Everybody knows that if a person stifles their emotions or experiences, one day they will finally erupt either in the direct sense of the word or through tiresome dreams and illness. Plumbers, firefighters, politicians and riot police also know all about the threshold level of pressure. For all of them a moment of silence may mean that it is already too late: the pipe will soon demolish the wall, the fire will burst open the windows, somebody will lose their post and the rioters will flood the streets, even though a moment ago one could hear a tree leaf swirling in the wind.Uždaryti
The painting by Kristina Ališauskaitė (b. 1984) with the romantic title Among the Stars (2017) portrays exactly that moment of complete silence before the fountain erupts in full force. Even if the author herself would deny it and even if for that purpose she decided to change the title into something like Dead-Beat Fountain, the probability of a bang would still turn the image into the dangerous moment of silence right before the bang. Equally, even if we called a giant white shark floating in the vicinity a Pussy Cat, this would not eliminate the probability that it may suddenly attack, including our nervous reaction to it. Therefore, when I look at this painting, I will always feel the moment of culmination approaching. This feels really exciting.
It seems that in her work Ališauskaitė does not portray any action at all, but the painting is boiling with tension. Where does this tension come from? The power of the image lies in the opposites that generate tension like edge stones. The reflection of the stars in the water almost hears the silent murmur of water. The imagination stretches the image to that of a park or even a city, or maybe even an idyllic suburban manor. All the associations stem from our reaction, like in a sanatorium ad. However, this network of connections is replaced with another one, where the water works as a drowning element, a threat of a delayed blast and the unknown stretching in front of you. Sigmund Freud could have told us much more about the image of water in psychology. Here it would suffice to say that humidity and fluids are present in the iconography of intercourse. They are related to life and death thus they reach the depths of our existence, be they articulated or non-articulated, the latter especially. In Ališauskaitė’s fountain, everything is made of water. There is more of the invisible than the visible. Visually, it reminds of the iceberg which brought the luxurious liner Titanic to ruin. Roughcast images always raise suspicion.
However, are we not giving too much credit (meaning and implications) to one rather small (96 x 130 cm) painting? It happens though that the person interpreting a piece of artwork sees in it all that is topical for them and the author themselves have nothing to do with the interpreter’s visions at all. Nonetheless, this would only be part of the truth, because an image gains power only when placed in a context. Its power is unleashed when it becomes a key to a greater phenomenon. Likewise, this could be perceived as a metonymic effect. Ališauskaitė’s fountain may represent the state of her generation or ‘the spirit of her times’, just like the word ‘crown’can represent the whole kingdom. Maybe this painting could be interpreted as a presentiment of a leap in the young professional artist’s career. The fluttering force of youth is about to turn into a power, which in its own turn is full of dangers, such as pride in already being better than the rest. It could be rather easy to react to this painting with greater intensity in the context of the metoo#wave, because this movement also resulted from a giant lump of stifled negative experiences. When women lost their patience about being treated like objects of lending, a powerful force erupted, but many are scared by the elemental nature of this wave, because it can also sweep away the things that we would like to preserve. This is why returning to the moment right before the eruption seems to be so tempting. We really wish we would have contemplated many more things before the eruption and avoided being caught unexpectedly.
To put it much simpler, in order to become a valuable element of memory, a piece of artwork must be personally valuable and it does not matter whether we would hang it on the wall above our sofa or not. The work Among the Stars, as a fountain of deceptive calm, may as well be a means to train one’s patience on a daily basis. If a person keeps wishing for safety and stability, and their life seems to intentionally lack stability, all that remains is to continue training and preparing for the moments of downfall. Childhood fairy tales and good art in later years come in extremely handy for that purpose. The paradox is that Ališauskaitė’s fountain can meet two needs all at the same time: the need to be lulled to sleep (of course, one needs rest from time to time) and the need to get scared by one’s ability to adapt to life with all of its imperfections.
During one of her interviews, the artist said that ‘the entire surrounding reality as perceived by us is a mere result of our imagination’. Often her paintings remind of cinema shots or hastily taken photographs. They are out of context but often entail an absolutely clear feeling. For example, The Scene(2017), where, again, nothing is happening, but it is so obvious that there are observers and the observed ones. None of them are visible, but the overall feeling that it is quite impossible to guess whether it is all for better or for worse is extremely vivid. Ališauskaitė is clearly capable of purifying the experience that her artwork radiates. Therefore, it is not surprising at all that her CV includes important exhibition sites and prizes. They will never define the essence but will mark the territory.