Kostas Dereškevičius. Smiling woman

The exhibition takes its title from Kostas Dereškevičius painting Smiling Woman (1974). Female smile lured artists of every epoch. The mysterious woman’s smile reaches us from the Renaissance (discussions over da Vinci’s Mona Lisa are far from exhausted) and from New York in late 60s with Andy Warhol’s Marylin Monroe. Smiling Woman by Dereškevičius is like a manifesto in defiance of any concrete time or social structure. From hindsight one can read into it the artist’s critique of woman’s image fabricated by magazine covers or pin-ups, yet his art is more than humour or critique. To quote his brother in arms Arvydas Šaltenis, ‘we painted truth’. Truth were not slogans which saturated the public space of their times. Truth was to show life as it was (or as they saw it). The painter once mentioned to his friends that his canvases are not ‘phantasies’. These are moments pinpointed on a bus or train, or simply on the street. What did the artist’s eye capture? Hues, colour combination, composition, atmosphere? We can only guess or let fleeting moments put their spell on us the way the painter did.  


This exhibition can be viewed as a road movie. Or even two of them. The first would be a film about the artist’s (painter’s) journey. The exhibition embraces the artwork from 1966 through 2004 when he was in his prime. We can trace all kinds of twists and turns, sources and influences, also experiments along that road. Besides these encyclopaedic paintings from the artist, his Spa Woman or the Beach, viewers can see his small-scale work, sketches in paint or drawings previously unexhibited. Most studies are done in plain air, in the summer, when the artist left the town. Small scale enabled the painter to structure the space in few expressive brush strokes. The artist registers local character without major differentiation between nature and figure. Humans appear as just another (sometimes not really that significant) element. Drawings and sketches are done in pencil and pastels. These are the beginnings of future paintings, loaded with vitality and movement. The artist’s practice relied very little on photography, his ideas are captured on paper. With ease and virtuosity.   


The second ‘road movie’ is about time spent on the road. Paintings function like frames, such is a view in a car mirror, in Front Window, a woman watching out of a bus window In a Minivan Across the Plain, night and two women in the Evening by Bebrusas, reminiscent of David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive. Even though this time Dereškevičius is a director, yet the script writer of the film-exhibition is the viewer. The plot is free floating and can emerge from one’s recollections or be easily conjured up by imagination.  


The organizers of the exhibition extend sincere gratitude to the artist’s family, to Vilnius Academy of Art and to MO Museum for lending his artwork.  


Kostas Dereškevičius (1937–2023) graduated from the Lithuanian Institute of Art (1967), where he studied under A. Gudaitis, V. Karatajus, V. Mackevičius. In 1971–1976, he taught at Vilnius University. He was a member of Group 24 (active in 1989–2000). In 1976–2006, he taught at Vilnius Academy of Art (Lithuanian Institute of Art prior 1990), in 1993–1995 was dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts, in 1995–2000, vice-rector for studies, held professorship since 1993. He started exhibiting in 1966, appearing in Lithuania and abroad (Germany, France, Great Britain, Greece, Scandinavian countries). He gave solo exhibitions in Vilnius (1976, 1987, 1995, 2003, 2007, 2012), Tallinn (1978), Moscow (1986), Mažeikiai (1995), Warsaw (1996), Šiauliai (2001, 2021), Prienai (2008), again in Vilnius, his posthumous exhibition is being held.   


Exhibition Curator Akvilė Anglickaitė 

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