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The year 2016 in Latvian national and international contemporary ceramics is marked as a celebration of memory of the most outstanding Latvian artist, one of the founders of Latvian contemporary ceramics Pēteris Martinsons, therefore In July 2016, the 1st Latvia International Ceramics Biennale took place in various locations and venues in Latvia, and ceramics within the event was represented through different types of events, from exhibitions, workshops, and conference, to a symposium, festival, and residecies. The very idea of the Biennale came to the organizers’ team just in the end of year 2015, however it was an absolutely logic result to all previous work done within a field of ceramics in Daugavpils. Since 2013, when the Daugavpils Mark Rothko Art Centre had been opened, wide range of ceramics-themed events were held in cooperation with Ceramic Laboratory, the International Studio for Contemporary Ceramics run by Daugavpils Clay Art Centre. As for a home of the collection of Peteris Martinsons (1931-2013), the greatest Daugavpils born Latvian ceramics artist, it was a great honour to dedicate the Latvia International Ceramics Biennale to the artist and to commemorate his 85th birthday anniversary with the ‘Martinsons Award’, the international competition as the central event of the Biennale. Thus, to introduce the events of the 1st Latvia International Ceramics Biennale and to welcome the guest and the participants of the event, the exhibition „Peteris Martinsons. Porcelain Drawings” had been opened in Daugavpils Park Hotel Latgola in June, 2016.

The Biennale’s program core took place in mid-July and had been officially opened with the ‘Martinsons Award’ exhibition, the international ceramics competition at the premises of the Daugavpils Mark Rothko Art Centre. 298 outstanding applications from artists form 44 countries had been received for the ‘MARTINSONS AWARD’ exhibition. The International Jury represented by Elaine O. Henry (USA/artist, editor of magazines “Ceramics: Art and Perception” and “Ceramics TECHNICAL”, member of the International Academy of Ceramics), Bernd Pfannkuche (Germany/ artist, editor of the magazine “Neue Keramik/New Ceramics”, member of the International Academy of Ceramics), Sirin Kocak Ozeskici (Turkey/PhD, artists and academician), Jane Jermyn (Ireland/artist), Simcha Even-Chen (Israel/artist, member of International Academy of Ceramics), Ilona Romule (Latvia/artist, member of International Academy of Ceramics), and Valentins Petjko (Latvia/artist, curator of the Biennale) had selected 110 artworks by International artists and 26 artworks by National artists to participate in the exhibition.

The program of the 1st Latvia International Ceramics Biennale concluded with the ‘Martinsons Award’ ceremony at the peak level of the National Library of Latvia, which revealed panoramic scenes of Riga. The ‘Martinsons Award’ ceremony was the moment when the Jury’s selection of the award-winning works was disclosed to the participants and to the public. The ‘Martinsons Award’ prizes were split between 6 National nominees and 6 International nominees.

The National Bronze Prize went to the wonderful Latvian artist Valda Podkalne for her impressive and conceptual installation ‘Laboratory Notes’. Porcelain as a material is the most important for the artist; and it is the only material that can depict her imagination. The very idea of each separate piece and material of Valda Podkalne installation is to symbolically image the fragility of life. The ‘Laboratory Notes’ are reflections by their meaning, and by the time a stimulation to the process of reflection.

The International Bronze Prize went to Turkish artist Hasan Şahbaz for his ‘Pink Cloud’, the ceramic object within his Organic series. The work by Hasan Şahbaz symbolically denotes the complex relations between precise and strictly geometrical forms enclosed in a vivid organic shape of the object.

The National Silver Prize was Awarded to Skuja Braden (Ingūna Skuja & Melissa Braden), the Latvian-American team, for the Peteris Martinsons Memorial vase, which was created in honor of their teacher and friend Peteris. It is a porcelain stele form, built from slabs of porcelain pushed together. Martinsons' stands in eternal blessing, his hand emerges from the circle of form and emptiness holding a wand sprouting spring cherry blossoms, a symbol of regeneration. On the other side is a younger Peteris floating in a nest in the waters of Ugi, guiding and protecting him is a pair of ravens.  

The International Silver Prize went to an Indian artist Vineet Kacker and his artwork ‘Time Timeless Landscape I’. The work is a combination of two pieces - the soft, undulating, organic "landscape" part, with the striations; and the architectural "chorten" or stupa part that sits on top. The lines on the organic rock form allude to the accumulation of time and history - how rocks are built up over the ages, layer by layer, and how geology can be interpreted as a record of the past. The architectural form on top is derived from the Buddhist stupa, which is not only a reliquary but also a repository of wisdom. Here it stands as a counterpoint to measurable time - a symbol for the human quest to go beyond the notion of linear time, to access dimension that is beyond time, beyond space.

The Gold Prize in National nomination was awarded to Dainis Pudurs for his porcelain miniature composition ‘Melting Collection’. The ceramicist touches the essential ecological theme created in a miniature size porcelain composition. The author is looking for an aesthetic standpoint for the still picture of the disappearance process of physical form.

The International Gold Prize went to a German artist Marie-Josée Comello. Her outstanding installation 'The Girl in blue' is inspired by the same-titled famous painting, made by Johannes Verspronck in 1642. In 1945, directly after the end of World War II, this girl's portrait covered a Dutch banknote and so, she went all over the world. But it is a fascinating fact that, even until today, nobody knows who she was. This void in history inspired the artist, thus the fragments and ornaments of the banknote, combined with a similarity to the anonymity of the contemporary Barbie-doll formed the basis for "the Girl in Blue". This became the artist’s research of the power of Fragment and Ornament.

“We always want to position ourselves in our environment, either conscious or unconscious. It not only provides us recognition, but above all it enables stability and control. Research about our past and our future provides us knowledge; we investigate, analyse, restore, conserve and archive to enable ourselves to understand our place in time and space. My research deals with the disturbance of this knowledge, starting from the fascination for fragments and the fragmentary state of things, curious about the absent parts or the still not finished stories,” says Marie-Josée Comello about her artwork.

Those nominees who did not receive the highest prizes were awarded with Honorable Mentions: Elīna Titāne/Latvia (‘Arise’); Ieva Bertašūte-Grosbaha/Latvia (‘Seven White Suns in the Sea’); Juta Rindina/Latvia (‘Fronton for my Mansion’); Beatrijs van Rheeden/Netherlands (‘Aster’); Julia Saffer/Germany (‘Spintop-Bowl’); Ömür Tokgöz/Turkey (‘Primitive and Technologic Series 2’).

With the ‘Martinsons Award’ ceremony the program of the 1st Latvia International Ceramics Biennale had been concluded, however the Biennale’s post-program events lasted almost until the end of August.


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