Amber and lithuanian art
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Amber and lithuanian art

The waves of the Baltic Sea used to throw amber ashore since olden times. Its articles can be found in archaeological treasures, and amber beads have become part of a national costume. The outlook on amber as a national symbol and the image of a Lithuanian girl wearing amber beads was formed in the period between the late 19th century and the early 20th century by the writers and poets of the national liberation movement. It has survived in the national cultural memory up to the present days.

Artists consider amber to be a complex material. The shapes of its pieces present a great diversity, and the process of its grinding and polishing unfolds a host of shades, textures, whitish fibres seen inside the piece, some hardened semi-transparent “tiny clouds”, and air bubbles in the clair mass. The dug out or cast out amber by the sea is coated with a “rind”, which prevents from seeing its inside. The mysterious inside unfolds itself only after the process of polishing. Amber – the hardened resin which was dripping down from the trees fifty million years ago. The shape of a piece depended on the place of the accumulation of resin, i.e. whether is accumulated on the trunk or roots, and flat small pieces also acquired their shape inside between the rinds. Resin is of a dark yellow colour, transparent, and the bright whitish insertions in the clear mass appeared only due to the foaming of resin.The foaming resin originated the non-transparent yellowish, white amber. The so-called blue amber was born under the impact of iron admixtures, and the black – under that of charcoal. Even a strong wind might have effected the appearance of amber – not fully hardened mass rippled and left an expressive texture.

Amber gives many possibilities to an artist, the only thing to do is just to choose what attracts you. If one imagines the relationship between an artist and material as a dialogue striving for mutual understanding, amber could be called a very talkative interlocutor. Whereas to perceive the artist’s words, which witness the mysterious spiritual kinship and are close to his creative credo, is difficult, indeed. At present and in the past, the greater part of amber adornments in Lithuania is produced by folk masters (artists amateurs) and craftsmen.

We had only few professional jewellers up to the end of the 70s. The most prominent among them – Feliksas Daukantas and Kazimieras Simanonis – devoted much attention to amber. The mentioned and other artists created standarts for a serial production of amber adornments at the state enterprise “Dailė”. The stylistics of their adornments became an example for artists amateurs.

In the course of time, the production of amber adornments (they were in great demand in the former Soviet Union) started to curry favour with mass taste. Amber became for lithuanians material for a souvenir production. A predominant opinion was that amber was not suitable for a valuable adornment. Amber disappeared from the horizont of professional art quite for along time because older artists worked less with amber and the new young generation, which emerged in late 70s (the majority of them were awarded the qualification of specialists in fine metal work at the Estonian Academy of Arts in Tallinn), came with new ideas. The traditional conception of an adornment as a decorative whole of a stone and its metal frame was substituted by an aspiration not only for a decorative but first of all for an artistic expression. Adornments were enriched with symbolic signs, pictures and inscriptions, which give rise to thoughts and associations – the disclosure of the decorativeness of an amber piece did not become a dominant task of the young generation.

The early current decade witnessed the first attempts to change the prevailing outlook to amber: in 1990 an exhibition of jewellry in amber was held at the Museum of Applied Art. However, it was Kazimieras and Virginija Mizgiris who took a programmed initiative to stimulate the jewellers’ attention to amber and return it to the sphere of creative searchings of contemporary professional art. In 1992 K. Mizgiris, photo artist and author of the album of photographs depicted the seaside dunes, and his wife opened a museum-gallery in Nida, the most picturesque health-resort in Lithuania. They arranged an exposition, which familiarizes the visitor with amber, the gift of nature, as well as with a section of adornments by artists and folk masters. When stimulating artists to work with amber, they created possibilities to arrange exhibitions in this gallery, some ten artists exhibited their works at least once.

However, Nida is a health-resort, and out of season life comes to standstill there, but the people charmed by the amber exposition wanted to see it in the capital. The idea to open an amber museum-gallery in Vilnius was realized in the spring of 1998, but the gallery in Nida also continues its activities. It took the gallery expert V. and K. Mizgiris to accumulate the collections of eight artists, among them of the most prominent Lithuanian jewellers, seven years. The museum-gallery in Vilnius displays them splendidly: it a convenient to view the works placed in glass-cases, they are well enough lighted, and the sand at the bottom of the glass-cases creates a perfect atmosphere for amber.

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