The meaning of the word 'myth' is to be found in Ancient Greek – mythos refers to a story about the origin of man or the world. Myth imbued the surrounding world with soul, brought it to life, erasing borders between the individual and the outside world, also ensuring order. Meanwhile, according to the research by social anthropologist and philosopher Claude Lévi-Strauss, myths have not lost their narrative relevance today, because they contain the means that create illusions about the solution of unsolvable contradictions. People continue to be fascinated by mythology, because these are stories which have been passed from generation to generation, allowing us to return to the time when man and nature lived in harmony. The exhibition The Coordinates of Myths provides a look at the most popular myths in the works of Latvian artists. It is because of masterpieces of art, literature and music that we return to a story over and over again, engraving the traces of its plot in the coordinates of the society's cultural history.
Looking back at the history of art, mythological images have had enormous significance. Starting with the first depictions on cave walls around fifteen or ten thousand years BC. They had magical meaning when setting out for a hunt. These images were part of a ritual action in the mythic world. Up until the 14th century, works of art mostly had sacral meaning. Later secular genres begun to develop with the aim of praising the power of patrons or rulers. In the 17th century, the religious, mythological and historical genres were not separated, instead referring to all as the historical genre, whose aim was to educate, delight and develop the soul. When approaching a painting of the historical genre, the artist had to master the period and culture of creation of the specific myth or event, as well as possessing perfect mastery of his craft in order to imitate reality, hence it was considered to be the most difficult and prestigious genre, becoming a mandatory part of academic education.
In Christian culture, especially in the 19th century, with the spread of puritan values, several mythological motifs acquired a rich erotic interpretation, since otherwise such 'amoral' poses or actions would not be tolerated. Interestingly, in the 20th and 21st centuries, when virtually everything has already been shown, artists continue to choose the most erotic subjects from Christian or ancient mythology. At the beginning of the 19th century, along with the establishment of museums, works of art became, in the words of Boris Groys, “defunctionalised, autonomous objects of pure contemplation”. With art becoming autonomous, the importance of its subjects lessened, also to an extent marginalising the use of mythology. Perhaps myths have one further meaning in postmodern society – a return to indisputable values, as well as the wish to revive a myth in a manner fitting to the times.
Along with such classics as Jēkabs Bīne, Jānis Ferdinands Tīdemanis, Kārlis Miesnieks, Indulis Zariņš, Janis Rozentāls and others, the exhibition will include several contemporary authors, whose works show a sustained interest in mythology. Video interviews with four of them – Vladimirs Glušenkovs, Frančeska Kirke, Gunārs Krollis and Kārlis Vītols – have been made in collaboration with the crew of TV24.
Thanks to the collaboration with the Latvian National Museum of Art, the exhibition includes important works from its collection.
Exhibition curator Sniedze Kāle
Publicity image: Alberts Goltjakovs. The Downfall of Apollo. 1974. Oil on canvas. 200 x 290 cm