Arunas Gelunas
Vilnius Academy of Fine Art
Maironio 6, LT-2600,
Vilnius, Lithuania
Telephone: +370 5 210 5433
Fax: +370 5 210 54 4444
Mobile: +37068693965

Paper: “Artists Book at the Vilnius Academy of Fine Arts”

The tradition of the "artists book" cannot boast to have a long history at the Vilnius Academy of Fine Arts (VAFA). The concept of the "artists book" has been first taken into account seriously back in the late 1990s. These years witnessed radical changes as the new artists with fresh ideas joined the Academy and the study programs were remade into more flexible ones. "Flexibility" first of all meant the ways of art teaching that suited more the individual skills of each student. Thus after instructing in the basics of the book designing and in the various techniques of printmaking during the first and the second year, students were given the chance of choosing freely the way of interpretation of the "artists book" for their B.A. and even M.A. graduation pieces. This could be a small edition polygraphic book or a hand-made book comprised of the hand-written text and the original prints for its illustration, it could be on paper or on cloth, in traditional binding or presented as a wooden box. With years the variety of the themes increased as well as the quality of the books themselves. Students started presenting their works at both national and international book illustration shows and "artists book" exhibitions and often their efforts were evaluated with prizes or positive coverage in media.

In this paper I will present 15 books that reflect the variety of modes of expression of the students book art at VAFA during the past 5 years. In terms of theme, all the books express the tension between the local identity and the challenges of global culture. The reactions of the audience at the KONTAKT Conference will be the best proof on how good the students were at solving this dilemma.

ARUNAS GELUNAS was born in 1968, was educated both as a professional artist in Vilnius Academy of Fine Art (1988-1994) and Tokyo National University of Art and Music (1995-1997) and as a philosopher in Vytautas Magnus University (1997-2001) where he defended his Ph.D. thesis in 2001. He has had twelve individual exhibitions of printmaking and painting and has participated in more than thirty group exhibitions in Lithuania and abroad. Gelunas’ scholarly activities include a number of translations of and writings on phenomenology and anthropology of art, modern Japanese philosophy and anthropology, the comparative philosophy and the "non-substantialist turn" in science and humanities. Gelunas' artistic interests has always been very broad: shifting from almost classical etching in the earlier years to the more recent mixed (in technical sense) art pieces strongly gravitating towards the conceptual. He combines the strict rational - "structural"- framework of the drawing or the photograph with the floating - "energetic" - seemingly uncontrolled washes of ink-painting or "lift-ground" technique in etching. He applies this structural-energetic approach to the objects as different as landscape, technology and his own self-identity. In the past few years he has been trying to answer questions like "What is the contemporary mode of my identity as an artist and a member of society?" both in an explicit verbal way (in the form of theoretical writings), and in the more intuitive form of visual art pieces. The aspect of movement and flux is becoming more and more important in his works. Therefore he likes the "fragile", short-lived materials like ink on paper, woodblock or digital print, intaglio. The good balance between the hand-craft and contemporary technology is important to him. Gelunas takes the "middle path" between the classical and the contemporary as the art materials are concerned. His works are mostly monochrome. He currently is an Associate Professor in Printmaking and Ink Techniques at the Vilnius Academy of Fine Arts in Lithuania.