*Featured photo: In the foreground the tapestry „With Her Eyes“ (2022) by Jānis Bankovičs. Photo: Artis Veigurs
The prime origin of the tapestry in the art was confined to the symbolic capital representing an owner’s welfare and status in society. In Latvia, the establishment of textile art was related to the hidden power of artists, where the censure of the Soviet Union had reached its limits. It was the discipline where the existing power was confined to adequately evaluate the piece’s suitability within the frame of policies. The circumstances ensured unlimited experiments with diverse materials, preserving permission for the artists to participate in the official art scene.
The exhibition “How Much Does Light Weigh?” at the Jurmala City Museum, curated by the textile artist Ieva Prāne, unifies contemporary Latvian textile artists, who materialize their ideas into tapestry technique, providing an insight into the development of the discipline in the last three decades. The exhibition’s core concept introduces the spectator to the historical paradigms in the evolution of the tapestry. It displays a correlation between the artist’s role in the creation process of the piece and the application of the materials affecting the expressed form. The classical threads of wool and silk are enriched with metal threads, wires, paper, polyethene, amber fibres and other unmentioned materials hidden under the term – “author’s technique”. However, the accessible materials do not define the pieces’ artistic character but support the materialization of the imagined ideas.
The glorification of nature is a dominant subject in the tapestries. It is an appreciative ground to realize both abstract and figurative characters, developing and solving relations between applied materials and techniques. In the tapestry „Red Line“ (2011) by Irisa Blumate, the background is united with the nuanced blue and divided with the explicit red line, realising the visual expression with wool, linen and synthetic fibres. Ilma Austrina’s tapestry „Morning Drew and Coffee“ (2018) stands out with lushing green shades and shimmer. The woven metal thread drips in the light of the exhibition’s spotlights by each moment of the spectator, creating a relationship triangle between the piece, the viewer and the space. An interpretation of „Rainy Day“ (2022) by Dzintra Vilks proposes an enhanced space, creating drop-like protrusions that leave shadow imprints on the surface and, similarly to the tapestry by Austrina, ensures a variety of experiences by moving in the space. In contrast, the relation with space is solved in the tapestry „In The Gardens of Light“ (2022) by Ieva Prāne. The artist’s style is recognizable by the „blank“ spaces on the tapestry, where the shafts of light force through fibres, leaving a graphic shadow on the nearest plane.
The time and relations with surroundings and people often melt together, dedicating the works to the light subject. Time links relations, and the relations exist in time. The allegory of light is often related to hope for the future. Rolands Krutovs (2016) combines past (memories) with future (hopes) in the tapestry „Propera Ad Me. (Come to me)“, portraying the narrative with a balancing man on a rope who moves from the background to the foreground. An analogical subject narrative of the time axis is coded in the tapestry „In Fear of Hunger” (2022) by Kristine Celmiņa, where the hope of the light creates relations with the surroundings.
On the contrary, „Heritage of Grandmothers” (2019) by Zane Vizule – Jakobsena display the light as relations between generations. The installation „With Her Eyes” (2022) by Jānis Bankovičs contains multiple layers. The eyes metaphor is both direct and indirect. The waved images are taken by his daughter, integrating a part of her perspective. However, the extension of the message leads to the speculation of how and if we see each other.
In some cases, there is a dissonance between the narrative relations of the core concept and the tapestries. Although the poetic title of the exhibition is explained as a metaphor referring to the experienced realities through COVID- 19 pandemic and nearby existing war zone, appealing to think about life’s fragility and its challenges for both artists and visitors, the selected tapestries carry different narratives. One reason is that one-third part of exhibited pieces was weaved before the pandemic and the war in Ukraine occurred; the second – the titles of the pieces express the artists’ engagement with other life’s fragilities – relations, time and nature. The exhibition displays the fortitude of artists, where the mechanical rhythm – counted in hours, minutes and seconds, was replaced with organic – the unmeasurable time in looms necessary for each interweaved creating an abstract or figurative system of characters. The tapestries draw attention to the approaches and how the immaterial ideas are transferred into a tangible aesthetic language, displaying three circles of subjects. The Latvian contemporary tapestry scene differs from international with neglect of subjects related to climate and the Sustainable Development Goals. Nature’s beauty is more glorified than testifying its fragility in the context of human treatment, or nature is applied to explain the individual’s mental state.
 The exhibition concept and visual identity were created in collaboration with the textile artist Rolands Krutovs.
 The terms are adopted and reinterpreted from the French social scientist Émile Durkheim (1858 – 1917).
In addition, the successful exhibition design by Ivars Noviks allocates a lightly perceptible whole ensemble of pieces. The space between the exhibits underscores the character and uniqueness of each work of art, allowing the spectator to experience the exhibition’s scenography rhythm and the rhythms within the works.
The exhibition runs until December 30th, 2022, Wednesday to Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Jurmala City Museum, Tirgoņu iela 29, Majori, Jūrmala, LV – 2015, Latvia.