An entrance guarded by two palm trees and three steps that lead to the house which Lithuanian artist Jurgita Gerlikaite chose as her studio, her gallery to showcase her artwork, and her home in Umm Suqeim in Dubai. She has been living here for the past three months now. ( the article, written by Ali Al Ameri, was published on 22 January 2010 in Emirates Today. This article was republished in Jurgita Gerlikaite website).
The glass façade of the house allows sunrays to penetrate into the gallery where her paintings hang on the walls. The sunlight plays with the colors of the paintings, and light and shadow dance in that space in the center of which hangs a chandelier with nine lights like paratroopers distributing light in the night of the room.
A stairway leading upstairs; doors leading to rooms; and deep within, a back door that leads to a garden and a pond decorated with deep blue ceramics; surrounded by palm trees and other plants near a linen rope swing, a table and chairs perfect for meditation.
In an interview with “Emirates Today” Jurgita said: “I don’t want to reproduce reality in my art”. She believes that “the studio is the place for creative solitude”. She describes Dubai, which she has come to love, and so decided to make her home, as a “city of ideas”.
During our conversation, Jurgita spoke of her childhood and of all the studios where she worked. She spoke of culture in her family, the techniques she uses in her paintings, her solo exhibitions, her vision of creativity, her motivation for expressing herself through art, and her search for meanings within layers. Jurgita grew up in a creative home. Her grandmother was an artist, her father specializes in portraiture, her mother is an art critic for the National Museum in the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius, and her brother studied art and is a jewelry designer.
Jurgita studied Fine Arts in Lithuania, Iceland and Denmark, specialized in graphic art. “My upbringing in a household involved in art has allowed me to express my feelings”, she said. She described the creative environment she grew up by saying: “there were paintings and sculptures everywhere; it was a house of colors”. She reminisced about her childhood days in Vilnius: “Poets, musicians, novelists, artists and philosophers used to visit my father, Pranciskus, at our home and we kids were always introduced to them; and they would sign their books and creative works and give them to us as gifts”.
The artist, together with her jewelry designer brother, Darijus Gerlikas, put together and published a book dedicated to their grandmother, Petronele Gerlikiene (1905-1979), who was an intuitive artist. Jurgita remembers watching her grandmother embroider her work thread by thread, and painting spontaneously from memory. She adds: “She would finish her embroidery work surprisingly quickly, working directly from her imagination, without a pattern. And for her paintings on canvas she would use colors directly from the tube. She considered painting to be the same as education; she never received a formal school education”.
Speaking of her grandmother’s life, which was troubled by numerous tragedies during both World Wars, Jurgita added: “My grandmother started embroidering in 1972; and she started painting at the age of 71. Over the period of almost five years she produced more than 10 large tapestries and over 60 paintings”.
Jurgita lived in the family home in the capital of Lithuania until she was 20. She went on to tell us: “My mother, Danute Marijona, was an art critic and worked for the Museum of Vilnius. There were many discussions at home revolving around plastic arts exhibitions; culture was a major component of our family life”. Jurgita grew up in this artistic and creative atmosphere in Vilnius, a city that is over 1000 years old.
During her childhood, the family home was her first studio, and its walls the first creative space for artistic expression. But the walls were too large a space for a child eager to express herself through color; besides, those walls were not designed to be painted on. She added: “In my childhood, I started painting on the walls of my home, but my parents were quick to recognize my talent and they provided me with the paper, canvas, paint and tools that I needed”.
Artist Jurgita specialized in graphic art; she loves reading and writing poetry. She started writing in her childhood – and so poetry lives with her. Her engravings, her silkscreens, her digital art, all her artwork is poetic. There is poetry in her work, whether reflected in numerous colors or in monotone, black, white and their different tones. She said: “I try to express my feelings, my thoughts and reflections in words and color”.
The family home in Vilnius was like a “creative workshop”; paintings on the walls, statues, books, drawing tools, and discussions on culture. Jurgita studied art history in the Academy of Fine Arts in Vilnius and later moved to Iceland to study graphic art – from lithography, engraving, to silkscreen. She ended up spending a great many hours in the studio from where she breathed art, meditated on nature, and practiced drawing in the open air in the fields. It was also where she saw the exotic phenomenon called northern lights.
Speaking of the motivation behind her creative work which revolves around man’s inner world and the seeking of meanings inside layers, the artist said that: “It is about love, self-expression and the sharing of ideas, dreams and reflections”. She stressed that: “Creative people are hungry for knowledge, and for sharing this knowledge, love and expression. Art techniques are not an end in themselves, but love is the torch of creativity which makes life possible and more beautiful”.
Jurgita visited Dubai on the 6th of November last year– that is three months ago. She toured the city’s landmarks and fell in love, because it is “the city of ideas, creativity and beauty which is reflected in day to day life” as she described it. She added: “I was astonished when I read the poems of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum on his website which speak of love. I was impressed with the fact that the Ruler of Dubai is a poet who encourages creativity and education. This is what has made Dubai great where many cultures converge”. So I decided to stay in Dubai and to start interacting with all its cultural components.
The Lithuanian artist who had 12 solo exhibitions and several group exhibitions looks forward to organizing an exhibition in Dubai. She expressed her desire for sharing with others and for teaching art. She would also like to learn more about Arab culture, pointing out that this probably goes back to her childhood: “When my mother read stories to me, many were about Arab customs and traditions in the desert, and their generous nature. I used to listen to the stories and imagine Arab life and traveling through the desert”.
Jurgita lived in the Danish capital Copenhagen for seven years. During that period, 2003 to 2006, she held two graphic art exhibitions, and she learned to use non-toxic materials in her artwork. The method primarily uses water, ink and other materials in various tones. She executed print work in black and white in this field which employs the principles of photography. She also learned “digital graphics” and how to create impressionist work using this technique. She pointed out that “multi-media creativity enriches the artist’s experience which allows for new expressive spaces and new possibilities”.
She had a studio at Factory of Art and Design, previously an old laundry building that encompassed studios for painting, sculpture, multimedia, fashion and graphic art. “The Copenhagen experience was important to me because we could share opinions and studio doors were always open” commented Jurgita in a reference to the doors for dialogue and sharing experiences between artists being also open.
Jurgita’s creative vision focuses on abstraction, because, she stressed: “I do not want to reproduce nature or the reality before our eyes”. Some of her work, especially her digital graphic art, is a dialogue of colors and with shapes overlapping to produce layers of varying color depths. In some of her work we see a flower or a leaf covering the entire canvas, revealing its inner details and overlapping other layers.
These paintings need further reflection to be able to unveil the layers of inner meaning; the inner references hidden underneath the creative ambiguity. In this aspect, the artist touches on Sufism, mysticism or the Zen philosophy which aims to “reveal the absolute within the limited”. Jurgita employs her poetic intuition in the creation of her artwork as if she were a color-full ascent, especially as she is also keen on philosophy and poetry.
In her engravings/ etching dialogues between abstraction and embodiment as “an expression of the overlap between fact and fiction” abound. She pointed out that “art raises more questions, which makes people search more and reflect more on the aesthetics of art”. The artist, who re-constructs the inner world and the surrounding environment from a poetic perspective, elaborated that: “abstraction, or re-construction, gives new meanings to ordinary things”.
The Solitude of the Zero Line
Embarking on a piece of art can be described as “the zero line”, that is the first condition in which the painting, sculpture, poem or piece of music is created. Speaking of that ritual, the artist Jurgita Gerlikaite says “Before starting any creative work, I enter moments of profound reflection, in creative isolation, where passions bubble and ideas form in the imagination in a joyful environment”. She describes this condition as “an extreme condition of passion and meditation, which takes me to the heights of aesthetic joy. At that metaphysical moment, all the experiences, feelings, and diversified cultures I have known intensify and I become highly in touch with them”.