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IV Book Art Exhibition 2018: Illustrations

March 8 @ 17:00 - April 20 @ 12:00

This art event was once called a triennial of book art, as it is held every three years and presents book artists’ works from this period. On the one hand, the exhibition is a kind of retrospective of Lithuanian book artists for the past three years. So some works have already been displayed, many of them have gone to press and continue their life as books with smaller or larger editions. Other works have only just been created, still smelling of paint and awaiting the trial of the printing press. The exhibition includes one more category of works: illustrations the creation of which has not been prompted by any book. These illustrations are stand-alone pieces of imaginary artists’ books. There is no intention to bind the pieces into a book; these prints are more like sketches of future books and have a status of single illustrations. They freely represent artists’ ideas, unrestricted by any texts, clients, deadlines or other obligations. 

The exhibition introduces 34 book artists of Lithuania. Some artists, their manner and style, are well-known to us, as they constantly present their latest work to the public, while other participants of the exhibition are only starting their careers as illustrators. This competition is one of the incentives that help to marshal artists in this field and express appreciation of their work by giving them awards and diplomas. It is also a way to promote Lithuanian illustrators and let a wider audience get acquainted with their oeuvre.

LINA ITAGAKI has been awarded the first prize for illustrating the book Sibiro haiku (‘Siberian Haiku’, Aukso žuvys, 2017) by Jurga Vilė, a debut work for the artist and the author. The book seeks to familiarize children with the theme of exile, the history of their grandparents and grand grandparents. The artist not only created illustrations, but also wrote out the entire text of the book by hand. Having earned the title of the Most Beautiful Book 2017, this year it has received acclaim for innovative form, powerful artistic expression, the harmonious unity of image and text.     

MONIKA VAICENAVIČIENĖ, also a newcomer on the art scene, has won the second prize for illustrating her own book about the famous Lithuanian linguist and statesman Jonas Basanavičius, entitled Per balas link aušros: pasakojimas apie daktaro Jono Basanavičiaus keliones ir darbus (Tikra knyga, 2018). In her illustrations the artist uses several art tools and techniques: she draws in black and white and in coloured pencils, makes cuttings, paints in gouache, and writes by hand. With their help, she aptly conveys the protagonist’s changing life, impressions of his travels, political moods, and the stages in the development of the Lithuanian state. These illustrations had been exhibited at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair; they were also displayed and won recognition at the World Illustration Awards Exhibition.

AUŠRA KIUDULAITĖ, a young, but already known artist, has earned the third prize for illustrating the book Draugystė ant straublio galo (‘Friendship on the Elephant’s Trump’, Tikra knyga, 2017) by Marius Marcinkevičius. The artist made her debut with illustrations for Evelina Daciūtė’s book Laimė yra lapė (Tikra knyga, 2016). The book has run into six editions so far and was included in the IBBY Honour List. In 2018 it was translated into English under the title The Fox on the Swing and published by Thames and Hudson. The illustrations from the artist’s second book, presented at this exhibition, have also been praised by critics.  At the Book Art Competition she won acclaim for the ability to grasp and reveal the workings of the child’s imagination and professional artistic expression; she also won a diploma at the Tallinn Illustration Triennial.  

So all the winning entries of this exhibition have been noted and appreciated before. These illustrations are largely responsible for the success of the books for which they had been created: they paved the way into the hearts of young readers of picture books in other languages. 

SIMONA JURČIUKONYTĖ, a graduate of the Vilnius Art Academy, has earned the

Algirdas Steponavičius award for illustrating her own book Istorija ne apie spyglį (‘A Story: Not about a Thorn’, 2018). The illustrations are executed in lithographic and wood-cut techniques, and the prints can be viewed from both sides. The prize was given for the continuation of traditions and innovative art forms.

Diplomas were awarded to three other young Lithuanian illustrators of the show. RASA JANČIAUSKAITĖ exhibits illustrations for the book Maži eilėraščiai mažiems (‘Little Poems for the Little Ones’) by Marius Marcinkevičius. The artist draws everyday situations with ease, jazzing them up with elements of the absurd. LAIMA MATUZONYTĖ presents a series of prints from her own book Žmogus su stalo kojomis (‘Man with the Legs of a Table’, 2018). Her dynamic illustrations, marked by a remarkable alignment between text and image, were exhibited at the London Book Fair and at an international show of illustrations of pop-up books. GRETA ALICE LIEKYTĖ, another graduate from the Graphic Department of the Vilnius Art Academy, exhibits illustrations for two books: Naktis su raktininku: pasakos žmonėms ir kitiems tolimojo kaimo gyventojams (‘The Night with the Keyholder”, 2016) by Aidas Jurašius and Vilniaus pokeris (Vilnius Poker, 2018) by Ričardas Gavelis. Her illustrations are characterized by the density and jam-up of images, elements of comic-strips and caricature. She also chooses the right way to deconstruct these images, so that they are in sync with the texts.

For most students and graduates of the Vilnius Art Academy this is the first group exhibition. Several other young artists deserve to be mentioned as well. UGNĖ RUDINSKAITĖ presents a cycle of woodcuts, based on Lithuanian proverbs. ELENA SELENA exhibits 3-D illustrations, which stand out by their original cutting technique.

The exhibition also includes fine works by acknowledged artists. LINA DŪDAITĖ presents her meticulously drawn illustrations for the book Sivužas (Tikra knyga, 2018) by Marius Marcinkevičius. KĘSTUTIS KASPARAVIČIUS showcases watercolours for his book Kaimynė už kampo (‘The Neighbour around the Corner’, Nieko rimto, 2017): they are easily recognizable by his signature style and professional execution. IEVA BABILAITĖ displays her subtly elegant illustrations for the poetry book Baisiai gražūs eilėraščiai (‘Terribly Beautiful Poems’, Žalias kalnas, 2017) by Daiva Čepauskaitė.

The book art exhibition does not only look back, but also ahead: it has hopes and plans for the future. So, I can promise you that in three years from now the exhibition will be held again. Maybe it will have a more precise title, such as the Lithuanian Illustration Triennial or maybe again the Baltic Illustration Triennial (as it was in the past). Maybe it will be run by new organisers, maybe it will find another venue, but one thing is certain – the names of the artists and their works will enter the history of Lithuanian art and will live long in pictures books that nurture the next generation of Lithuania. 

Jolita Liškevičienė