MAstars 2011: Inguna Gremzde, MA Fine Art

MAstars 2011: Inguna Gremzde, MA Fine Art Inguna Gremzde, Small World, 2011. Painting. 277cm x 347cm. Credit: Inguna Gremzde

Debra Wilson & Chiara Williams select Inguna Gremzde from Wimbledon College of Art for MAstars

Latvian-born Inguna Gremzde’s current practice consists of miniature landscapes painted in plastic bottle caps. The use of these brightly-coloured milk and juice tops affords the landscapes a neat conceptual container, a theoretical framework, and a self-conscious sense of unease in their hybrid status as painting, object and installation.

These are delicate microcosms of a world in which beautiful, rural countryside clashes with urban greed and commodity. And though totally unpopulated, these lonely panoramas juxtapose contemporary consumer lifestyles with man's historically romantic relationship with nature, in the great tradition of Western Landscape.

In Gremzde’s own statement about the work, she says 'Landscape is a portrait of nature and Landscape can be regarded as a focus for the formation of identity'. If these are portraits, they are also self-portraits. Furthermore, through the act of miniaturising her world, Gremzde possesses it and by extension consumes it, again and again. In both respects the work is self-reflexive, and at once sits firmly within the convention of painted Miniatures, which were originally designed to be carried by soldiers, sailors or explorers, as treasured personal mementos while travelling away from home.

Gremzde herself is far away from home, trying to position herself in a new society and in a big city. The landscapes she depicts - most of them from her native Latvia - could be read as the diminishing memory of a native culture where peace and tranquility is eaten up by the hectic, loud, concrete jungle of London.

Some of the paintings do depict the London skyline, the only view of nature from her Earl’s Court flat. When Gremzde speaks of her arrival in London, she describes her initial shock at the sight of endless rows of identical houses, the lack of horizon lines and the huge amounts of waste on the streets. Her experience of London’s cramped housing and high population density has also influenced the dimensions of Gremzde’s work, which has grown smaller in response and is made, quite literally, from the rubbish she recycles.

Maintaining the intimacy and immediacy of experiencing these miniature works is an important consideration when displaying them. Instinctively one wants to handle them, examine them, and hold them close to the eye, but of course, this is impractical in an exhibition. In her degree show, she proposed a number of display solutions: a carefully arranged grid comprising hundreds of paintings covering an entire wall; another small grid on the opposite wall; and a randomly scattered formation emerging from a quiet corner.

She is anxious to distance herself from the formal similarities of a Damien Hirst spot painting, but this huge grid-like display serves primarily to contrast sharply with the miniature scale of the paintings themselves and seems to fulfil a purpose to catalogue, order, and make sense of an immense environment as if seen through shifting viewfinders.

Indeed collectively, these paintings are as expansive as they are intimate. They represent escapism and nostalgia, the pursuit of wholeness, identity and belonging. To appreciate them is as if to peek through a telescope, or a very tiny porthole, and see in each one a tiny cry of the soul seeking to free itself, but then when you stand back, you see a crowd of parallel worlds, a crowd of souls, just like a London high street.

Selected by Debra Wilson & Chiara Williams of WW Gallery
Published October, 2011

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