Artist Algis Griškevičius is, at once, a nobody and an Übermensch – an artist who works in minimal materials yet manages to evoke the sum total of aesthetic history with his output. Intricate and hopeless, delightful yet pitiful, even the most beautiful of our histories eventually erode. He thatches together temporary sculptures from wood that bend like whims which he then places on bodies that are flawed, condemned to themselves, un-ideal. There is no transcendence, no redemption here for these characters but to fully accept the role they've been bound to, at which point beauty sprouts from us and the picture both. He has maintained his art practice through personal epochs of commercialism, the Cold War and decade-long stints as a set builder and painter for opera and theater houses. The souls of his works bear the calloused hands and personal criticism of someone who has had to both eat and suffer from what he loves. On the event of his photographs being exhibited by Galerie STP during the current Berliner Liste Art Fair, Artparasites asked some probing questions to this enigmatic, ambitious artist.
Enter The Abyss
Artparasites: Your paintings are beautiful renderings of man's imposition on the natural world, while your photography and objects are in a sense, the opposite – man wanting the natural world to impose on him. What is it about futility and the human condition that you love portraying so much?
Algis Griškevičius: The purpose of every animal is to survive: to get food and find shelter from enemies. Man, on the other hand, is without an obvious purpose. This is why he feels unhappy, not knowing how to implement a purpose. In both my work and self there is a constant tug-of-war between the sentimental romantic and the sarcastic cynic. When the romantic side is winning I usually paint, and when I am filled with explosive sarcasm and irony I take pictures. Sometimes the fight is bloody between them and, as a result, I produce tragicomic works which reflect the current condition of both the world and myself.
APs: Your photographs also are great fun, they poke with a smile at everything from art history to aging to the transience of the intellect. What else are they designed to do?
AG: The truth is really in the viewer's eyes. People from different cultures and with different cultural / intellectual caches interpret my pictures differently. I always aim to create big rooms for association that even I get lost in. The majority of my photographs depict a tragicomic struggle between the body and spirit, where the body usually wins and the artist acts as the spirit's protector.
APs: Can you tell us a few things that you learned about art and philosophy through all of your experience in theatre? Through art even?
AG: One of the most important things I've learned is that people who think visually are totally different from those to think in words, and also that there are very few talented writers in art who can use words well enough to build a solid frame to describe the visual. The roots of theatre are in literature and its interpretations, while visual artists often are at a loss for inspirational verbal depictions. I myself am caught in the middle of this conundrum, but intuition can help to build bridges to either side.
APs: In another interview, you mention that in your art studies you had to often destroy your freshly completed paintings and start over. Do you think this idea has vanished from arts today? Do you still think this is an important value / process to learn and why?
AG: The essential question here is: is it important to pay attention to yourself or to the results of your practice? An artist that dedicates himself to his practice will never be satisfied with his results. In today's art scene there is a space for those who dedicate themselves to perfection, but more often, less demanding art projects are in the spotlight.
APs: Another quote: “The world is a big theatre.” What do you say to that?
AG: The essential question of theatre-as-life is: Does the great director exist? Did we receive our roles or choose them ourselves? Who are the heroes and who are the statisticians? Artists have a unique ability to imagine themselves in His director's chair and distribute roles to others. Is all of that mere narcissism? Everyone who thinks probably wonders at one time or another how to survive without acting. On stage, it probably sounds like “To be or not to be?”
APs: You have made art through some dark times politically and, maybe now, we are in an even darker political time because we are not fully aware of the darkness that possesses us as a world. Is it easier to make art now as opposed to then? Is success easier to achieve now than in the 80's?
AG: Man's weakness never changes. Every system wants conformists. In my opinion, artists have to stand against and be critical towards any system. This is not easy. Talent and conscience are essential.
APs: Are you an expert in anything? If so, what?
AG: In the past, I was an expert for the Ministry of Culture in Lithuania. I helped solve different problems for them, such as distributing premiums and scholarships for artists and the like. Today I am free of those duties and concentrate on my creative work only.
APs: What is your idea of a perfect dinner?
AG: Eschewing perfection, I would be interested to host a dinner attended by strangers in complete darkness. You couldn't see what you ate or who you talked to. I wonder how this dinner would end.
APs: What is the most beautiful part of a woman?
AG: I can't think of a favorite because I am usually captivated by the relationship between parts. It's hard for me to decide if a combination of big eyes and small breasts is better than one of narrow hips and wide lips.
APs: What work of yours has given you the most satisfaction?
AG: I won't sound original by saying that my favorite work is the one that is currently in process. It captivates me until completion.
APs: What will the future be for us?
AG: The future is the same as the present with one fixed constant: we all die.
Algis Griškevičius [Price range of works: 700 – 2000 Euros]
Article by Drury Brennan