The exhibition by Rūtė Merk at the National Gallery of Art exposes the promises of technology and the limits of corporeality

  • 2024-07-01

At 6 pm Friday, 5 July the National Gallery of Art of the LNMA opens Promises, an exhibition by the international acclaimed painter Rūtė Merk. The visitors are invited to reflect how the advanced technology alters our bodies, to revisit the very concept of corporeal and how the medium of painting is capable of rendering the desires of our time and the promises of technologies. The exhibition will be on until 6 October. 

“By putting on this Rute Merk’s exhibition the National Gallery of Art gains a firm support on two legs, by linking the museum’s common historic time with our time, or maybe even “the promised” future. Our inspiration is the artist herself, and I am positive she will enthuse the viewer too with her fantastic renditions of our well-familiar present captured using the medium of painting”, Lolita Jablonskienė, director of the NGA says. 

The artist flirting with the history of art 

In her exhibition Promises, Merk, lionized by the Lithuanian and foreign art critics as one of the most intriguing artists of the young generation, opts for the classical genres of portrait and still life and the traditional painting in oils to design the archetypes of our time and their shifting boundaries in the contemporary world.  The material and virtual, the natural and artificial, the particular and abstract are bedfellows in her art pieces. 

The curator of the event Inesa Brašiškė describes how the artist fashions her portraits from the elements dug from digital culture, merged with her personal experience and impressions. “Even though Merk’s portraits flirt with the history of painting, there are no doubts they evoke not the times of folds of robes, but of sweatpants and business casual suits. These are the types representing popular culture and fashion, and the idiosyncrasies of the millennials, produced from bits and parts of the artist’s memories, impressions and a deliberate archeology of the digital culture.  

21st-century-still life on show 

According to the exhibition curator, several centuries ago, still life painters created arrangements of trophies, ripe fruit, cut flowers to convey the ideas of mortality, of the cycles of nature and the prosperity of the middle class. The still lifes by Merk also show contemporary consumer products that have become attributes of the contemporary aestheticized lifestyle and economic good fortunes. 

“The overblown, nearly abstract motif of latte aspires to become an allegory for the global economic networks and the frenzied culture of productivity. In her paintings the difference between the natural and the synthetic collapses. The blue phalaenopsis unknown to nature, the ideally looking identical engineered fruit address the interventions into the most intimate levels of nature,” the curator of the exhibition Brašiškė says.  

In the light of screen suns 

Some of the pieces by Rūtė Merk will strike the viewer as images from video games and 3D animations generated by the digital image editing software. According to the curator, the painter’s colour scheme, her visual effects, figure modelling and composition result in products intended for on-screen viewing. “The dissolving, hazy, out-of-focus abstract backgrounds leave you with an uncanny feeling as if being created not for the human, but rather an artificial eye”, the curator of the exhibition notes. 

The exhibition invites to ponder on what, and also how we see in the light of screen suns.  

Rūtė Merk (b. 1991) is a Lithuanian painter based in Berlin. She graduated in painting from Vilnius Academy of Arts and Munich Academy of Fine Arts. She received the DAAD scholarship in 2023, and won the Audience Choice Award at the JCDecaux Young Painter Prize. The artist’s work appeared in solo and group exhibitions in New York City, Shanghai, Berlin, Munich, Kyiv and Vilnius. Her work has been acquired by the MO Museum in Vilnius, M Woods in Beijing, ICA Miami, the MAMCO in Geneva, the Sifang Art Museum in Nanjing, and by other art institutions. 

Curator Inesa Brašiškė  

Coordinators: Beatričė Mockevičiūtė, Austėja Tavoraitė  
Architects: Beatričė Mockevičiūtė, Mindaugas Reklaitis  

Designers: Gailė Pranckūnaitė, Laura Grigaliūnaitė 
Translator Paulius Balčytis 

Media partner JCDecaux Lietuva