Male Textiles by Lijana Sataviâute PDF  | Print |  E-mail

Andrius Ermino  Euro Standards 1

Andrius Erminas,  Euro Standards 2009, euro pallet, nails, 120 x 80 x 15


“Patterns” by Andrius Erminas

"Display - Hidden"  by Feliksas Jakubauskas

" Virtual Identity" graduate exhibition by  Mantas Tevelvičius

Men Textiles: International Exhibition featuring Dainius Bendikas (LT), Jamie Chalmers (GB), Andrius Erminas (LT), Nerijus Erminas (LT), Gruupe Try 3 (LT), Kazimieras Incirauskas (LT), Sergey Ivanov (LT), Roland Krutovs (LV), Simonas Nekrosius (LT), Ron Nordstrm (FI), Remigjus Praspaliauskas (LT), Peteris Sidars (LV) Marius Zavadskis (LT), Julius Zekas (text) and Julijus Balčikonis (textiles) (LT) Nezinomas Autorius

  January7 -30, 2010

artifex Gallery
Gaono St. 1, Vilnius
 Grupe Try 3 , 7 Colours
Grupe Try 3 , 7 Colours, Installation 

To defend the male wing of Lithuanian textile would mean to fight stereotypes. The image of textile as a typical female activity has been embedded too deeply in the consciousness of the society. Textile artists of today will hardly be able to change this, even though they forge and embroider metal, knit from wire, photography, film and create textile with other non-traditional means. A group of successful male textile artists will not convince those who doubt or representatives of other arts who reinforce the female wing of Lithuanian textile.

The origin of stereotypes lies in Lithuanian weaving traditions. In Lithuanian villages of the 19th and beginning of the 20th c., every woman used to weave like in other patriarchal agrarian cultures. Male weavers are more frequent in countries where this craft turned into trade transactions early on, due to specific circumstances or the exceptional artistic value of woven artifacts (in some African tribes, areas of India, Kashmir, etc.). Men used to abandon hunting, fishing, warfare and other ways of supporting their families for the sake of weaving. Meanwhile, in Lithuanian villages, weaving was inseparable from women’s way of life and their most important rituals: preparation for matrimony, matchmaking, wedding, christening and family celebrations. Fabrics performed an important social function, especially because growing and processing the main raw material for weaving — flax — used to gather women for harmonious communal rituals that inspired creativity, songs, myths and fairy tales

Yet the role of men in the world history of textiles is indisputable. Men were the main makers of looms and improved the construction of weaving instruments; they used to work in weaving workshops of manufactures and manors (let us remember weavers in Lithuanian manors); men used to create cardboards [cartoons ed.] for tapestries as well as projects for industrial fabrics, Up until mid 20th c., they mainly dictated unique and mass produced textile fashions. Work with textiles by recognized modernists [Maillol, Derain, Picasso, Rouault, Miro, Le Corbusier and Vasarely) raised the status of the art of weaving during the last century: they created sketches and projects, presented ideas to weavers and even tried to weave. Men initiated the most important phenomenon of 20th c. textile, the movement for the rebirth of tapestry. French architect Le Corbusier and painter Jean Lurçat emphasised the necessity of textile artefacts in functionalist interiors. The Association of Painters Cardboard Designers for Tapestries (Association des Peintres Cartoniers de Tapisserie) founded in 1947 by French artists (only men!) spread the fashion of tapestries in architecture.

Next to Le Corbusier and J. Lurçat, Its members were Raoult Dufy, Fernand Leger, Mario Prasscinos, Jean Paul Le-Doux, Vincent Duignebert and Marcel Gromaire. Their exhibitions, having toured the USA, Canada and various countries of Europe in the 1940s — 1 950s, fascinated audiences and prompted world textile artists to form organizations and hold international exhibitions of new tapestry. Besides) the organizers of those exhibitions were also men. Thanks to the efforts of Lurçat, the International Centre of Old and New Tapestry (Internationale de la Tapisserie Ancienne et Moderne) was created in Lausanne (Switzerland in 1961. Its goal was to promote tapestry and coordinate activities of artists who worked in this area. In 1962, by the initiative of Lurçat and his colleague Pierre Paulie, the first international biennial of Lausanne was organized with a mission to “encourage works that would express the time, express the constant movement and changes in art end life”. 1 Important French interiors — the church of Assy (1946—1948), the house of European Parliament in Strasbourg (1951—1954) and J. Lurçat Contemporary Tapestry Museum in Angers (1957—1963) — were decorated with monumental and expressive series of tapestries on allegorical subjects by Lurçat.

In the 20th c., the pioneer of professional textile in Lithuania was also a man. Graphic artist Antanas Tamošaitis, who was born in Barzdai Village (Šakiai District) in 1906 and graduated from the Kaunas Art School, believed that it was possible to develop Lithuanian professional textile based on Lithuanian folk fabrics. While working at the House of Agriculture) he organized and led weaving courses, as he understood how important it was for the young state to preserve folk art, to raise its status in the eyes of the society, to make it accessible to the wider population.

The accumulated knowledge was spread through books written and edited by Tamošaitis; they were written first for the education of folk weavers, ordinary village women and girls creating their needlework. Those publications developed the concept of nationality, reminded of the ways of producing folk artefacts, their traditional forms and patterns. In 1934, after having founded a weaving workshop-studio in Ąžuolų Būda, Tamošaitis led the artistic part of this studio. Village masters used to make weaving equipment according to Tamošaitis’ designs. Three solo exhibitions of tapestries held in pre-war Kaunas (1935, 1937 and 1938) testify to the artist’s diligence and productivity. His tapestries were a very important highlight of Lithuanian expositions at World Expos in Paris (1937) and New York (1939) as well. as at the international exhibition of fine arts in Berlin (1938).

The fate had it that a man also stood at the steering wheel of the Weaving Studio founded in 1940 at the Kaunas Applied Arts Institute. This was the famous graphic artist Viktoras Petravičius (1906—1989) who was not satisfied with the diploma of the Kaunas Art School and continued his studies as a fellow of the Republic of Lithuania in Paris in 1935—1938. The first programme for training textile artists edited in 1941 also belongs to Petravičius’ pen; it established consistent principles of learning technological and artistic skills and the recognition of folk art. In fact, Petravičius was replaced as the head of the Weaving Studio by Tamošaitis in 1942; consequently Petravičius left the studio the same year. Despite the short period of his educational activities, the famous artist deserved to feel that he had influenced the development of the 20th c. professional Lithuanian textile.

At the end of World War H, when the activities of the Institute resumed, men also led the Decorative Fabrics Studio for a while: the stage designer Mykolas Labuckas (1912—1998), the painter Antanas Zmuidzinavičius (1876—1966) and from 1946, the stage designer Liudas Truikys who made a great contribution towards the development of professionalism in Lithuanian textile. Since training of textile artists was concentrated in the hands of private masters or left to the centres of special education up until 1940, great efforts were necessary to change the idea of the textile artefact. The programme of Truikys, based on national colours and the principles of composition of Oriental countries (Ancient Egypt, Near East), helped to preserve what was specific to textile under Stalin, the period that was the least favourable to the arts. Yet post-war officials understood the methods taught by Truikys as pure formalism; thus, after several years, he was forced to resign, and another man, the painter Jonas Vaitys (1903—1963) became the head of the Department.

From 1951, the Textile Arc Department of the Lithuanian Art Institute was led by an exceptional personality, Juozas Balčikonis (b. 1924). He dedicated over forty years to education and introduced innovations to Lithuanian textile art: he promoted batik, plangi and riju techniques, monumental tapestries and contributed to the improvement of the artistic level in this area of art as well as in application of textile artefacts in interiors, With his expressive and emotionally suggestive works marked by folk contents and modern form, Balčikonis is dictated the tendencies of meaningful, national and monumental form to entire Lithuanian textile art.

For many decades, another prominent artist, Vladas Daujotas (1921 —2009), was a faithful helper of Balčikonis; Daujotas dedicated the most beautiful years of his life to work at the Institute: he lectured for almost five decades. Every student of the department felt from their first year Daujotas taste, professional attitude and respect towards tradition. The professor cared about students’ summer practice work. He wished that young people knew Lithuania better, that in the areas of the country untouched by civilization they could find their national identity.

And what about other honourable men who worked (or still work) at the Textile Department for a longer or shorter period? Textile artists Jonas Stankevičius, Medardas Šimelis, Anicetas Jonutis and Kęstutis Balčikonis, painters and graphic artists Antanas Gudaitis, Rimtautas Gibavičius, Leonas Katinas, Augustinas Savickas, Jonas Svažas and Linas Katinas.

Here you are — men. We could say without exaggerating that before the restoration of independence the cradle of Lithuanian textile was in the hands of honourable and talented men. Yet most of their students were women who learned their skills from their teachers and adapted them to their independent creative careers. Male students were the minority, but they contributed considerably to the so-called national school and decently represented textile art. The history of Lithuanian textile is unimaginable (next to Tamošaitis, Balčikonis, Daujotas) without Zenonas Varnauskas, Algimantas Stulgys, Šimelis, M. Jonutis, Feliksas Jakubauskas, Žilvinas Jonutis, K. Balčikonis, Vytautas Jūrevičius and Romualdas Terleckas, This is the elder or middle generation of artists. And what about young artists?

Felikso  Jakubausko  Dancing in the Twilight 2009  detail

Felikso  Jakubausko, Dancing in the Twilight,  2009  Mixed media. Wool Viscose silk 130 x 180

When the historical situation changed and textile joined the process of contemporary art, as the borders between different arts and genres were blurring and non-traditional expression was gaining ground, textile has become increasingly attractive to representatives of other arts. Sculptors Naglis Rytis Baltušnikas, Marius Zavadskis, Kazys Venclovas and Algis Kasparavičius graphic artists V Oržekauskas and Marius Mindaugas Danys, video artist Julijus Balčikonis as well as the poet Julius Žėkas have successfully debuted in textile exhibitions. In his embroidered small images Give-Take (2007), N. R. Baltušnikas has elaborated his favourite style of metal images-signboards and ironically depicted games reflecting the stereotypes of male thinking. These embroidered works, a technique traditionally considered to be a female craft, touch social issues of male and female identity.

Has the participation of men in creative processes changed Lithuanian textile? I would think that yes, it has. Artists who come from other areas of art and have no specific education in textile bring non-standard thinking and a fresh approach to the creative process. More often than others, they choose non-traditional techniques, mixed means of expression and new media. They often suggest original ideas to female textile artists who realize the idea (the collaboration of Žėkas, Rimas Sakalauskas and Žydré Ridulyté in visualizing the sounds of the Lithuanian Anthem) or contribute significantly to the creation of the work of textile (the creative collaboration of the photographer Arūnas Balténas and Lina Joniké)The aspects of self-irony, grotesque and questioning ‘male’ values are more frequent in men’s works, Their works are often larger, which would be difficult for women to make (works by Zavadskis, Simonas Nekrošius).

Men textile artists even form groups. V Datkevičius, Audrius Lašas and Aleksas Gailieša have joined into a threesome Try3 that spices the openings of exhibitions with original actions, happenings and bold works of large dimensions. An impressive construction-happening “The School of Misery”, which generated electricity, meaningfully contributed to the exposition of the International Kaunas Art Biennial (2009) and the National Textile Biennial Connections in 2010

“Infiltrated”, an installation by the designer Dainius Bendikas and metal artist Benas Staškauskas, made from the male clothes collection, designed for the Art Infection Festival and presented at the Artifex Gallery in 2009, showed that men have an important role to play in renewing Lithuanian textile. The outlines of garments taken from the true’ area of male activities  - work clothes, uniforms, materials and specific accessories of divers and astronauts, tankers, pilots and minefield lifters - formed a multi-layered installation, ,which was unusually non-representative, newly exploring the relationship between masculinity, the elite and the earthly beginnings.

Remigijus  Praspaliauskas, Figure Skating, 2006

Remigijus  Praspaliauskas, Figure Skating, 2006

I do not imagine the works by another artist exhibited at the Artifex Gallery, Andrius Erminas, carried out by a woman: Lithuanian patterns plated from saws, wood, nails, electricity extension leads and other utensils of everyday life look sharp and heavy, not feminine, but also emanating a unique stylish elegance.

Therefore, the project realised by the Artifex Gallery, Male Textile, is a meaningful event encouraging us to evaluate the role of men of different generations in this seemingly very feminine area of art and record charges that occur thanks to the interest of contemporary male artists in textile. Could we claim that men’s creative activities are forming into an independent tendency in Lithuanian textile? It is difficult to say. It is clear, however, that their participation in the processes of textile enriches this art and offers a different approach to tradition.

Lijana Sataviâute
Euro Standards 3
Andrius  Erminas,  Euro Standards 3,  2009, euro pallet, wood cut and carved, 120 x 80 x 15
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