Collection: Valentinas Antanavičius

b. 1936, Lithuania

Born in 1936 in Kušliai, Šakiai district. From 1952 to 1962, studied painting at the Lithuanian SSR State Art Institute. In 1992, awarded the Lithuanian National Culture and Arts Prize. From 1998 to 2000, participated in the activities of the "24" group. In 2006, awarded the Knight's Cross of the Order "For Merits to Lithuania".

After graduating from the Lithuanian SSR State Art Institute in 1962, Valentinas Antanavičius spent about four years trying to keep pace with official art. Realizing that it neither corresponded to his ideological nor artistic beliefs (or vice versa), the artist turned away from that art. From around 1967, only an occasional secondary work of his appeared at official painting exhibitions, while his best works were either exhibited semi-legally (in various institutions, in exhibitions held in apartments) or remained in the studio. In the public art scene, Antanavičius mostly participates by demonstrating ex-libris and watercolors. By the way, his ex-libris often end up in exhibitions abroad (because they can be sent by mail). It is considered that the artist, by creating innovative high-quality book symbols, contributed significantly to changing the concept of ex-libris. There has also been some work in scenography.

Around 1977, Antanavičius started painting portraits of intellectuals. Four of them were exhibited at the 1978 Vilnius Painting Triennial and received official recognition. Portrait painting (although other types of work were still being created) continued until 1985, it was readily accepted into official exhibitions, but the author could only show his main non-portrait works in a personal exhibition in 1986.

From the beginning of his creative career until now, the artist most enjoys painting and assemblage techniques. However, his assemblage is not pure; it is usually combined with painting. Also, when creating assemblages, the author usually does not shy away from the traditional rectangular canvas, does not avoid frames. Assemblage was not popular in Lithuanian art in the 1970s and 1980s (and later), and only two authors - Vincas Kisarauskas and Valentinas Antanavičius - widely used this technique. The objects taken by Antanavičius for assemblages changed: until about 1980, factory-made objects and their fragments predominated (parts of mechanisms, plastic dolls, etc.); later, handmade artifacts, mostly folk household items, wooden tools of peasants, were taken. However, in both cases, the author emphasizes the wear, shabbiness, and signs of destruction of the object.

In both Antanavičius's paintings created with painting and assemblage techniques, the main place is given to the figure. It is a very peculiar creature, half-human, half-beast. Its anomalous, antagonistic structure, like the artist's favorite principle of oxymoron, is perhaps the main source of the dramatic but also ironic spiritual atmosphere of many of his paintings. Here it should also be mentioned the use of decaying objects, uncomfortable colors, "ungraspable" painting, and so on. In recent years, the dose of drama in his works is somewhat smaller.

In the artist's work, the old and the modern art seem to meet. For example, in some of his paintings, the icon's compositional structure is very obvious; one can also find other analogies with old masters. On the other hand, there are clear features of expressionism, Dadaism, surrealism, the influence of artists such as Picasso, Moore, Magritte, Duchamp, Rouault, Bacon, and others. In the 1970s and 1980s, Antanavičius often visited Poland. He was fascinated by the works of Hasior and Kantor here, he saw an exhibition of pre-Columbian American art; undoubtedly, this also influenced his artistic thinking. In recent years, the artist has increasingly turned to Lithuanian folk art. Moreover, according to him, he was strongly influenced by fiction and philosophical literature: Swift, Kafka, Faulkner, Ionesco, Beckett, Camus, Freud...

According to the Jung classification, Antanavičius is, of course, considered a fantastic artist. However, many of his fantasies easily resonate with Soviet reality. Therefore, some of the artist's paintings can be interpreted not only philosophically, mythologically but also politically. In recent years, the author does not hesitate to give his works titles that evoke political associations. Of course, it should be emphasized that this is not speculation because he has been using suggestive material for political interpretation of his works since the beginning of his artistic career.

Valentinas Antanavičius can be considered one of the Lithuanian artists who firmly relied on certain principles of 20th-century modernism and authentically introduced them into Lithuanian culture. By exploiting the so-called "aesthetics of ugliness", he contributed greatly to the separation of the beauty of the depicted object and the painting in the viewer's consciousness. His risky "games" helped overcome the overly sacralized concept of art. Finally, this artist managed to create multi-layered paintings in which the current, superficial, and deep, archetypal meanings coexist.

Alfonsas Andriuškevičius

Published: Valentinas Antanavičius. Catalog. Compiled by Alfonsas Amdriuškevičius and Valentinas Antanavičius. Vilnius Contemporary Art Center, 1996

The works of the artist are held by the Lithuanian National Art Museum, the National M. K. Čiurlionis Art Museum, the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow, the Malbork Castle Museum in Poland, the Zimmerli Art Museum in the USA, and others.