Concept

Born on April 15, 1934 in Jaungulbene

I grew up in the country. My parents had a small farm allocated to them after World War I, and raised five children. They constructed a glass-enclosed veranda in which my mother tended an impressive cactus collection. An enormous orchard with young apple trees and berry bushes stretched along the north side of the house while decorative bushes and a flower garden with a tall, white flag pole in the center graced the south side. Every Saturday during the summer, it was my brother’s and my responsibility to root out the weeds from the gravel paths, mow the lawn, and several times during the season to whitewash the decorative stones bordering the flower beds. But on Sunday mornings, when the whole family was seated at the breakfast table in the veranda, we reveled in the magnificence of nature.

In the summer of 1948 a group of teenagers congregated for entrance exams to the Janis Rozentāls Art School. The competition was stiff, with four or five applicants competing for one opening. In a couple of hours we were required to paint a still-life in watercolors, draw a few simple objects, and, what was most important, paint a composition on a theme of our own choosing. I had no idea what that was or what it meant. A lump of nervousness constricted my throat. When the ordeal was over, I scored 3 points and was admitted to this temple of art but without a scholarship.

At the end of the first semester, I was awarded a scholarship because my grades were good and, in some subjects, excellent. However, because I had overexerted myself, my face was covered with eczema pustules. In the local Jaungulbene dispensary, I awaited my turn to see the doctor, along with a typical country woman who had come 7 or 8 km from Ārabirži beyond Lake Ušurs and the Great Bog. When I recounted to her my school days on the threshold of the great world of art, she made a statement that has stayed with me to this day: “Son, we expect great things from you.” What did she mean by “we”? Why me? Why so suddenly? I interpreted her pronouncement as a special honor-conferring burden.

Since 1952 participates in exhibitions with paintings and graphics

In the spring of my second school year, Uldis Pauzers and I decided to walk to my childhood home. We walked along the railroad tracks through Suntaži to Madona. The weather was extremely hot and windless. The railroad tracks shimmered in the sweltering sun. We spent the night in a hay shed somewhere in Piebalga. In the morning, the farmer’s wife gave us milk cooled in the well. Scrutinizing us in the morning light, she remarked: “You look like city slickers who are used to easy living.” We thanked her and did not discuss it. However, to myself I thought: “I’m certainly not going to become a dandy and a polisher of city sidewalks.”

1953 – Graduates from Janis Rozentāls Art School

1959 – Graduates from the Painting Department of the State Academy of Art

From 1960 to 1973 – Works as an artist on the staff of the newspapers “Cīņa” and “Rīgas Balss”; works at an artistic design bureau and enterprise “Māksla”; teaches art in the evening courses of the Academy of Art

Since 1962 – Member of the Latvian Union of Artists

I am pleased when a theme I have chosen has already been transformed and elevated to a spiritual level. The subjects of most of my paintings and sculptures are rooted in poetry. From the beginning of my creative life, I have always been open to romanticism. Revolutionary romantic poetry and music, historic battles for freedom, a fighter’s uncommon devotion to an idea, the power of the soul and self-denial – all of these fascinated and inspired me.

Since 1966 – Begins working as a sculptor, mainly in granite

Since 1973 works full time on creative projects

If someone were to ask me today why I turned to sculpture after devoting approximately 20 years to painting and studying, my reply would be simply this – sculpture has many secrets, and here I can satisfy my yearning for monumentality. In painting no one afforded me entire walls for my works, but sculpture gives me free nature and free materials.

Journalists like to use the phrase “…the sculptor is standing by the stone.” I used to think that all sculptors actually worked that way. Since I lacked finances to pay stone cutters, I devised my own method of chiseling granite: I used a small Plasticene model which I could adjust and perfect as I shaped the granite sculpture.

Since 1975 – Forms the sculpture garden gallery “Ulamula” at Mārupīte in Rīga

Since 1977 – Organizes and participates in local and international symposia on granite sculpture in Latvia

Finding boulders, digging them out and transporting them entail adventures that move me to the depths of my being. The transporting expeditions usually arrive at my workshop on summer nights around dawn. The operators of trailers, cranes, and bulldozers are exhausted and tense after arguing themselves hoarse about the best method of loading the boulders; sometimes they exchange earthy expletives. I can barely stand up, and I am half-dead from stress and from stretching the heavy, splintered steel cables through the mud in order to get the boulder ready for lifting. There is always some mishap or hitch. But at the end of it all, I feel happy because a couple of new boulders have taken up residence in my workshop.

The boulders are arranged in a sculpturesque, decorative manner, creating an exposition next to my workshop. Since I work outdoors round the year and move among half-finished, just begun, or completely untouched boulders, I see all of the metamorphoses that nature paints and forms in this material. Just keep your eyes open and take what you need.

I do everything by myself – I turn the stones and set them up with the aid of jacks, winches and levers, I find the proper balance of the stone and I chisel. Since I work outdoors, the size of the sculpture is not limited by space. Under the sway of inspiring enthusiasm, I try to set my stones on end so that their masses have a new opportunity to reveal their dynamics in a way that accords with my vision. Each stone awaits its turn. With my head thrust back, I walk among them as through growing timber, a forest of ideas.

After a long or short period – sometimes after years of reflection, sketches on paper and Plasticene models – I take up my chisel and begin to compose in stone. I separate layer after layer as one peels an onion, as Peer Gynt inventories his life in Ibsen’s play. Similarly, I await the appearance of the core. Direct strokes of the chisel seem the least disturbing. During the chiseling process, there is a physically dynamic dialog with the stone because each stone requires a different stroke. If after a certain period I lack a clear image of the finished work, I go on to the next stone while the image concealed within the former stone continues to mature.

Since 1985 – Establishes a Latvian folk song park “Dainu kalns” in honor of K. Barons’ 150th anniversary

Folklore is a poetic encyclopedia of a nation’s life. Thousands upon thousands of lives slumber in folk songs. The nation’s soul flutters and quivers in folk songs; enwrapped in metaphors, it becomes imperishable. These simple quatrains, like pearls of dew reflecting a myriad of rainbows, require the most grandiose and monumental form. I had to seek the most solid, the most comprehensive form – sphere, ellipse, or drop – to express a folk song’s dynamics. Thus as I began to delve into the complex labyrinth of natural forms, there evolved the sculptures of Mysteries of Growth. In expressing my vision of folk songs, I found the key for the framework of the human form. It coincided beautifully with the characteristics of my beloved stones and with my fundamental principle – to chisel away as little as possible in order to lose as little as possible of the shape’s primal essence.

In 1987 and 1994 – International Labrador symposia in Larvik, Norway

Since 1987 – The Andersson family’s sculpture garden gallery in Stavanger, Norway

1995 – International stone symposium in Nanao, Japan

From 1995 to 2000 – “5+1” joint symposium in Riga with five Norwegian sculptors

1998 – Received the Royal Norwegian Order of St. Olaf, 4th class

After the first decades devoted to sculpture, when I released torrents of formerly pent-up emotions, I was ready to move forward and enlarge the diapason of my sculptural vocabulary. I felt that by collaborating with Norwegian sculptors I broadened my creative amplitude because they had learned more than Norwegian schools had taught them. In my travels in Norway and in symposia, I became quite familiar with the country’s landscape and met many notable and interesting people from the spheres of culture and art. Much that I saw there I regarded as a model and worth studying more closely because the Norwegian sculptors were a step ahead of us. I decided to demonstrate in Latvia what I had learned in Norway. Thus emerged the idea of the “5+1” symposium in which I collaborated with five Norwegian artists.

1992 – Becomes an honorary member of the Latvian Academy of Sciences

1994 – Officer of the Three-Star Order, 4th class, of the Republic of Latvia

1998 – Receives the Rainis Award of the Latvian Academy of Sciences

Experiencing nature’s magnificent aura in my childhood has deeply affected my subsequent life in the city. Even in the company of other artists I have felt somewhat like an outsider. But when boulders arrive from the country, I always greet them not only as ideal materials for sculpture but also as old friends. I see in their rounded facets the effects of Ice Age glaciers, as well as great physical and esthetic logic in their planes which captures my imagination. Each one has a biography stretching back for thousands of years. Can you imagine how during the course of its existence a sharp stone fragment of a Scandinavian mountain became a gently rounded being. What forces have worked with and against it? What winds have blown over it since prehistoric times? In thinking about these things, the heart becomes unbearably full, overwhelmed by the comprehension of grandeur, and I am impelled to work – to seek, to study, to sift, to split, to unite – to create.

After the vicissitudes of wandering and seeking when I focused on expressing the poetry of the human face and true historical portraits in granite, drawings, and paintings, I have returned to the ideas of my youth. In sculptures and paintings that destiny allows me to create, I am moving toward the light, with the dawn as my theme. As the poet Andrejs Eglītis states:

“IF OUR HOPES SEEM LIKE A STONE THAT HAS STEPPED ON WATER,” then
“STAND LIKE THE EARTH, WHICH HOLDS ON TO NOTHING EVEN IF ALL HAS BEEN LOST.”