Art for everyone

  • 2012-02-22
  • By Antra Feldmane

RIGA - The latest exhibition at Arsenals features human patience, peace and childhood memories in their material form.
Arsenals is currently exhibiting the work of two local Latvian artists, Sarmite Malina and Kristaps Kalns. The exhibition includes a video introduction explaining the work process, in which Malina, for instance, talks to her assistant about the best way to prepare the pieces (such as a giant wooden horse).

The large-scale installations are located in two halls. The most interesting part is that the works don’t have any descriptions, giving visitors total unbiased freedom in thinking about art.
In the first minute you might find yourself asking “what is the meaning of their exhibition?” The answer is simple – it is the artistic experience of being human.

The works do not need any explanation from the artist, curator or art critic (a wooden horse could be a toy that somebody had in childhood, but it could also be the subject of our dreams).
Malina does not like to talk a lot, so a full and detailed interpretation might be hard to get from her. The best point of their work is that it is so universal and receivable that this art experience could be of interest to everyone.
I remember when I first saw Malina and Kalns installations – it was last summer, during the Cesu Art Festival 2011. It was a hot summer afternoon with thick air and blue skies above me. I’d already seen pretty much every exhibition at the festival. But then I decided to go to this tiny, insignificant house near Cesis Park that reminded me of some kind of fairy tale place.

Inside I saw a black curtain covering a room and heard a sound coming out of this room. I did not quite get the whole idea of this exhibition until a woman who guided it told me to go inside.
There it was. There was black and white, large-scale photography all around the walls, and a table with a vase full of flowers in the center. And there was a bit of lightning spinning around. Photos on the wall showed a couple, maybe a family, but the room smelled extremely familiar - it was a perfume of roses and a wooden floor.

I found that this was my favorite piece in the whole festival. It unveiled a powerful nostalgia but also left space for mystery. Untold family stories, memories, and the unknown were all there inside that tent. That time it showed a perfect example of how art could impact a human being. It was a discreet touch to my emotional senses without any additional thinking about conceptions or reading about them in a brochure. Now, in the “Be Patient” exhibition, this mystic art experience continues.

Sarmite Malina (born in 1960) graduated from Rezekne Art School in 1980 and the Latvian Art Academy afterwards. She usually works in the installation and design field, but her day work is at the illustrations section of the newspaper Diena. Malina has also made cover art for Avots, a significant arts magazine during 1980s, showing a contemporary vision of arts press in Latvia.

Her favorite working material is glass. In one of her rare interviews, Malina said “if I had a choice, I could work with loads of glass. A gigantic glass cube would then be the first piece I make.”
She added that she used to collect glass balls in her childhood while living in Valmiera. They had a glass factory and those tiny balls were leftovers that littered the streets of Valmiera and were easy to collect. It is significant that her love of glass as a material somehow shows her thoughts about attachment to human beings. Like glass, an attachment is a fragile and valuable substance that needs to be carefully kept.

Kristaps Kalns (born in 1981) has been a photographer for more than 10 years. He also works full-time at Diena and has made lots of portraits for musicians, artists and cultural life itself. Together they are one of the greatest contemporary art ‘couples’ in Latvia now.

Malina and Kalns have worked with glass in previous years but currently their working material is granite and marble. They say that this exhibition is a symbol of the long way to a peaceful life, childhood memories and previous experiences. The installations show everything that a human being might understand because the themes are real to everyone. That is why it is so hard to explain it any more. That is why you have to experience “Be Patient” yourselves.

Exhibition will be held through March 18.
More info: