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Jānis Avotiņš. Photo: Andrejs Strokins

12 questions for Jānis Avotiņš 0

Below, painter Jānis Avotiņš (1981) gives his answers to our “Daily Dozen” questionnaire. Avotiņš work will be presented in a solo show, from January 17 through February 23, at the Berlin art gallery Johnen – which also happens to represent such world-renown artists as Martin Creed, Anri Sala and Yoshitomo Nara. On the very same day, the Bundeskunsthalle in Bonn will be opening its new exhibition, “Contemporary Art: 2007-2011”, in which Avotiņš will also be participating. Avotiņš's work is also included in the Latvian National Museum of Art's new acquisitions for the year 2012, which will all be on view at the Museum of Decorative Arts and Design from January 16 through February 17.  And in the spring, Avotiņš will have another solo show at Munich's Rüdiger Schöttle gallery – which, over its four decades of operation, has also represented artists Liam Gillick and Thomas Ruff, among others; the show is scheduled to open April 22.

1. What’s the best moment of your day?

This moment can last for hours, and at that time, the most important thing is the realization that there is nothing that has to be done and that nothing is planned for, say, the next week or so. This has nothing to do with laziness. Often times, good work can be done during these moments. I call them “moments” because they make time feel weightless, and they can also “come undone” very easily.

2. Why do you work as an artist? 

Because I have made myself believe that the fact that art is the most interesting thing in the world (or so it seems to me) is somehow related to what I can do. If I weren't an artist, I'd be a designer; if I weren't a designer, I'd be out in nature. In my view, doing art can be doing anything – the difference lies in the motivation and style of the doer. In every individual instance, motivation and style must be learned from other doers; nevertheless, all of it is useless and incomplete to you yourself. Everyone who precisely indicates the works of their origins and attachments is doing art. A piece of art survives if someone carefully guards it, and if it turns out to be unique in terms of motivation and style. There are always analogies between the doer and the style of doing, but only the doer himself sees and knows what is common between the two. I'm not quite sure if I'm “doing art”; formal descriptors indicate that I definitely am. You can't choose to “do art” – it happens, it's a weakness.

3. What films, concerts, exhibits, or books have left a lasting impression on you?

Almost everything that has left an “indelible impression” on me, I have sought out for a second time. When reading a book, watching a film or looking at art for the second time, everything that relates to relationships changes, and then it is no longer important what it was like the first time. The things that you've experienced several times weave themselves into you like knowledge, and the impressions are a bit different with every next experience. I used to underline things in books, but when I reread the books, I frequently didn't understand why I had underlined the things that I did; I don't underline anymore.

A compilation of films by Jonas Mekas has just come out. At a dOCUMENTA exhibition, I once saw a five-hour-long film. Finally, I'll be able to see it for a second time.

While watching the film, “The Turin Horse”, by Béla Tarr, this year, I could feel my coarseness.

Indelible impressions happen when you break out of the world of the banal and head towards the precise and the definite, when you receive shocks, and when the ground falls out from under you; a time like that, I'd like to think, is in my distant past. I don't experience similar catharses now not because I don't have illusions, but because I can always be in the world's impressive “insides”, and I can line up impressions (from other worlds) and be either happy or sad about their analogies and differences.

4. Where do you currently get ideas for your works?

In works that I've already done. Everything else is secondary in nature. The moment of discovery (creation) occurs when one can see how to use materials that are already known, or that have even been right next to you for a long time already. A new idea forms when in creating it, I use materials that I already know. I don't know how to find new ideas with materials that I don't know completely through and through.

5. Which work(s) of art would you like to have in your possession?

Almost every time I look at a piece of art, the first thing that I judge about it is whether or not I would want it in my home. If the ones that I like would also be in my home, then all of the banalities that I work with, and that are inside of me, would become prominent; and then I'd become a better person. But, if it didn't turn out, then I'd be even more pathetic. So, it's best if works of art stay in the museum. You should be close by to a museum like that.

It's best to share powerful works of art, and I would want there to be in my state institution, i.e., a museum, works that had come to be there via a certain person's (a professional person's) materialization of hopes and yearnings, and that the works would be valid, as well as have a living, passionate meaning for someone/some people – rather than being there due to institutional nihilism. Many of the world's powerful museum collections are bequeathed private collections, because every selected work in such subjective conditions has been sought and cherished; they are definite. I wouldn't say “no” to creating a collection like that.

Painting by Jānis Avotiņš. 2011. Included in the collection of Bundeskunsthalle, Germany

6. What do you do when you’re not occupied with art?

All of the same banalities that other people do.

7. Do you sleep a lot?

I am a sybarite by nature, so if I am able to, then yes, I sleep a lot.

8. Do you collect anything? 


9. What is one of the most important things in your studio? 

Precisely those things that are “important” are the ones that I am most doubtful about, for example, photographs, or some certain brand of canvas or pigments. The most important things in studios happen because of other things; I'm not sure of exactly what.

North light, quietness, birds flitting about; and I don't have them, but I should.

10. What do you like to eat, and what don’t you like?

I don't like too much of anything. I like everything in small portions. With licorice and onions, however, one can test my patience.

11. When you were a kid, what did you want to be? 

In the 9th grade, I was this close to studying fashion; it still is in my field of vision, and I marvel at some of the designers of really good clothing (and things). A five-year-old boy and his aspirations are not the same thing as a middle-aged man (32) and his aspirations. At five years of age, my wants changed daily, so I really can't answer truthfully here.

12. Name three creative individuals, from any era, with whom you’d gladly spend an evening.

There have been many more than just three “creative” people with whom I've spent a successful evening. I'd be more apt to say that when people become “creative” and open themselves up, then the “evening” will be a successful one.