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In July 2018, Latvia was hosting its second international ceramics biennale. Through a series of public events, it told a polyphonic story of contemporary ceramics in Latvia and gave a glimpse into ceramic tendencies and developments on the global stage. To celebrate the centenary of statehood in the three Baltic states, the biennale programme featured exhibitions of contemporary ceramics from neighbouring Lithuania and Estonia. By established tradition, a group show of Latvian contemporary ceramics was held along with a range of individual projects that talked about remarkable representatives of Latvian and international ceramic art.

The central event of the Latvia International Ceramics Biennale is the international juried exhibition MARTINSONS AWARD. This year, it drew applications from nearly 400 artists, which an international panel of judges narrowed down to 100. 91 of the selected works have successfully reached Latvia and featured in the exhibition, representing 29 countries.

Much like nature and humans, ceramics has undergone a long and complex evolution. By commanding all of nature’s forces, people have learnt to harness clay, if not bend it to their will. Every potter, artist and even child who, either intentionally or not, picks up a lump of clay, starts to build a dialogue with this material, trying to understand it and coax it into submission. By looking at a ceramics exhibition, we can see an amazing diversity of relationships between ceramic artists and their material. They are as different as the languages that shape these conversations or the cultures and traditions that frame them.

The Western rational mind often compels artists to create constructive and conceptual works where it is incumbent upon the author to dominate the medium and shape it into a carefully calculated form that emerges from a cognitively conceived, emotionally felt or imagined idea or conceptual framework. Meanwhile, the Eastern artist is more inclined to revere and respect the material, surrender to its dictate and highlight its idiosyncrasies, which helps the creator convey an idea that is born in harmony with the material. Certainly, no artist is or ever will be an advocate of just one model of relationships. Artists always look for common grounds, seeking and achieving excellence through a series of sophisticated experiments.

In present-day art, one often hears about interdisciplinary approaches and techniques in the tripartite material-artist-spectator communication. The same is fully applicable to ceramics. Increasingly, it begins to use previously uncharacteristic forms of expression, creating more or less successful synthetic cross-disciplinary works of art, which result in performances, dynamic installations etc. With ceaseless enthusiasm, ceramic artists experiment with physical and chemical properties of matter, using unimaginable combinations of materials to embody images drawn from the depths of their imagination. And yet, every artist remains connected to the potter’s trade, which, either as a force of the human collective unconscious or merely as a pleasant and fascinating pastime, now and again takes one back to a wheel-thrown or shaped vessel as the basic form for the artist’s conceptual expression.

All these diverse and different schools, traditions and innovations are present in the MARTINSONS AWARD Competition at Daugavpils Mark Rothko Art Centre. Some artists, whose creative energies were most successful in capturing the hearts of the jury, received special prizes.

The jury of the MARTINSONS AWARD International Ceramics Competition, namely Marie-Josée Comello (The Netherlands), artist and International Gold Prize winner at MARTINSONS AWARD Competition in 2016, Dainis Pundurs (Latvia), artist, associated professor of Ceramics Department of Latvian Art Academy, and National Gold Prize winner at MARTINSONS AWARD Competition in 2016, Ilona Romule (Latvia), artist, and council member of International Academy of Ceramics, Pille Kaleviste (Estonia), artist, and board member of Estonian Ceramists Association, Claudia Casali (Italy), art historian, and Director of the International Museum of Ceramics in Faenza, Anthony Stellacio (USA), artist, curator, researcher, and Artaxis International Curator, and Valentīns Petjko (Latvia), artist, and curator of the biennāle, worked hard and professionally while rating the submissions and selecting the winners. And finally at the opening ceremony of the exhibition at Daugavpils Mark Rothko Art Centre, the jury panel gave out Gold (EUR 5000), Silver (3000) and Bronze (EUR 2000) awards in national and international categories, distributing the total of 20 000 EUR in prize money.

The National Gold Award was won by Juta Rindina, a distinguished Latvian ceramicist, for her artwork “STILL LIFE WITH A FIGURE”. Creative work for Juta is always a joyful process and travel into her own imaginary world, full of fantastic creatures and corresponding shapes.

Silver and Bronze Awards in the National category went to young artists – Kristīne Nuķe-Panteļejeva and Kaspars Geiduks, respectively. Kristīne impressed the jury with her “MOONLIGHT”, a series of porcelain structures, sophisticatedly created within a meditative process. Meanwhile Kaspars Geiduks, a talented and promising Latvian artist, exhibited his woodfired porcelain “NESTS” on impressive concrete pedestals, than made an unforgottable impression.

Internationally, the jury was most impressed by the work of Akiko Taniguchi, a Japanese artist, who received the International Gold Award for her artwork “ENDLESS FLAT NIGHTS”. She espresses her philosophy by her work, that consists of connecting many small parts of clay, and means that ‘There is no big difference each day, but exactly the same day never comes again. There is no big difference each person,but there is no one who is exactly the same.Each presence has a little different atmosphere.’ 

Silver Prize went to Sara Dario, an Italian artist, for her artwork “MADRIGAL”, that fully reflects her interest in photography and printing techniques not only in traditional ways, but mainly in non-conventional ones like photoengraving and photoserigraphy printing on various materials and supports.

International Bronze Prize was earned by Rūta Šipalytė from neighbouring Lithuania for her artwork “ALWAYS WITH ME”, an outstanding minimalist architectural sculpture.

The jury also gave honorable mentions to Andris Vēzis (Latvia), Helmie Brugman (The Netherlands) and Kimie Ino (Japan). A special surprise was prepared by Latvian, Lithuanian and Estonian companies who supply materials to ceramic artists. Elīna Titāne, an outstanding Latvian artist, received honorable mention from the jury and a EUR 200 gift card from “Keramserviss” Ltd. Estonian artist Annika Teder became the recipient of a EUR 200 gift card from Estonian company “Kerako” whereas Lithuanian artist Rytas Jakimavičius received a EUR 200 gift card from “”.


Valentins Petjko

Corator of the Biennale


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