Eglė Vertelkaitė. Moose Island
On September 6 – October 21, 2023, an exhibition of works by Eglė Vertelkaitė titled “Moose Island” will be on display at Vilnius Graphic Art Centre’s Kairė-dešinė gallery. The opening will be held on September 6, at 6pm.
Moose island is both a real location name and an imaginary place inspired by grandparents’ and parents’ accounts of a lost homeland. Having occupied Lithuania, the Soviets exterminated not only the local residents but also names, erasing the memory which tied the population to their land and the past. Those names were replaced with ideologised abstractions – PEACE, FUTURE, HOMELAND, LIGHTHOUSE, FREEDOM, which mocked the very values these words stood for. The map was covered with cities, districts, collective farms named after foreign heroes – Lenin, Chernyakhovsky, Melnikaitė, Dzerzhinsky – and their accomplices Kapsukas and Sniečkus, which were the same all over the Soviet empire. With meaning rendered obsolete in this way, the territory can be indifferently exhausted, because it seemingly belongs to nobody. However, the extant names of bodies of water – secret resistants – still murmur in the voices of the native land.
The artist Eglė Vertelkaitė’s father was a hydrotechnical engineer and knew all of Lithuania’s lakes, lakelets, ponds, rivers and streams, even canals, which he depicted in his maps and spotted in the “official” ones, in which Lithuania was divided into 44 districts. In his free time, he made crosswords, which connected literary, historical and geographical names, personal experiences, and current affairs in strict shapes. The no longer useful documents found after father’s death seemed to hide a code that, if deciphered, could potentially prevent the horrid history from repeating itself. Or even heal the present, in which evil laughs at our hopes, grinning with the yellowed teeth of a clown.
For this exhibition, Vertelkaitė scanned the maps, photographed them, zooming in on the texture of the paper and canvas, covered the photographs with shellac, and applied black ink in an attempt to erase the foreign names and highlight the indigenous ones – authentic, preserving meaning and memory. These words flicker among the secret landscapes of paper texture, scarred with roughly healed wounds, inlaid with rues of guilt, illuminated by suns of black spots. The archive-derived works are displayed together with objects and documentary films – GLOSSAE – that comment on the process, comprising a three-part narrative: 44 DISTRICTS (laid out), ALL OF LITHUANIA (absoluted), and NEGATIVES in positives.
Eglė Vertelkaitė (b. 1967) graduated in Graphic Art from Vilnius Academy of Arts in 1993. She currently teaches at the VAA Department of Painting, as well as at the Vilnius Justinas Vienožinskis Art School. Her etchings and aquatints were soon complemented by original techniques, digital printing, photography, documentary films, and found documents. In Vertelkaitė’s exhibitions (Girl with an Axe, 2012, Glossae, 2016, Moirae, 2017), works juggling cultural references, masks, and existential riddles comprise a multilayered narrative of the female experience (often embodied by the artist’s avatar Cindy Sherman), archived memory, trauma, and fate.
* The exhibition is part of the Vilnius Gallery Weekend programme. More information about planned events will be announced on the VGAC Facebook page.
Architectural solutions:Rokas Valiauga
Exhibition text: Agnė Narušytė
Video editing: Linas Grubys
Organised by Vilnius Graphic Art Centre
Exhibition funded by: Lithuanian Council for Culture, Lithuanian Artists’ Association
Partners: National Gallery of Art of the Lithuanian National Museum of Art, Vilnius Academy of Arts, Vilnius Justinas Vienožinskis Art School
Media partners: artnews.lt, 7 meno dienos
Contact us: +370 5 261 1995, graphic.lt
Opening hours: Tue–Fri 11am–6pm, Sat 11am–3pm