CREATIVE FUSION: The Political, Personal Art of Indrė Šerpytytė – Palanga, Lithuania

Indrė Šerpytytė’s Two Seconds of Colour, rectangular painted color fields stacked brick-like in a grid, looks like a work of vibrant minimalism, and that sensibility is only enhanced when the work is presented as a series, as it was last year at the Contemporary Art Centre in Vilnius, Lithuania. It’s pleasing, with a nearly lulling effect. But Šerpytytė, a Lithuanian born artist now living in London, asserts that the work should not be viewed without reading its accompanying text.

That text explains that the color blocks represent a technological snag when her computer screen froze briefly as she was Google image searching a phrase that is anything but pleasing: ISIS beheadings.

Šerpytytė’s work is not easy but, given her own history, it should not come as a surprise. When she was just becoming a young adult, her father, a Lithuanian government official, died in a 2001 car accident she considers suspicious. Her work takes place where forces collide in violent ways.

“I don’t think there is or should be distinction between the “personal” and the “political” and in my practice, I don’t distinguish between the two terms,” she says. “My work is always personal. We live in a world that is very global and the worldwide political situation concerns us all, be it directly or indirectly. My themes are universal, and in practice I explore the ways in which the past affects the present, the ways in which political influences the personal, and the importance of memory.”

Absence of Experience, 2017, Contemporary Art Centre, Lithuania

Absence of Experience, 2017, Contemporary Art Centre, Lithuania

While her work deals with trauma and seems to dwell in dark places, Šerpytytė believes such events and circumstances “are daily occurrence in the world we live in. One doesn’t have to dig deep to find them.” She hopes that the work she produces “provides the viewers a space for reflection that it allows to enter the trauma and relate to it on an emotional level and most importantly to not forget.”

Šerpytytė says her work for FRONT International will tease out the relationship between ritual, war, and trauma—“the ways in which trauma and loss are ritualized in public acts of mourning in the specific context.”

“The different parts of the exhibition will explore how military systems are negotiated on tacit levels of affect, gesture, and emotion and explicit levels of rituals and systems. It will consider the various ways in which trauma is coped with, organized and expressed on both intimate and public levels, and it examines the complex, and often problematic relationship between these modes of grieving and remembering.”

Before visiting Cleveland in November 2017, Šerpytytė decided not to read up on the city, so she could have what she calls her “own voyage of discovery,” and “embrace the city” as she found it. She was not disappointed.

“There is so much to see and do. I was surprised by the wealth of history, arts, and culture. There have been many years of arts patronage within Cleveland and the surrounding areas. I visited the Cleveland Orchestra, museums, private foundations, artist homes, and the Cultural Gardens. I fell in love with Cleveland, its cultural heritage and its people.”