WATER LILIES (2019)

Architect Tomas Grunskis

Initiator and sponsor Irmantas Norkus

Sponsors:  Vilnius City Municipality  | “ArtVilnius”

Text by Tomas Kriaunevičius

The art object “Water lilies” has emerged in the unnamed alley connecting Vingriai and Pylimo streets. Once, this place was of special importance to the city and its inhabitants, and the alley, due to the flooded springs and the Vingris stream, which was nourished by them, as well as the traces of daily household activities in the 19th century, was called the Dirty Alley (Brudnyj pereulok). In some maps, probably because of its social significance, the lane is called the Public Alley (Publičnyj pereulok). Currently, Vingriai watering place is abandoned and it is not accessible to the citizens; the springs flow about 3.5 m. underground and they are drained into the city’s sewerage system. In parallel, the drainage of public historical memory has taken place; the significance of the location, in the townspeople’s memory, gradually sinks into oblivion.  

The most abundant springs in the capital which are the natural springs of Vingriai from the emergence of the town until the beginning of the  20th century supplied clean drinking water to the residents of Vilnius. Since the end of the 15th century, the gravitational wooden plumbing arose from the springs transporting water down to please the needs of the townspeople. Vingriai springs were first mentioned in 1501 as of privilege bestowed upon the Dominican monks by the Grand Duke Alexander of Lithuania who gifted them a plot, four inns and the above mentioned springs. For a long time, water from Vingriai watering place was supplied to private and public reservoirs; it also supplied a number of baths of the city, and, in Soviet times, it was transported to water flower gardens and streets via tankers.   

In her work, Severija Inčirauskaitė-Kriaunevičienė often employs utilitarian artefacts of household activities. She is not interested in commemorating notable personalities, heroes or events, but she is interested in everyday life stories, the history behind various objects and its interpretation. By using universal meanings or connotations attributed to household items, the artist creates objects that combine everyday life with historical contexts. Even the author’s embroidered with cross-stitch technique images on the found household objects are prepared and unified ‘open source’ schemes that anyone can find in handicraft magazines or web sites and freely adapt, modify for their own use, and release for further practical use. On the one hand, cross- stitching is a very old-fashioned, even archaic technique, and on the other hand, its expression works on the principle of a digital pixel image; for better understanding, some distance is required. The choice of the "embroidered" water lilies motif on the metal is determined by both the historically clean water- related location and the technique of creating the work. This is a reference to the works of the famous impressionist Claude Monet (1840-1926), who for the last 30 years of his creative period only painted water lilies growing in his garden. As impressionists went out of their workshops to study and paint nature with small strokes, the artist, with the help of her signature cross-stitch technique, is looking for a visual and conceptual dialogue for her public space artwork with the environment. The environment which is the urban landscape of Vilnius city. 

During World War I, Claude Monet, despite the close front line, continued to intensively nurture his garden and worked extremely productively on capturing it in his paintings. It was his refuge and rebellion against the war. Severia's camouflage of flowers and the anti-militarist theme inherent in her previous works are also aired this time. Interestingly, the name of a modern war machine originated from a 'tank' when, during World War I, whilst inventing the first military tank, the British classified the project by the code name 'water tank'. And when they transported the tanks to the front, they covered them with fabrics to give an impression that those fabrics could cover only water or fuel tanks.

As if a submarine affected by corrosion, the object emerged in a public space speaks of urban locations as well as the issues of memory and oblivion of the stories that intertwine them. The industrial container which is ‘embroidered’ with fresh-water plant motifs raises to the surface problems of interaction between the natural environment and human activity.

A tank is a versatile container that is less and less used in order to transport water, milk or kvass, but is often employed to transfer sludge, harmful chemicals or petroleum products. Even though we live in a quite safe climactic zone, even our cities are several times a year ‘visited’ by ‘floods’, when turbulent natural disasters flood the streets with flowing water canals. Water surplus or shortage is a growing problem in the 21st century in different regions of the world. For Lithuania, this can even be an advantage because our country is very rich in high-quality fresh water, and in the long run it will become an increasingly expensive raw material and export commodity. In a country, where there are not many precious minerals, pure water and man- made culture are the key assets.

 The nature of water is twofold: it is both a source of life and a deleterious, all-destructive element that, due to corrosion processes, causes products of human activity, even brutal industrial objects, to become ephemeral, eventually absorbed by nature, destroyed and released into a new cycle of chemical elements.

 

 Contributed to the technical execution of the artwork: Gvidas Šiatkus, Stasys Šverebas