ER: How did you decide to become an artist?
V.A.: I wouldn’t say that there has been a conscious decision to become an artist, rather a naïve notion that untainted creative outbursts of my mind might grant me a ticket into a more stable, fulfilling and less ordinary living. What I didn’t quite take into account is the fact that this borderline position of an artist has to be guarded, nurtured and justified on a daily basis. In other words, it is not too hard to decide to become an artist, it is much harder to hold on to this idea and make it work in practice, especially at the end of the month when the rent is due.
ER: Where have you been studying?
V.A.: Education wise I can mention 3 main stages, which shaped me as a professional. First one is Casper College in the US, where I understood that I know absolutely nothing about Art making. Second, is the Art Academy of Latvia, where I couldn’t make any use of the things I thought I understood. And the last stage, my own studio work, when I finally was able to fuse the acquired knowledge with the actual practice of painting pictures. At the time I would make countless copies from the works of the Old Masters and read often antique books on the practice of oil painting and drawing.
ER: You are a painter. Have you worked in other fields of art, like sculpture, mixed media, video etc? Can you describe the most successful project/artwork you have been doing not as a painter (if there have been any)?
V.A. One of the projects, that I had the pleasure of being involved with, is Musha (a fly in Latvian). It is a jewellery collection composed of stylised silver insects – flies, often paired with the miniature paintings, also set in silver. A fly is a symbol of an artistic presence that is not too sweet or even completely out of place. Just as a fly on the wall is an unwanted and ever present witness of human existence – the all seeing an uninvited companion.
ER: How would you describe your style as a painter? I would call the style I find myself working in the Integral Realism, within it, each individual abstract effect is weighted against the other and balanced to bring forward the overall impression. A great example of such style from the past is Diego Velazquez, who’s painting are known for broad and simple planes of opposite truths which intertwine and form a realistic image, inviting the spectator to step a bit away from the canvas to enjoy the wholeness of experience.
ER: What inspires you when you create a painting? How do you get a theme for an artwork?
V.A. Inspiration to me is an itch of possibility, begging for a scratch of realisation. When things fall into place just right, the image itself is guiding the maker into becoming a great picture. Any image of wholeness, radiance and harmony will suffice. The objective of the tired artist then, is not to be in the way of nature’s order with his numerous comments, skills and ideas. The all-embracing uncertainty of reality had always been dearer to me than any elaborate explanations.
ER: Have you worked and/or lived abroad? Can you tell about this experience?
V.A.: Well, I did spend a few years in the States during my studies. I have enjoyed my stay thoroughly. Although America seemed both wide open and very private to me, just like those suburban clap board houses often left unlocked by their owners who happened to have a gun or two. Usually good natured and straight forward, Americans struck me by their obsession with stuff, it’s always the Things that they talk about, be it material things, or things they care about emotionally, it is the property (material or intellectual) and the question of ownership that makes them tick. India, on the other hand, where I spent some six or seven years later in life, had a different overwhelmingly engaging appeal. The humid air which one could almost drink, the smells and noises, the curiosity of ever swarming crowd seemed to draw you into the vortex of conversations, meals and misunderstandings.
ER: Have you tried teaching others how to paint?
V.A.: It has been ten years already since I had occasional student or two, since then this practice over grew into a profession of sorts.
ER: What do you like about it? Is there any pleasant feeling of sharing your style as an artist or, maybe, any positive effect from communication with students? How do you feel like being a teacher?
V.A.: For one I was really surprised at how many people were wishing to be able to draw. Also it came as a revelation to see how personal and serious people would take this practice. In 20 years of making pictures I saw individuals who seemed absolutely adequate in all other respects, get infuriated and loosing their temper completely faced with their shortcomings in art making. I saw people switching from pencils and brushes to fingers, hands and even feet, painting on cellophane or unprimed rags and sheets and even resorting to stabbing, slashing and stumping on their masterpieces. Painting as one of the most demanding and time consuming practices tends to bring out the worst in people. There is something in the solidity of visual information that is screaming Reality. Yet with a subtle change of light this reality is instantly transformed into a different one. Hence, visual art to me is an optical illusion, a pretty mirage of sorts, to be able to grasp it one has to be ready to accept the fact that it is not there before you, but rather exists in your head. To be a teacher for me is similar to be a sherpa somewhere in Himalayas , it involves guiding others to the top, and avoiding plenty of danger even though that sort of safe navigation is not the easiest thing to do.
ER: If we talk about Riga, what do you like the most in this city from the point of view of aesthetics? Architecture. Cityscapes. Or just favourite picturesque or simply inspiring corners of Riga?
V.A.: Latvia has a self-conscious uptight charm of a recovering nervous wreck on Prozak. No wonder this place is teaming with artists and writers. Riga as a city seems just as introverted as its people, full of places that can ignite ones interest and inspire like the pearls of great Art Nouveau architecture. And also full of Nordic quiet melancholy of Scandinavian looking summerhouses and riverbanks dressed in granite.
ER: If you imagined yourself a foreigner visiting Latvia for the first time, what would you do first after you would have made up the destination point?
V.A.: To get a feel of the place I would recommend visiting the Old Town. Team up with some local youngsters, students from some artistic field to talk about Latvian favourite topic – Identity, any kind of it will do – national, personal or professional – believe me it will spark a great conversation. Also make sure to come back the next day to cure the excruciating hangover, but this time invite somebody from the older crowd to discuss the same questions. I am sure that you will have a great time and gain a lot of perspective on this place drenched in opinions, dark humour and existentialism.