Instant Light at Photo London 2019
01 May 2019.

INSTANT LIGHT
WHITE SPACE GALLERY
BOOTH F1, PHOTO LONDON 2019, SOMERSET HOUSE, 16-19 MAY

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White Space Gallery presents a selection of Eastern European photography from the 1970s and beyond closely linked to the phenomenon of the so-called “Lithuanian School of Photography”. Among the works on display, are photographs by three master-figures: Antanas Sutkus (*1939), Vitas Luckus (1943-1987) and Rimaldas Vikšraitis (*1954) whose pieces focus on the everyday life of people under the Soviet occupation and are characterized by a deeply empathetic, humanistic approach to their subjects. The display also includes a selection of polaroids by groundbreaking filmmaker Andrey Tarkovsky (1932-1986) and large-scale prints by contemporary Russian artist Vita Buivid (*1962) which focus on the complex – and often contradictory – feelings associated with living in the (former) Soviet Union.

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Photographer Antanas Sutkus is considered the funder of the Lithuanian School of Photography and its most renewed leader. Working at the time when the country was part of the Soviet Union, Sutkus focused on black and white portraits of ordinary people in their everyday life rather than the model citizens and workers promoted by Soviet propaganda. His humanistic approach comes to the fore in his images of people, especially children, young adults and lovers. The artist stated that his aim is ‘to make an attempt at drawing a psychological portrait of the contemporary man’. Sutkus has recently received one of the major European Photography prizes, Erich Solomon Prize for photojournalism (2017) and opened a landmark exhibition, Kosmos at the National Gallery of Art in Vilnius (2018).

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Rimaldas Vikšraitis is best known for his artistic documentary photographs of rural life in his native Lithuania. His photographic series – among which are Grimaces of the Weary Village (1998 – ongoing) and Slaughter (1982 -1986) – document the decline of village life in the country leading up to and following the break-up of Soviet Union. Vikšraitis’ black and white studies of drunkenness, nakedness and dereliction are depressing yet strangely beautiful, by turns frightening and darkly comic. In 2009, the artist won the prestigious Discovery Award at the Arles photography festival, having been nominated by Martin Parr, who described the work as “slightly insane and wonderfully surreal”.

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Vitas Luckus is considered one of the most groundbreaking photographers from the former Soviet bloc who aimed to challenge traditional photography by creating surreal montage series, social reportages and conceptual book projects. His photographs are characterized by an unmediated intensity of emotions and acute facial expressions. Luckus’s monograph “Vitas Luckus. Biography. Work” was recognized as the best historical book at the photography festival “Les Rencontres d’Arles” in 2015.

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Between 1979 and 1984, Andrey Tarkovsky took a series of polaroids which documented his travels across Russia and Italy. The works include romantic landscapes, studied portraits, and private shots of the auteur’s family and friends. All the photographs demonstrate the filmmaker’s visual-poetic ability to capture a sense of nostalgia, perennial loss and intense longing. Accordingly to art scholar Boris Groys, the polaroids closely resemble – in terms of mood, atmosphere and light – 19th Romantic landscape painting.

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Vita Buivid is a contemporary artist based in Moscow whose work span across photography, textiles and fashion. Among here more relevant pieces is a series of photos taken in 2001 in collaboration with fashion designer, Petlyura, the self-professed “king of junk”. Together with the designer, Buivid staged several group photo with people dressed in outmoded fashion items from the Soviet era. This archival concern is symptomatic of her practice which seeks to reclaim surviving scraps of Russian national identity that are fast disappearing under capitalism.

White Space Gallery was funded in 2001 with the aim to promote contemporary art from Russia and Eastern Europe. The gallery focuses on important Russian artists which emerged after the perestroika period such as Oleg Kulik, Tatiana Antoshina, Vita Buivid, Gluklya (Natalia Pershina), Leonid Borisov, Ivan Sotnikov and Timur Novikov. The gallery also represents photographers Rimaldas Viksraitis and Anastas Sutkus – members of the Lithuanian School of Photography renowned for its humanistic approach to photo-making. White Space has a strong focus on producing exhibition catalogues and regularly commissions articles for publications. Works by artists represented by the gallery are included in the collections of the Tate and the Victoria and Albert Museum (London), National Museum of Modern Art (Oslo), Huis Marseille Photography Museum (Amsterdam) and Yad Vashem Art Museum (Jerusalem) among many others.

Above images: 

1. Vitas Luckus. Boris Mikhailov. 1975 Copyright: Vitas Luckus LLC

2. Antanas Sutkus. Boy from the old town. Vilnius, 1970 Copyright: Antanas Sutkus Archive

3. Rimaldas Viksraitis. Farmstead Dreams. 2003 Copyright: Rimaldas Viksratis

4. Vitas Luckus. Relatives. 1985. Copyright: Vitas Luckus LLC

5. Andrey Tarkovsky. Near Citta Ducale Church. 1984. Copyright: Andrey Tarkovsky Foundation, Florence

6. Vita Buivid. Empire in clothes series (In collaboration with Petliyra). Kruschev’ Thaw. 2000 Copyright: Vita Buivid

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