• 28 January 2023 21:24

JOVITA SAKALAUSKAITE

Italiano (Italian)

Jovita Sakalauskaite Akgun, a Lithuanian artist, born in 1984, researcher and curator, trained at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vilnius, received her Master’s degree from the Faculty of Applied and Fine Arts at the same university and obtained her Doctorate in Art at Dokuz Eylül University (Turkey).

Sakalauskaite’s work has been shown in international exhibitions in China, Ukraine, France, Latvia, India, Poland, Spain and Uruguay, and she has had more than nine solo exhibitions in Lithuania and Turkey. In addition, her works can be found in numerous private collections in Turkey, Lithuania, France, China and the Dominican Republic.

Humanity, life, time and femininity are the themes from which Sakalauskaite’s works take shape. Her textile sculptures explore the complexity and power of emotions to which she gives substance through the multiple faces carved in felt of works such as Cactus or Seven Steps to Ecstasy. Her faces are wonderfully imperfect, reflecting light and shadow of the human being’s inner world.

https://www.jovitasakalauskaite.com/

Eternal Cycle, Kommagene Biennial 22, copyright Jovita Sakalauskaite
Eternal Cycle, Kommagene Biennial 22, copyright Jovita Sakalauskaite

How does the textile medium allow you to explore themes and concepts around which your artistic practice revolves? Would you call yourself a textile or fibre artist?

I would introduce myself as a fiber artist, although in the last projects, I started combining very different materials; therefore, I rather call myself a material artist.

I was lucky to study in two different universities, in two countries, both with their unique cultures. This has enriched me as an artist and has offered me to experience various textile techniques. For this reason, I use different textile manipulation techniques and materials in my works.

I have been mastering felting and weaving for more than 15 years. These two techniques are very closely related to human beings and the artist himself. fiber and textiles are, and will always be, about touch, about feeling; they are strongly related to the human being and our five senses. The connection between hands and fibers used to craft and create an art piece is very close and spiritual. This connection between the artist and material and the natural structure of fibers are the main characteristics of the medium, which allows me to explore new concepts.

Eternal Cycle, Kommagene Biennial 22, copyright Jovita Sakalauskaite

Your felt sculptures often depict faces of human figures, with peculiar expressions and characteristics. The human being with his inner world is a recurring theme in your research (as in She, Seven Steps to Ecstasy, Cactus…). Can you tell us more about it?

Let me introduce the concept and the research field in which I worked for the last 10 years; it is human beings. I like old people or people with beautifully imperfect faces. I try to focus on their mimics, and I try to recollect the details of the faces later in my works. In the last few years, I began researching the importance of emotions, I mean the inner world of women or men. In my own way, I am creating “creatures like humans”; to reflect the feelings that we all have lived at least one time in our life. There is no gender for my “creatures like humans” because all of us can feel pain, anger, happiness, or loneliness. It does not depend on our gender, age, or color. Another important point about my “creatures like humans” is that they do not look like any real person: I use approximately 4-6 different faces or the details of them to create my own unique and expressive face. I use my sketches of faces seen in the streets; I am spending hours in front of the mirror or taking selfies of different facial expressions. For me, the most important thing is to reflect the feeling, the power of one or another emotion.

God of Loneliness

One of the first art pieces born out of this concept was “God of Loneliness”. The period when I started making it was peculiar for me. I was in the most senseless and emotionless period of my life. It was the time when I felt a storm in my inside that was sealed in unbreakable silence. I was happy to be alone during this period. Still, on the other hand, I was feeling so full of different emotions. During this period, I found a new connection with my soul and heart, I contemplated God and spirituality in a totally different and personal way. I decided that the “God” who helped me at this moment was “The God of loneliness”. Which should look like the old wise, calm old person.

The God of Loneliness, 2016. From Lausanne To Beijing--9th International Fiber Art Biennale, September 10-26, Guan Shan Yue Art Museum, Shenzhen, Guangdong Province, China. Copyright Jovita Sakalauskaite

Cactus

The concept of the felt sculpture collection, entitled “Cactus”, is still the same, but this time I compare my “creatures like humans” to the cactuses.  Superactive feelings, let it be happiness, sadness, or anger, do not affect us so much. On the other hand, when we reflect these feelings to those around us, we can easily harm them, make them feel bad or jealous, etc. At that moment, one transforms into something that has needles outside even if the beauty lies inside…

Cactus, Vilnius Craft 2016, copyright Jovita Sakalauskaite
Cactus, copyright Jovita Sakalauskaite
Cactus, copyright Jovita Sakalauskaite

O/SHE/JI

I had been researching the designs of the textiles used in religious rituals during my Ph.D. studies period. The idea of the felt sculpture composition called “O/SHE/JI” was based on the concept of the prayer rugs of Anatolians. The prayer rugs are used by Muslims to perform a religious everyday duty – Namaz. Namaz is one of the Five Pillars in the Faith of İslam and an obligatory religious duty for every Muslim. It is a physical, mental, and spiritual act of worship that is observed five times every day at prescribed times. In this ritual, the worshiper starts standing, opens the hands, bows, prostrates, and concludes while sitting on the ground. In the Anatolia Region, prayer rugs are not only the main textile piece used by religious people in everyday duties but also take an incredibly important place in the dowry trunk. There was a tradition (still it is alive in some regions of Turkey) to give prayer rugs as a gift to the future mother and father-in-law. Not less important is to mention that unique handmade carpets were usually made by women. Therefore, it can be said that prayer rugs are important for a woman to express her personal creativity and to develop spiritual and psychical attitudes. In my project, I created 5 different female figures from felt following the poses of the body performing namaz steps: standing figure with open hands (TEENAGER), standing figure with hands on the chest (BRIDE), bowing figure (MOTHER), prostrating figure (NEWBORN), sitting on the ground figure (GRANNY). Each figure represents one period of the woman’s life from birth till senescence. I decided to bring to life these women, who have been in symbolic and real prayer all their life. I decided to reorganize the prayer steps depending on the feeling I wanted to impart to the viewer and to reflect each character of a particular period (person). Therefore, for a newborn, I chose the most “innocent” and vulnerable position (prostrating position). To best express my feelings during adolescence, I decided to create a teenage figure using an open-hand position. Open hands symbolize curiosity and self-presumption and, on the other hand, the timidness of the young girl. The third figure symbolizes the bride, stoned face, calm position, and hands tightly locked on the chest; this biggest figure symbolizes the middle way of the women. The Wedding Day is the happiest and the scariest day of the women’s life. It is the end of being a “little daddy’s girl” and the first step to a new life with hope and obscurity. Next to the bride, there are sorrow and happiness walking together. The third figure symbolizes motherhood; the woman is carrying a baby on her back. The child is the only being who can make the women carry him or her all their life, even on the back. The child is the heaviest and, at the same time, the lightest weight in the woman’s life. The last felt sculpture, the so-called “Granny,” is the position of sitting on the ground. This figure is the calmest and the brightest of all, I paid a lot of attention to the hands and the face of this old woman. My aim was to reflect and to transfer the beauty of senescence, to give all my respect to the imperfectness and divinity of the aging woman. This position is the last one, and it is the ending/ closing piece of my collection. The old woman feels that it is the end that she lived her life she had her bright and dark moments, but now she is calm and spiritually elevated. To finish, this felt collection took 1,5 years. I feel that it is one of my works that has my soul reflected in it; every figure is something like self-research; it is like going step by step into the deepest corners of the woman’s soul.

O/SHE/JI (granny), copyright Jovita Sakalauskaite
O/SHE/JI (newborn, teenager and bride), copyright Jovita
O/SHE/JI (granny and mother), copyright Jovita Sakalauskaite

Seven Impulses of Ecstasy

The project named “Seven Impulses of Ecstasy” is very personal; it is about the darkest side of the human’s inner world and the sins that we all have lived at least once in our life.  The seven deadly sins, also known as the capital vices or cardinal sins, are a grouping and classification of vices within Christian teachings. Behaviors or habits are classified under this category if they directly give birth to other immoralities. According to the standard list, they are pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath, and sloth, which are also contrary to the seven virtues.  These sins are often thought to be abuses or excessive versions of one’s natural faculties or passions (for example, gluttony abuses one’s desire to eat). Living these sins is like traversing between endless freedom and death. Freedom itself is believed to be something positive, something without limits. On the other hand, limitless or living without moral borders leads to death. In my work, I sought to reflect the seven deadly sins on human faces through emotions and characters. Somehow it reflects my own sins and weaknesses. It is the face I wear from time to time, the deadliest flower in my life garden.

 

  1. Lust

Lust, or lechery (Latin, “luxuria” (carnal)), is intense longing. It is usually thought of as intense or unbridled sexual desire, which leads to fornication, adultery, rape, bestiality, and other immoral sexual acts.

  1. Gluttony

Gluttony (Latin, gula) is the overindulgence and overconsumption of anything to the point of waste. The word derives from the Latin gluttire, meaning to gulp down or swallow.

  1. Greed

Greed (Latin, avaritia), also known as avarice, cupidity, or covetousness, is, like lust and gluttony, a sin of desire. However, greed (as seen by the Church) is applied to an artificial, rapacious desire and pursuit of material possessions.

  1. Sloth

Sloth (Latin, tristitia or acedia (“without care”)) refers to a peculiar jumble of notions, dating from antiquity and including mental, spiritual, pathological, and physical states. It may be defined as absence of interest or habitual disinclination to exertion.

  1. Wrath

Wrath (Latin, ira) can be defined as uncontrolled feelings of anger, rage and hatred. Wrath often reveals itself in the wish to seek vengeance. In its purest form, wrath presents with injury, violence, and hate that may provoke feuds that can go on for centuries.

  1. Envy

Envy (Latin, invidia), like greed and lust, is characterized by an insatiable desire. It can be described as a sad or resentful covetousness towards the traits or possessions of someone else. It arises from vainglory and severs a man from his neighbor.

  1. Pride

Pride (Latin, superbia) is considered, on almost every list, the original and most serious of the seven deadly sins: the perversion of the faculties that make humans more like God—dignity and holiness. It is also thought to be the source of the other capital sins.

Seven Impulses of Ecstasy, copyright Jovita Sakalauskaite
Seven Impulses of Ecstasy, copyright Jovita Sakalauskaite
Seven Impulses of Ecstasy, copyright Jovita Sakalauskaite

To what extent do the culture and traditions of your homeland influence your work?

I cannot say that my homeland’s traditions or culture in some particular way influence my works; I see myself as a human of the world. I don’t feel comfortable being attached to one or another place or tradition. Therefore, I believe that my works are a mix of different traditions, cultures, and senses.

With the Multicultural Taste series, you explore the theme of coexistence and integration of different peoples and cultures on the same territory through the creation of textile sculptures reproducing traditional Izmir dishes. What attracted you to this topic, and how did this body of work come about?

Due to the structure of the world nowadays, endless immigration and the confusing search for the “right” identity brought thoughts about multicultural cities. One of these cities is Izmir, where I had been living for more than 10 years. Izmir, or Smyrna has been home to various communities throughout history. Turks, Cypriot Greeks, Levantines, Cretans, Macedonians, Bosnians, and Albanians all lived together, shared their customs, and married to each other. These different societies have formed a culinary culture that has been continuing for centuries. Izmir turned into a sustainable city of taste. In this project, the sustainable taste of Izmir is reflected in various dishes from these cultures; like the real dishes, these handmade textile objects were made by me and my colleague Elvan Ozkavruk Adanir.

When the Turks first came to Anatolia from Asia, they carried the rich food culture along the way, and they enriched it with the materials gathered from every country along the way. When they settled in Anatolia, which was encircled by three seas, offered the benefit of living all four seasons, providing fresh vegetables and fruits, enriched the culinary culture more. With so many ethnic groups living on this fertile land, culinary culture has turned into one of the world’s best.

Therefore, these dishes are symbols of time, sharing, and connection. Sharing food or having meals together connects people, no matter their origin, gender, or color. All this textile food was created by hand and is as complicated as real food cooking would be. On the other hand, food is a temporary thing, the same as textiles; one day, all this textile food will disappear.

Multicultural Taste, copyright Jovita Sakalauskaite
Multicultural Taste, copyright Jovita Sakalauskaite

Artist but also Associate Professor. You divide your time between multiple activities. How do these different professional experiences inform, influence and grow your practice?

During my studies, I strongly believed that I would be satisfied working as a lecturer at the university; the connection with students and working with young people is still one of the most wonderful experiences in my life. On the other hand, creating art and giving all of myself to it may be the road I chose for this period of life. It wasn’t easy to coordinate my job as a teacher and my passion for art as a creative person. Therefore, after I was awarded Assoc.Prof. title I decided to take a pause in my academic carrier and fully concentrate on my art.

Can you tell us about the genesis and concept behind the works you presented at the recent Kommagene Biennial 2022?

Kommagene Biennial’s main concept was new civilization, the relation between man and nature, man and man and etc.  Adıyaman, Kahta, and its surroundings have been home to many civilizations for thousands of years. Powerful civilizations have left strong traces that have survived until today. Until the establishment of the Kommagene Kingdom in 2000 BC (69 BC), the Hittites, Mitannis, Arameans, Assyrians, Late Hittites, Persians, Kummurs, Alexander the Great of Macedonia and the Eastern Roman Empire ruled. My project, named Eternal Cycle (co-artist Elvan Ozkavruk Adanir) composed from hand-dyed felted pieces, was exhibited at the Biennale. The mother goddess concept, together with the circle of life philosophy, is expressed through the colors and shape and the piece’s position at the installation. It is possible to come across the cult of the mother goddess throughout history, who is mentioned by different names in quite a number of cultures and civilizations. Anatolia, Greece, Italy, Germany, Great Britain, North European countries, Far East countries, Japan, India, and Africa are among them.

Mother Goddess generally represents motherhood, reproduction, creation, femininity, continuity of life, fertility, and abundance. The mother goddess of Anatolia revives life, and she has been associated with the birth of humanity as a whole, along with the universe and everything in it.

Mother Goddess, who had affected humans from different cultures for thousands of years, was the starting point of this project. Three-dimensional felt objects and the embroidered motifs were inspired by mother goddess figurines. Three large felt objects symbolize the appearance, regeneration and disappearance of women. Women maintain life and reproduce new generations as an individual, and then they disappear.

The project aims to point out the importance of life and life-giver; each separate piece of installation with its particular color and shape reflects one of the periods of life circle: birth, life, and death.

Eternal Cycle, Kommagene Biennial 22, copyright Jovita Sakalauskaite
Eternal Cycle, Kommagene Biennial 22, copyright Jovita Sakalauskaite
Eternal Cycle, Kommagene Biennial 22, copyright Jovita Sakalauskaite
Eternal Cycle, Kommagene Biennial 22, copyright Jovita Sakalauskaite

What are you working on at the moment?

After I quit my job at the university, I dedicated all my time and a few last years to work on a new concept called “Wonderworld nr.19”. This project will include a few separate collections of art pieces created using fiber, textiles, and other materials. Let me shortly introduce the concept.

Wonderworld nr.19

The year 2019 changed the history of the world; all of a sudden, we found ourselves living in totally different circumstances, trapped at home, limited by restrictions, with hopes for a better, brighter tomorrow.

Pandemics influenced the changes in human beings’ behaviors; losing personal space or, in reverse, being isolated alone impacted the birth of the wonderworld, full of emotions, dreams, hopes or misery, and anguish. Some kind of life in the box of souls. Just like animals in captivity or a flower in a pod, not a natural, common environment, no place to run, no place to let in the roots. The only one thing left as a symbol of freedom is the “bubbles in the sky”. One can see his reflection in the soft clouds passing by high in the sky.

Bubbles in the sky

“My soul must reach into the clouds and touch the beauty of madness” (Melody Lee, Moon Gypsy)

I consider myself a free person, but I am still jealous of the clouds. These round shapes and colorful bubbles can fly anywhere, be free, and have no limits or responsibilities. The expression of freedom in its wildest definition. Only the mad person could be so free, and this kind of freedom belongs to madness. All emotions, senses, thoughts, and dreams have no boundaries and are limitless and endless. Like a crazy person stuck in a bubble living just his or her happiness of madness. I create these pieces using different materials, sculpting big colourful bubbles to captivate felt faces. Faces reflect different emotions, as in my previous projects, I deny any kind of gender, color, or age definition; all the faces are just an expression of one or another emotion.

Pink Dream, copyright Jovita Sakalauskaite
Pink Dream-detail, copyright Jovita Sakalauskaite

“Wonderland 2019” brings together several different concepts, and although they are different in nature, all of them are still bounded and reflect each other. Humans, Animals, and Plants have the same circle: birth, life, and death. In nature, we should be nurturing and supporting each other, but in my Wonderworld, we became one, trying to fight for existence, balancing between sanity and insanity, and striving not to drown in depression and loneliness. That is how Humales and Plantes were born. These terms were created by me as a conjunction of human-animal and human-plant. Humales are people kept in social media cages or forgotten in the dark rooms, the wild ones trying to run away or the submissive ones ready to follow new orders. Plantes are people reflecting emotions; with the changes in surroundings, they may become happy or miserable, and they may bloom or dry off. While Humales are egoists and self-concentrated, Plantes are altruists, and they were born to satisfy others’ needs and to be there for them.

I want to create the Wonderworld, an imaginary world full of unseen creatures and an artificial environment. My aim would be to turn the exhibition area into a new artificial, emotionally triggering world where materials, textures, and lights create an opportunity for the viewer to become a part of the exhibition.

Bloom of Lotus, from Twilight to Dawn

One of the art first pieces of the Plantes collection is called Bloom of Lotus, from Twilight to Dawn”

“Look! I have given you every seed-bearing plant that grows throughout the earth, along with every tree that grows seed-bearing fruit. They will produce your food. I have given all green plants as food for every wild animal of the earth, every bird that flies, and to every living thing that crawls on the earth.” Now God saw all that he had made, and indeed, it was very good! The twilight and the dawn were the sixth day. (Genesis 1:1-31)

God created the world in six days, it took one day for people to turn it upside down. Due to the pandemic situation all around the world, one starts to consider the inevitability of the changes. Suddenly everyone is responsible not only for their actions but not the less for another person also. Humanity goes through difficult times, keeping ourselves strong mentally and physically, we are questioning the new order of the world. We must deal with different emotions and find the new spiritual strength to go on living in this new world. The Confusion, sadness, happiness, or excitement of new order gives birth to new strengths and changes. Going through these changes’ humanity is looking for spiritual food, for something to rebirth, to recreate, and everyone seeks to find their own lotus flower. On the way to the new better us, the arts (fine arts, music, literature) will make a huge healing impact. The creative and unanticipated approach to the situation, changes, and time will become the first aids through this painful journey. My project was inspired by the six days of creation, birth and rebirth of nature changes from twilight/death to dawn/life, it tells the story of the humanity, which arises from purified and cleansed waters like lotus flowers to bring new seeds to the world.

Twins, copyright Jovita Sakalauskaite