For more than a decade, artist Ēriks Apaïais has explored the limits of autobiography. This interest in the desire to retroactively construct one’s identity through storytelling imbues his canvases with the semantics of self-reflection. The “Mailbox No. 12” exhibition offers a constellation of what curator Katerina Gregos has called “Memory Objects”, floating memories that evoke the atmosphere and inner workings of the Babite Parish adjacent to Riga, where the artist lived during the post turmoil. – Soviet 1990s. Reinterpreted today in the deliberately childlike style of fairy tales, the memories depicted in these paintings – many of which are attached to building snowmen in the yard – combine letters and symbols with more personal elements, including portraits of the artist, his sister, his mother, his partner. , the painter Amanda Ziemele, and her father, who appears in the abstract form of a juniper branch. The sensation produced is akin to the struggle to speak while searching for a word.

Previously, Apaïais paintings tended to have a flat, matte surface, often in a monochromatic black or gray tone, over which linguistic and iconographic elements seem to levitate. Here the background has become looser, with slightly wilder and messier brush strokes. But it is the foreground that has changed the most. In works like self-portrait2022, and Mailbox n°12 (Santa Claus), 2022, the painter depicts himself and his immediate family as snowmen with realistic heads on bodies conceptualized as two circles drawn on the canvas using plates, a play on the fact that Apais, the root of the artist’s family name, means “circular” in Latvian. Small complementary compositions vary in kindness and scale. In Christmas2020, oversized strawberries lie next to a fir tree, while Spring, 2022, couples a small rabbit with a poplar branch. Predetermined by the cultural and personal context but devoid of didactics, it is a body of work that suggests more than it directly expresses. The motifs that permeate Apaïais’ work now seem at ease in navigating the ever-shifting registers of the autobiographical artist.

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