Little Miracles of Everyday Life

Dovilė Bilkštienė is a fresh graduate from Vilnius Academy of Arts (VDA), representing painters of the young generation. The artist has participated in several group exhibitions, including the Third Quadrennial of Lithuanian Contemporary Art, Young Painter Prize contests. Yet, “A Knocked-out Perspective” is the first exhibition offering a comprehensive presentation of works by this young artist.

Dovilė Bilkštienė developed her unique touch already during her studies at VDA. The artist usually portrays surrealistic scenes filled with mystery, unexpected elements and tender humour. The author favours the style of accurate, precise painting, trying to reveal the materiality and fracture of the objects she depicts. That is why her style of painting resembles photorealistic painting or poster pop art.

The author sees her characters from a variety of unexpected perspectives, e.g. a perspective from below, to create an illusion of the unexpected or an epic revelation. In other cases she is curiously looking around, exploring what’s going on somewhere below, under a table, where a peep is rarely taken… While wondering how a mushroom, a bird or female legs look from below, she is as if seeing the world through the eyes of a little kid. Incidentally, this feeling is not a coincidence. “As I have two little daughters, I happen to spend a lot of time on the floor, which is a playground for my kids. So I often see the world from below”, jokes the artist.

In the works of Bilkštienė, the deconstructed perspective, which is encoded in the name of the exhibition itself, acquires multiple meanings. On the one hand, her specific juggling with the angles of seeing enables the author to change the everyday environment and things that surround us. Sometimes the objects get so close that the author as if mingles with them.

oncurrently, the phrase above stands as a metaphor of the artistic posture of the painter. She does “knock out” the conventional, stereotyped “perspective” of artistic life and work. The best evidence of this is Bilkštienė’s home: it is filled with little daughters’ playing around, telephone ringing, dog’s toing and froing… At the same time, like in every woman’s life, there are all those “‘women’s” chores somewhere around, yet hidden from a stranger… However, the artist creates and reflects right there, at home, finding time and inspiration in the flow of daily life and household routine. “I don’t feel the need to run away and stay at distance from my home and usual environment”, says Dovilė Bilkštienė. Domestication of creative work and household activities is an important trump card of the artist. It seems that she is not at all afraid of our biggest enemy, our ego or inner self, whom daily routine often causes to start painfully talking, struggling to be free and liberated, calling for new prospects, experiences and inspirations. In this light, withdrawal of an artist, hiding in the workshop, or submerging into bohemian life might be regarded as running away from the self. Bilkštienė, on the contrary, seems to be paradoxically inspired by the confrontation with her own self and her trivial life, which promises exciting moments of discovery and experience.

Painter Jolanta Kyzikaitė has noted that Bilkštienė’s works can be associated with the Rene Magritte’s surrealist visions. Yet, Bilkštienė’s look is tender, sensitive and full of positivism. Metamorphoses created by the artists are astonishing or amusing rather than fearsome. Even the hand brandishing a hammer in the title painting of the exhibition is not about aggression. It is not the Pink Floyd’s hammer logo calling to tear down the wall and rebel. Rather, it is a sort of hypnotising, mesmerising pendulum or a tool for tearing down the veil of the visual world.
The artist, however, does not present herself as a mere silent observer in all of her paintings. While depicting some depressingly familiar motifs, such as Vilnius Arch-Cathedral, she suddenly and insensibly changes one or another element of the familiar, realistic object thus turning it into a mystical vision. That’s how dark silhouettes of trees, blowing up the pavement, appear in front of the sanctuary in Vilnius. The city, or possibly the whole world, suddenly ends behind the cathedral, covered with soft and light dabs and the endlessly immense sky, as if the beginning or the end of something… Sharp, metal, tired structures of high-voltage electricity poles, again seen by the artist from below, become in her imagination a polysemic symbol, an allusion to the Eifel Tower and the tragedy of 13 November.

Other, more intimate daily scenes in Bilkštienė’s paintings are also striking with surprise. One can see a crow’s silhouette looming up as if a strange inclusion in the blue opening of a dormer window. There are lots of trivial, yet acquiring symbolic meanings, events occurring all the time at the “bottom” level of the world – on the floor or somewhere else on the ground level. It can be a baby-turtle heading straight to a luring trap, or a machine-washed teddy-bear hanging on a dryer rack as if in the swing of existential being, or in a state of weightlessness between there and here… A big black dog sleeping on a mysterious shore in the surrounding of tiny human figures breathes even some Estonian surrealistic spirit, let’s say, mythological and fabulous characters of Jüri Arrak. Sometimes the artist even ventures in erotic, somewhat scary self-portraying. A multi-handed figure contouring her lips with a brush features, in a self-ironic manner, painting as “make-up” or image building, although with a main focus on enticement and power.

To sum up, even though verging to the slender Lithuania surrealism movement, Dovilė Bilkštienė’s artworks promulgate different values: little miracles of life that are spotted and revealed by author’s vivid imagination and unclouded, quiet look at the surrounding world, as well as by courage simply to be with her self and close people every day. Like the character of Amelie from Montmartre, this artist is watching the “little” world and shaping her own mild and feminine version of surrealism. Her paintings display one and the same world, with no efforts on the part of the painter to turn it upside down. She simply stops the “movement” of life for a moment, flashes an unexpected look, and keeps marvelling at it…

Art Critic Kristina Stančienė