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Laimonis Mieriņš (1929–2011)

IN MEMORIAM



24. FEBRUARY7. APRIL. 2012
Main building of the Latvian National Museum of Art : White Hall


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5. JANUARY31. MAY. 2012

5. JANUARY. 201231. MAY. 2013
Laimonis Mieriņš
25. MARCH. 2012
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The Latvian National Museum of Art (Kr. Valdemāra Street 10a, Rīga) is proud to announce that from February 24 to April 5, 2012, there will be a commemorative exhibition in the museum’s White Hall in honour of the late Latvian émigré artist Laimonis Mieriņš.

Laimonis Mieriņš was born on March 12, 1929, in the Slampe Parish of the Tukums District of Latvia, and he passed away on December 21, 2011, in Shipley, UK.

In 1944, Laimonis joined his mother and brothers in fleeing to Germany.  Three years later, at the age of 18, he applied for work as a farm worker in England.  In the early 1950s, he found work at a textiles factory in Bradford.  During weekends, he learned painting from the Latvian painter and graphic artist Alfrēds Kalniņš.   Laimonis sometimes visited the grand master Valdemārs Tone in London, although on most occasions the distinguished artist and the novice simply talked about painting.

1961 represented a decisive turning point in the life of Laimonis Mieriņš.  He was admitted to the College of Art in Leeds, where the educational programme was based on the principles of the Bauhaus school of art from Germany – functionalism and a merger of art and industry.  Upon being graduated, Laimonis spent a year studying art pedagogy at the Goldsmith College of Art in London, and while he was there, he was invited to teach at his alma mater in Leeds.  He taught art history and drawing from 1965 until 1994, and this provided him with the financial independence that allowed him to pursue his own creative work.  Laimonis began to exhibit art in Britain and elsewhere in the world in 1958, and his personal exhibitions have been shown at distinguished art galleries in Britain and Canada.  In 1995, the Latvian National Museum of Art organised a personal exhibition of his art.

The purposeful nature of this artist’s work allows him to be judged in the context of 20th century Western abstract art, because colour is the basic element in his work.  Colour exists in and of itself and can be independent of the relevant object.  Art is an “experience,” not an object.  When contrasted, two colours create a theme.  Form means managing colour, it does not allow colour to take over everything, and in this sense form and colour are sworn enemies.

During the 1970s, Laimonis Mieriņš decided that the best format for him was the square – something which he felt to be just as dynamic as a circle.  Seeking ways of distancing himself from reality, Laimonis gathered together bits of colourful paper and textile, experimented with them and put together collages.  Eventually he arrived at what he called the Chevron (a “V” form).  When a chevron was part of a square composition, it ensured dynamism not just in terms of a chevron in a square, but also of harsh and even hostile relations among colours.  This allowed Laimonis Mieriņš to express his uncompromising attitude toward the world’s peace and comfort.  He needed an exacerbated situation before he could paint, particularly if that situation was in the artist himself.

Laimonis preferred to produce thematic series of works.  He worked on his chevron motif for more than seven years, softening the ascetic stiffness of the series with splashes and drips of paint.  The artist was an impatient man who was dissatisfied in creative terms, but he put all of those emotions into his patience so that he could control himself when he was with others.  “Farewell to the Chevron” is not just the title of a painting.  It represents the start of a new cycle, with the artist saying farewell not just to form, but also to the limitations which he placed onto himself.  The next series of artworks showed clean areas of colour, gentle transitions, drips of paint and anti-colour layers that were expressive in calligraphic terms.  In the artist’s artworks from the 1980s, one senses the presence of an illusory space with expression and a controlled and quiet movement.  The sudden interruptions of bands of lines and colours, the unexpected splashes or drips of colour – these represent an electrified and sudden halt which creates the sense of being close to the artist’s zone of the subconscious.

Former ideas try not to yield before new ones.  During the subsequent decade, the artist produced endless variations on the compositions which he had developed in the past.  The rhythm of repeated lines is that which creates the effect of movement on the surface of the painting, as well as the illusion of space.

The works produced by Laimonis Mieriņš during his last year in life offer a sense of classical reticence.  Strict arrangements of areas are contrasted to dripping paint or expressive circled areas of opposite colours, with seemingly spontaneous splashes of paint which, the artist himself once said, were the most difficult thing to produce.  Simultaneous peace and movement and the clarity of the idea are contrasted with explosions of emotion.

The technical excellence and instinctive sense of colour which Laimonis Mieriņš always displayed were very much based on his experience with drawing.  His drawings are always realistic, and usually it is the figure of a woman that is shown.  The artist is not interested in details or the personality of the model.  He is just interested in the condition, pose and angle of the body.  The aesthetic cleanness of form and the line that is drawn without lifting the charcoal pencil from the paper are of importance here.  In the India Ink brush paintings which Laimonis produced in the 1990s, the poses of women were simpler, and more attention was devoted to the contrast between black and white.  Unlike his calligraphic charcoal drawings, here the artist presented a sense of vital energy.

Laimonis Mieriņš was also known as an active art critic, and his articles about aspects of Latvian art were published both in Latvia and abroad.  His first publications appeared in Jaunā Gaita in 1963, and the artist and the magazine enjoyed close co-operation for many years to come.  After the restoration of Latvia’s independence, Laimonis spent a few weeks in Rīga almost every year, and afterward he always wrote about his experience with art in the country for Jaunā Gaita.

Laimonis Mieriņš was something of a hermit in the overall world of émigré Latvian art.  His restless spirit felt encumbered by the hermetic Latvianness of the Latvian community, and in England he was known as a British artist of Latvian origin.

The Rīga Stock Exchange Museum of Art had planned a personal exhibition for Laimonis Mieriņš in the summer of 2012, and upon learning the sad news of his passing, it was decided to organise a commemorative exhibition at the Latvian National Museum of Art instead.  The exhibition will feature works from the museum’s collection, the artist’s family, and private collections in Latvia.  The exhibition in the White Hall confirms the museum’s respect for Laimonis Mieriņš’ creative life.

Text: Ilze Putniņa

 

 

“My drawing is always realistic, and it is always the figure of a woman.  I draw for my own enjoyment.  I draw quickly.  I enjoy complicated angles, the more complicated the better.  That’s why it is hard for me to find good models.  I just want to work quickly and get it over with.  It’s a spontaneous thing.  Six or seven attempts, and then I am at peace.  I cannot concentrate myself any longer than that.”

Laimonis Mieriņš

 

“What is an understanding of colour?  How do colours behave in optic terms amongst one another.  Let’s say that you paint most of your canvas red, and then your design sense leads you to put a green square in the middle of that field.  That establishes a mighty conflict, and it is an emotional one.  If, however, you paint a green apple at the same proportion on that red field, then the battle is different – a round form behaves differently than a rectangular one does.  It is like a tangle which gets in the way.  In that case, it’s better to use stripes, because they do not create associations with that which is related to an object.”

Laimonis Mieriņš

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The Latvian National Museum of Art, K.Valdemāra iela 10a, Rīga LV-1010, Latvija