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An urban legend never dies

  • 2005-04-20
  • By TBT staff
Vilnius - Poor Lithuanian artists, they hardly have a chance against Mikalojus Ciurlionis. The prodigious composer/artist/national icon cast a legendary shadow that has yet to be surpassed. The mere murmur of his name has surely led at least one struggling painter, racked by self-doubt and Ciurlionis envy, to the edge of Zaliasis Bridge. Perhaps that is where Aloyzas Stasiulevicius stood, teetering, when suddenly deciding to forsake the river's dark invitation, turn around, and make a name for himself.

Most likely, though, that's not the way it happened. But really, it's all besides the point, which is to say that the man has come remarkably close to breaking Ciurlionis' shadow. Considered to be a reformer of 20th century Lithuanian art, Stasiulevicius was one of the few painters to challenge the laws of naturalism prevalent in the 60s and 70s. He developed a style of his own with urban landscapes, devoting most of his work to Vilnius. Graduating from the State Institute of Art of Lithuania (presently the Vilnius Academy of Art) in 1956, Stasiulevicius fell in love with the city. Thus began his life-long eulogy to Vilnius.

Stasiulevicius was the first in Lithuania to use the eclectic technique of collage, expanding the boundaries of canvas art for others to follow. Another signature of his was the "double image," a method widely used by symbolists.

The painter used his original style of "modern plastic conveyance" to abstractly capture Vilnius' architecture 's a linear cross-puzzle of streets and squares diversified by towers and churches. Stasiulevicius is best known, however, for his revealing interpretations of Vilnius' Old Town.

Over the years his work received increasing acclaim across the country. By the 1970s, his paintings, both abstract and simplistic, were stirring up whirlpools of discussion among Europe's artistic circles. By the year 2000, Stasiulevicius boasted more than 100 international exhibitions, including Paris, Montreal, Moscow, Belgrade, New Jersey, and Cannes. Yet his proudest moment came in 2002 when Lithuania granted the artist with its most prestigious prize, the National Award, for his contribution to national art and culture.

The Vilnius City Hall is currently showing 43 works by Stasiulevicius. The exhibition is a true testimony to the artist's love affair with Vilnius. Have some sympathy for Lithuania's other artists. Suppress your desire to race to the Ciurlionis Museum and give Stasiulevivius a chance. It's the least he deserves.