RIGA - My eyes were immediately drawn to the people, the protagonists of the paintings. It was not simply because they were in the foreground, or because they occupy a large portion of the canvas. There was something undeniably appealing about them; they seemed so expressive, so tranquil, so alive and so real.
Maija Tabaka's newest exhibition, "Kimono," at the Rigas Galerija, is a selection of her finest works from the past two years. The paintings are similar only in their layout, each featuring an emotive central character set against a beautiful, slightly surrealist background.
Most of the characters stared back at me with curious eyes. Some looked as if they were wondering what purpose I had there, invading their surreal scenes with my critical eye. Others looked peaceful, calmly inviting me to join in the pageant. Still others looked as if they were challenging me to define them and give some meaning to their surroundings.
As I scanned the backgrounds of the paintings, I was faced with a barrage of symbolism, contrast and beauty. The paintings were at times smoothly flowing from one object to the next, and at times sharply dividing the different sections of the paintings. In some cases two drastically different scenes played against each other within the same work.
The paintings left me wondering what I should think or feel when I see the contrasting images. They left me searching for a deeper metaphorical meaning to the art 's a meaning that I am still not sure actually exists.
Nearly all of the paintings prominently featured water in some form, but they used the water to evoke different emotions. In some cases the water was still and peaceful, lending a relaxed atmosphere to the work. A few of the paintings had a bubbling spring which seemed to indicate a deep-seated vitality in the setting. Seascapes that stretched on to eternity and turbulent crashing waves symbolically interacted with the other aspects of the paintings.
The only things to detract from the exhibition were the sometimes all-too-random surrealist tidbits. In most cases, the surrealism of the paintings gave them an emotional appeal and hinted at a deeper meaning. In a few of the paintings, however, an oddly placed turtle or peacock only served to confuse.
Tabaka is arguably Latvia's most popular, and most prolific, contemporary artist. She is well known for having been one of the first artists to break away from post-Soviet realist art and into surrealism, and is a key figure in the surrealist tradition in Latvia.
Early in her career, Tabaka gained notoriety by securing an almost unheard of yearlong stay in West Berlin to work on her art. The artist is also well known for raising the profile of female artists in Latvia, and helping to bring equality to the art world. She is widely praised for imbuing psychological intensity into her works.
Tabaka continues to produce art and surprises her fans with each new gallery opening. As one of the most highly regarded artists in Latvia, her paintings normally sell for 5,000 to 9,000 lats (7,114 's 12,805 euros).
"Kimono" by Maija Tabaka
Rigas Galerija, 20 Aspazijas boulevard, Riga
Exhibition held until Nov. 3www.rigasgalerija.com