Jonas Čeponis: a Colourful Glance at the World. Exhibition dedicated to mark the 90th anniversary of the artist's birth
8th April – 22nd May 2016
Jonas Čeponis (1926–2003) was one of the most famous Lithuanian modernists who painted distinctive decorative works of a brightly colourful palette. He nurtured the individual artistic expression of the Ars group; his was a uniform composition based on modernist principles, with the strong presence of colour, rhythm of line and shape, and folk art principles. The landscape genre dominates in Čeponis’ paintings, yet in the images of the village surrounds where he was born and the fragments and panoramas of the Vilnius Old Town there was no sentimental expression of feelings. His images were based on a clear structure and the accentuation of dramatic black contours. Despite the harmony and dynamism of his bright colours, the artist’s compositions exude a calm inner peace and a stoic sense of everyday life.
The comprehensive retrospective exhibition of Čeponis’ paintings is divided into several of the more important themes and ideas: 1. Participant of quiet modernism. The early period of searching. 2. A colourful glance at nature. Vilnius Old Town motifs. 3. A romantic glance. Sea and ships. 4. Celebrating life. Figures and faces.
The legacy of Čeponis’ paintings lies scattered across various countries, in museums, galleries and private collections around the world. His works can be found in art museums in Lithuania, Poland, Russia, Bulgaria, Latvia and France, the Köln Modern Art Museum (Dr P. Ludwig’s collection), Germany, the Haidusagi Gallery in Hungary, Austria, Finland, Japan, Israel, Poland, Switzerland and the USA. The artist organised solo exhibitions in over 80 countries. As he started holding exhibitions quite early on, from 1966 he was identified as a participant of quiet modernism. At this stage, his exhibitions in the foyers of the “Vilnius”, “Tauras” and “Pionierius” cinemas were especially noteworthy. Despite the grey and ordinary booklets, the modest art researchers’ commentaries, his paintings with their bright contrasting colours and black contours meant this artist’s name was not easy to overlook. Speaking about the Soviet era’s artist’s efforts to discover their unique modern glance, Viktoras Liutkus claimed that they not only managed to shift a well-established barrier, but searched for and found ways to slip through the gaps and holes. Success in this endeavour was enjoyed by more than just one artist. Even their body of work may be considered an expression of mass resistance. Čeponis also searched for his language of resistance. His participation in exhibitions was tentative. He painted, encouraged by Jonas Švažas, yet was resolute in his position not to create any thematic ideological works, such as canvases declaring revolutionary or socialist ideas. The artist was drawn less to the actualities and everyday aspects of the Soviet era, searching instead for his own unique expression, moods and a harmony in colour, just as the French Impressionists and Fauvists did in their day.
Works for this exhibition are kindly on loan from the artist’s family, the Lithuanian Art Museum (43), the M. K. Čiurlionis National Museum of Art (12), the Lithuanian Expatriate Art Foundation (12), the Valiunas Ellex legal firm (5) and the Centre for Modern Art (3).
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