In his first solo exhibition in the UK, Lithuanian artist Andrius Erminas creates multi-layered sculptural compositions that unravel the complexities and paradoxes that exist in the relationship between human culture and the natural world. Erminas speaks in metaphors, referencing diverse cultures, history, religion and myth, to transform the everyday, using both natural and man-made objects to create new and personal narratives. Self-portrayal, philosophical reflections and contemporary cultural references are interwoven in his sculptural objects and installations. The objects are transformed not only physically but also emotionally and symbolically.
The exhibition divides into two halves: in the first room, the viewer encounters objects taken from visual art, architecture, religion, and everyday life that span cultures from around the world and back into the depths of history. From East to West, from Buddhism to Christianity, from the archaic through to the mediaeval, the baroque and the contemporary, Erminas knits together a complex web of associations. Cultural objects that originally had a single defined, fixed meaning are surrounded by unexpected paradoxes and new significance. A Buddhist headdress is backed by an antique Lithuanian spinning wheel, a chain of gilded coat hooks echoes a human spinal column surmounted by a ceramic brain. Objects that seem at first sight to be conferred with a sense of power and importance, of luxury and wealth are revealed as mundane and even farcical. Plush toys on pedestals, a hot water bottle emblazoned with an image of Christ, an enema bottle hanging from a gold chain, a golden ceremonial mace that on closer inspection is revealed as a gilded cauliflower, Erminas mixes humour with a deep meditation on the human condition.
In the second room organic elements predominate – trees, roots, animal skeletons, honeycombs and earth. Here Erminas looks at the natural world and examines the beauty of the objects created by evolution and the forces of nature itself. But this is not a simple presentation of apparently ‘natural’ design, Erminas places himself as artist and mediator between the human the natural world. A female human torso made of dried earth, totems of animal bones, wood and stone, a deer skull rubbed with ochre, all these speak of the profound and ancient relationship between humans and the environment. The object here speak of yearning for union, a search for the divine in nature, but it is a union that continues to elude us.
Across both halves of the exhibition there is a thread that runs through Erminas’ explorations. All of his objects have undergone profound mutations: he has brought together the whole sweep of history, art and culture and involved the audience in a game without clear boundaries and rules. The array of diverse elements he has marshalled together are constantly shifting between their original status and the new meanings, associations and characteristics given to them. Erminas encourages the viewer to look at the myriad interconnections between the objects that surround us every day, and to look for the boundaries between what is real and what is a fiction created by art.
Andrius Erminas was born in 1971 and studied monumental art and sculpture at the Vilnius Academy of Arts, 1996-99. He has exhibited in Lithuania, Bulgaria, Denmark, Ukraine, Germany, Poland, and Macedonia. Recent exhibitions include ‘Behind the Scenes’, (AV17) gallery, Vilnius (2016), ‘Frontiers’, ARgenTum Gallery, Vilnius (2015), and ‘Human Factor. Carousel’, (AV17) gallery, Vilnius (2014-15).
‘Mutations’ is part of a UK-Lithuania exchange between Vane and (AV17) gallery in Vilnius, who are hosting ‘rocks/water/trees/clouds’, a solo exhibition by Vane represented artist Matthew Smith, 3-27 November. The exhibition is supported by the Lithuanian Council for Culture and the Lithuania Culture Institute.
Andrius Erminas was born in 1971 and studied monumental art and sculpture at the Vilnius Academy of Arts, 1996-99. He has exhibited in Lithuania, Bulgaria, Denmark, Ukraine, Germany, Lithuania, Poland, and Macedonia. Recent exhibitions include ‘Behind the Scenes’, (AV17) gallery, Vilnius (2016), ‘Frontiers’, ARgenTum Gallery, Vilnius (2015), and ‘Human Factor. Carousel’, (AV17) gallery, Vilnius (2014-15).