From 23 March to 6 May 2017, Paulis Liepa's exhibition Cabinet of the Fine Arts is on display in the Upper Gallery of the Mūkusala Art Salon.
The title of the exhibition contains irony and an invitation to prepare for a space where power relations and viewers' helplessness are being dissected. The prints present the mechanisms of control created by humans – diagrams, charts and cross-sections, which are framed in a conscious reference to the practice of collecting when the acquired trophies are ordered and catalogued, simultaneously creating the feeling of distance. Until now, the graphic artist's works have been wilfully and directly subjected to the effects of the surrounding environment, specially aged and stained pieces of cardboard or plywood, which entreated the viewer to break with the etiquette of graphic art and touch them. The separation of the works from the environment with glass reflects the author's move away from everyday objects, with which he had worked in his previous personal exhibitions Project "Life", Order of the Day and Still Life. For the exhibition Cabinet of the Fine Arts, he is drawn by graphical shapes that bear significant information, for example, the trajectory of a bullet or a cross-section of a pistol. The geometrical play of lines and fields is abstract and at the same time – concrete, if we understand graphical symbols. In this exhibition, he uses the technique of the screenprint to create works which are like spatial collages. The superimposition of layers questions the importance of each preceding one – it represents important information which aims to be unique. At least for today – yet below it there are countless other important rags, which reveal the paradox hidden within the system.
Likewise, in his latest series of works, Paulis Liepa reflects on the powers that drive humanity and current events, using seemingly neutral and unpretentious elements. He positions them as "the search for truth in technical drawings and statistics, which reveal a struggle for spheres of influence, control over geographical features and their cross-sections. A cynical, cold calculation where humanity appears as an infinite mechanism with friction, tension, material fatigue and steam that has to be released. An aesthetisation of war machinery, which resembles a children's game and virtual phenomenon, which resides in the TV screen and history books, having no effect on us here and now." The theme of clash, which began in the previous personal exhibition Noise, acquires a new guise in the display cases. All humanist objections crash against the glass. It is cold and emotionless, creating in the viewer a sense of helplessness and a realisation that we can only be passive observers in this game. And perhaps that is not the worst of choices.
Paulis Liepa (1978) is known for his use of a simple printmaking technique – the cardboard cut – and everyday subjects, for which he uses specific, carefully encoded sources from fields that interest him. From 1997 to 2003, he studied at the Department of Graphic Art of the Art Academy of Latvia, and since 2016 is on its faculty. He is the author of eleven solo shows in Latvia and abroad, a regular participant in international and local group shows. In 2013, he received the Diena Prize for Culture for his personal exhibition Still Life at the Mūkusala Art Salon, as well we earning the first prize in Latvijas Banka's competition on the concept of a coin design with the motto "360". In 2005, he earned the first prize, while in 2008 – Grand Prix in the Baltic States Biennial of Graphic Arts Kaliningrad – Koenigsberg. His works are in the collections of the Latvian National Museum of Art and Zuzāns family, as well as several private collections in Latvia and abroad.
Sniedze Kāle, curator of the exhibition
1. Paulis Liepa. N8317R. 2017. Letterpress on paper on plywood. 33 x 33 cm. Courtesy of the artist. Photo: Paulis Liepa
2., 3. Installation view. Photo: Andrejs Strokins