaval in the Netherlands and the business of painting flourished. There were thousands of painters all over the country and their level of mastery varied greatly. They all painted small realistic artwork which became extremely popular among urban dwellers. Household interiors with scenes from everyday life were among the most frequent motifs of their artwork. Painters of the time devoted a lot of attention to portraying different types of facture and cosy light. The impatient viewers who are already familiar with the earlier works by Jurkšaitytė might be misled by the thought that in these series the artist again tries to ‘cleanse’the Dutch interior of the 17th century of people, but this time the artist suggests an even more interesting game.
Jurkšaitytė’s painting Dutch Stories 6 is reminiscent of the interior depicted in the ‘small Dutch paintings’. A small open door leads the viewer into imagining that they are a casual viewer of the scene. The interior is brightly lit with soft daylight, enabling the viewer’s eye to admire different factures of wooden objects in the painting. But which period is this interior from? The backrest of the sofa in the foreground reminds of the Rococo period, whereas the red chair further back clearly represents the Renaissance period. Finally, a row of identical chairs on the left suggests that it is not a home interior at all but that we are looking at the interior of an antique shop instead, where furniture from various periods in history is offered for sale. Again, the space of the antique shop is rather peripheral and not eloquent at all. It is the space where the story of furniture is temporarily frozen for it to restart in a new home after the furniture is purchased by a new owner.
The painting is full of authentic furniture –artefacts of the history of culture. Modern viewers do not need to be told that every single piece of the furniture here is a valuable in itself, because nowadays all that is history is valuable. The painting does not contain a single key component of meaning or composition. Unlike the old masters, Jurkšaitytėis not trying to make the viewer feel comfortable. Quite the contrary: the eye of the viewer keeps moving chaotically around the painting along concurrent diagonals, trying to ‘enter’through one open door after another. The main component that would catch the eye of the viewer is not the only thing that is lacking in this interior. It contains no ‘exit’ either, because there is no open window or any other space that would allow the eye of the viewer to finally break free or at least get some rest.
Without openly criticising society, the artist seems to be contemplating the view of a contemporary human being on the history of culture that is impossible to overlook. It is only possible to record separate components of it and later construct one’s own ‘antique shop’out of them, instead.