How did you get on the New York Times article cover?
I arrived in NY a week before COVID-19 kicked-in. With each day the city became increasingly silent and empty. Galleries, museums were closed down.
That photo was taken while I was standing in the line to buy some groceries at the City Fresh Market that is located at the junction of Knickerbocker Ave., and Hart street. The article was with an emphasis on workers who fought to keep the shelves stocked while trying to keep themselves healthy. And there I was, as a testimony of a cautious customer, patiently waiting for my turn to enter with taking all the necessary precautions.
Are you a patient artist as well? Or do you prefer, not to wait for good times to come, and push your career by yourself?
Depends. Personally, it’s important to be patient with the evolution of the work. It’s easy to carry out “bad” decisions, or due to the tight schedule, prematurely complete the entirety of the work. I believe in the power of long-term thinking, to let your thoughts and intentions fly two years ahead, contemplating and planning out the next possible steps of development. It’s hard, or nearly impossible for me, to stand still and wait for something. Because of necessity I am taking the action in my hands. More precisely, if I have a longer gap between shows, I usually organize a presentation by myself in my studio or elsewhere just to keep things rolling at a good pace. So, yes, I consider myself patient in sense of artistic developments, but I like to feel things rolling in terms of workload and busy schedule.
Your works are well recognised in the Gallery and Art-Fair World but rarely seen in Institutions. Is this a strategy of yours?
At the beginning of the second year of my studies at the HISK (Higher Institute for Fine Arts Advanced Studies & Practice-based Research in Visual Arts, Ghent, Belgium) with the background in video art, I hit the rock bottom both artistically and financially. I look back at this period as a major shift that helped me to recalibrate my views and realise that I need to develop an artistic strategy in order to keep going. As a result, I spent the whole second year of the studies and research with a quest to develop a visual grammar that would serve as a new starting point. Consequently, I reduced my practice to a particular method, gradually expanding, deconstructing, evolving. So yes, it was a sort of prepared strategy, to start with the gallery world to find a financial shelter that hopefully will become more museum and institution oriented.
As a rule, artists use the opposite strategy: to start with the institutions to increase symbolic status before they will be invited to prestigious galleries. What advantages and disadvantages have you found passing through your experience?
The only advantage is to get well-prepared, experienced and to grow into the museum and institutional world. This feels like an appropriate chain of events for my practice. Also, it’s not like there’s a long chain of museums and institutions standing in a queue with invitations. In the upcoming years, I will start to aim in that direction, and let’s see what happens.
Does the artist still need the institution for his/her works in the time of numerous submission platforms that provide you with the virtual space to present the works?
To me, art is an energy exchange, not a lonely thing in the studio. A sculpture presented physically now is being outspread in different mediums and forms. Sort of layers of perception, physical encounter of the work, an image published on an app, 3D scan of the show and so on. Like an app needs a smartphone, now an artwork needs a publishing platform either it’s a show online or offline. As for institutions, I believe the value only increases, there’s more subject to research and speculate on. Rhizome expands deeper, connecting new ends.
I love seeing shows in person, but now more than ever, I appreciate publishing platforms such as Art Viewer and others. It’s a ritual – every morning I open and discover new shows.
Did that kind of technology change your artistic optics?
My work wouldn’t exist without technologies, without Cinema 4D, in particular. It allows not only to create a work in 3 dimensions, but it also serves as a mind expansion. To me software is like a filter between myself and the material, it allows me to see differently, but what is more important is that I can manipulate the materials in new ways. It’s interesting to think how technologies are changing the function and efficiency of our fingers and how the reflexes can result in new impulses and shape new forms. When I’m drawing the 3D models using a trackpad, sometimes it literally feels that my fingers are inside the application, sort of like an immersion of fingers into another world.
Some of your works have quite a clear reference to constructivism. Do you share the vision and mission of Russian constructivists in dealing with the duality “object vs reality”?
I don’t necessarily emphasize the duality of objects and reality in my work, nor deal with any of constructivist oriented matter, at least not purposefully. At the same time, I can’t deny some vague references and connotations of constructivism in my work, but I never aimed for it. I’m one of the last fruits of the former soviet union. I was born in 1988, hence I spent my first 3 years of life in Soviet Union (Latvia gained its independence after perestroika in 1991). I assume the influence of growing up in Latvia, in the former post-soviet region plays a role.
My parents took me to the museum and gallery shows here in Latvia when I was a kid and I vividly recall the work by Gustavs Klucis, I wasn’t a fan of the work, I just remember it quite clearly. Curator Zane Onckule recently reflected on my work in a form of a text and she referred to the evil Perpendicular, a character from Latvian animation movie “Dilli Dalii in the world of the Perpendicular” (1976) carries the role of a dramatic personae – the protagonist here. Quote:
“Echoing Perpendicular’s – the perpetual enemy’s – intend to undo/ruin everything that is alive (contrary to the giddy Dilli who possesses power to bring life into the things, be it his toys or other things) by putting into a frame (literally, behind the bars) – birds, plants, children – Ģelzis works out of a line (think of it as the tiny body of the Perpendicular) and forces/collapses everything back into a line. The only exception here is that who gets trapped into the frame, in the prison of its own will, is the evil geometrical figure – this mutable – “rambling” – schizoid – himself.”
The intention you are keeping in your works is about destruction or gathering elements of matter together?
It goes both ways, depending on the current moods and aims. The work I’m developing at the moment is definitely destruction in a very complex setting.
What means the materiality of objects for you? Do you share the definition for your works as “abstract sculpture”?
My practice is based on certain aspects of the visual methods and values of infographics/graph stocks. I refuse to use actual data or information, instead, I analyse personal experiences, imagination, memories, art history etc. Both materially consolidating and abstracting information into sculptures that appear to map some sort of data but flippantly refuse legibility. Quoting Dana Kopel:
“This process—and the fact that the finished works look a bit like hyperactive stock market graphs—might allude to neoliberal capitalism’s impulse to accumulate information-as-wealth (think, for example, of the novel and exciting means Facebook innovates to profit off its users’ data)”.
The headless figures (without thought of its own) indicate inter-body energy exchange, representing a reality of information, trying to fit-in, and to find comfort in the habit-holding compressed world. These intertwined figures are genderless, evincing labour and leisure, comfort and discomfort or sexualized encounter that has been mechanized as a clinical assembly line of bodies – becomes everybody and nobody.
I have a different purpose of arriving at an abstract sculpture, I don’t express a pure feeling or what may exist with a degree of independence from visual references in the world. I’m interested in how the reality of information or how the information has been processed or utilized and as a notion it’s already quite abstract to me. I like to imagine how the data travels inside the wire, through air, through devices and in particular how it connects the world and activates the processes. For example, imagine a line shooting through the graph chart that represents human welfare in 2020. The streak of that line represents everyone and none in particular. What I borrow in that regard is the idea of all-encompassing.
Regarding experiencing an object. To me, the main focus lies in developing the structure or the digital model of the work. I begin with free-hand drawing in Cinema 4D, an application typically used by architects, designers, animators, and others. Once the digital model is created, I further transcribe it to the paper that aids the construction of the physical work. This sequence helps me to maintain a misleading impression of the hands that gave form to these structures.
Does the chaotic world of Data we are framed within needed to be structured?
It’s not necessarily about structuring the chaos, it’s rather something I am living by, being a hostage of it? We live in a system that becomes more automatized and computerized with an incomprehensible web of networks that rhizomes everything with the background processes being active 24/7. I like to imagine the world of interconnection transmission lines, to reenact those lines in structures, shapes and forms that represent different situations from daily life or imagination in a domestic or strange setting with a homelike feeling.
What forms of tension exist between artists and gallerists nowadays?
I don’t believe I can shed a new light to this question. At this point through my personal experience it’s very hard to imagine to exist without a gallery and I wouldn’t choose otherwise. I’m learning with every gallery show and slowly preparing myself for more institution and museum oriented presentations. Artist practice is already a very lonely thing in the studio, therefore, I value every partnership, colleague, everyone who believes in me, best case scenario – my contribution gives in return.
Is friendship with other artists valuable to you? Is it important to keep over your personal circle of friends?
Definitely. To me it’s very important to be surrounded by friends, colleagues, acquaintances who keep inspiring and make me believe in my own capabilities.