Hanele Zane Putniņa. Exhibit According to Description
From 25 May to 13 August 2023, Hanele Zane Putniņa’s solo exhibition Exhibit According to Description is presented in the Cupola Hall of the main building of the Latvian National Museum of Art in Riga (Jaņa Rozentāla laukums 1).
On a table, violet and white lilac branches in a white-variegated vase.
One branch on the table. In the foreground, on the left, a glass on a stem.
The source of Hanele Zane Putniņa’s new series of linocuts is the work descriptions in the inventory cards of the collection of painting of the 2nd half of the 20th century – 21st century at the Latvian National Museum of Art (LNMA). When an artwork is accessioned to the museum’s collection, the curator makes a short and succinct description of the new acquisition. Wishing to be as concise as possible, the writer may, at the time of formulating the idea, fail to notice other associations arising from the text. In its essence, the inventory card text perfectly realises its function – to record a specific work as a part of a collection, yet, by reading it outside this context or literarily, new layers of meaning may arise. For the artist, these texts become a recipe for the creation of new compositions or interpretations. Another important condition is that Hanele Zane Putniņa does not see the original objects described in the inventory cards while producing her works. In response to the text, the artist envisions a composition which she transposes to a linocut drawing as literally as possible. Thus the link between the text, the work and the interpretation is established.
Hanele Zane Putniņa’s most recent series of linocuts invites reflection on the nature of artistic interpretation and the goals that it serves. It is common to ask questions about works of art out of confusion or curiosity – sometimes we do not understand the work’s meaning and want to dispel any misconceptions. This is the process that could be called interpretation, where we scrutinise the works’ message, suggest explanations and draw creative parallels. In order to grasp the author’s idea, we spend extraordinary amounts of time with texts explaining the work, which may be closer or farther from the artist’s original intention.
For the artist, though, the works often come about freely, without any prior text. It is later that the work acquires a text about itself, sometimes from the artist. And in these museum inventory cards, whose existence many might not even suspect, each work has acquired a description. How do we relate what is in front of our eyes to another person with as much clarity as possible? Just like in a game of Chinese whispers or a Google translation of a translation – a serious thought may turn into another serious thought or, to the contrary – light-hearted hilarity.
The exhibition is accompanied by the release of the artist’s book, for which essays on various questions of interpretation and museology are being written by curator Līna Birzaka-Priekule, LNMA Deputy Director for Collections Iveta Derkusova and philosopher Igor Gubenko.
About the artist
Hanele Zane Putniņa (1990) lives and works in Riga. Hanele’s graphic works are mostly based on mythological characters from folklore and legends, which the artist often recreates in large-format linocut. These imposing compositions of cosmologic images mix with depictions of the absurd found in modest everyday situations, which she sometimes calls “Bruegels”.
Hanele is interested in historic printmaking techniques and all that surrounds them. The artist continues her journey in the world of the linocut, taking the biggest possible gouges and striving to find treasures among the linoleum’s shavings. She is rapidly approaching her first hectare carved in linoleum.
Since the release of her large-format book Smurgulis un Īscaurule [The Brat and the Branch-Pipe] in 2012, Hanele Zane Putniņa has established her underground publishing house Rakete in Riga. The connection between printmaking techniques and books is so striking that, when the night comes, she retires to her press to put together a few layouts.
Text by Līna Birzaka-Priekule