Melnikova, Keskküla, Monko, Daniliauskaitė at Draakon Gallery

Viktorija Daniliauskaitė, Black Night IV, 1992, linocut, 24,5 × 17,5 cm, MO Museum collection
Draakoni galerii, Tallinn, Pikk 18

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On Wednesday, January 24 at 6 pm we welcome you to the opening of the exhibition Swirling, Twirling, Spinning curated by Merilin Talumaa.

The exhibition includes works by Daria Melnikova, Helena Keskküla, Marge Monko and Viktorija Daniliauskaitė.

The exhibition Swirling, Twirling, Spinning unites artists across generations in an empowering context, drawing inspiration from the ideas of Lithuanian-American archaeologist and anthropologist Marija Gimbutas. Her profound research brought attention to the ancient cultures of the Baltic region and the broader Indo-European world, exploring archaeological artefacts, linguistics, ethnography, and folklore. Gimbutas posited a thesis that prehistoric European culture centered around the worship of a Mother Goddess, as the giver of all life. A spiritual sense of connectedness was artfully expressed through a sophisticated symbol system and an abundance of ritual objects. Nature and body were honored in Europe for tens of thousands of years. Whereas women had an especially strong position in societies across Eastern and Central Europe – a tendency no longer necessarily evident today.

Swirling, Twirling, Spinning poetically weaves a narrative that bridges ancient myths and beliefs, natural cycles, and the transformative power of feminine energy across different cultures and times. Gimbutas, who having opened the treasure trove of prehistory, inspired a belief in a peaceful existence in our time – to bring back to life suppressed vital elements, such as the earth, the body (health), the feminine, and the subconscious. Participating artists, through imaginative and fictitious narratives, share personal stories and cultural myths that also reflect the influence of Gimbutas’ theories on ancient symbolism. Their works echo these concepts through a contemporary lens, incorporating elements such as spirals, circles, and motifs such as snakes and birds – symbols rooted in ancient European matriarchal cultures that continue to resonate in Baltic art and culture.

The exhibition contemplates on reimagining a world centered around goddess worship, with its emphasis on embracing womanhood, preserving nature, and forsaking warfare. Could this theoretical concept transcend into the tangible reality of our future society? Swirling, Twirling, Spinning seamlessly intertwines historical narratives and mythology, immersing us in the themes that Marija Gimbutas ignited: the celebration of life’s cycles, constant renewal, the sanctity of the female body, and the spirituality inherent in these concepts. Gimbutas’ exploration of the spiritual dimensions of a harmonious Old Europe and her vision for a New Europe free from dominance and warfare, feels remarkably pertinent in our contemporary world.

First exhibition around the heritage of Marija Gimbutas took place in L’Atlas Gallery in Paris, France (7 November 2023–3 January 2024). The cycle of exhibitions is foreseen to continue with an upcoming show in La Traverse in Marseille, France (27 August–26 October 2024).

Marija Gimbutas (1921–1994) was a Lithuanian-American archaeologist and anthropologist. She contributed to what is considered to be one of the most significant academic watershed moments in women’s studies with her archaeological and philosophical work on Neolithic culture and religion. Gimbutas is best known for her research into the Neolithic and Bronze Age cultures of “Old Europe,” a term she introduced. Old Europe referred to both the geographical area and social structures that existed before the Indo-European influence. Gimbutas unequivocally established the existence of a Goddess religion who is the most persistent feature in the archaeological record of the ancient world. The Goddess in all her manifestations was a symbol of the unity of all life in nature. Gimbutas’ discoveries took on great symbolic importance for feminists across various disciplines who found, in her vision of a peaceful, nature-revering society, a sense of hope for the future based on this foundation in the distant past.

Roots to Routes is an initiative created by curators Merilin Talumaa, Maija Rudovska and Justė Kostikovaitė, gathering a community of artists, curators and cultural producers whose trajectories are connected to the Baltic states region. Acting as a nomadic agency, its goal is to support and make visible artistic practices beyond cultural and (geo)political borders. An important part of the collaboration is to create and develop possible joint projects, aiming to build sustainable networks and forms of cooperation between various art scenes.

Exhibitions in Draakon gallery are supported by the Cultural Endowment of Estonia, Estonian Ministry of Culture and Liviko AS.

Daria Melnikova is an artist from Riga, Latvia. Her work results from a meditative study of daily routine, clichés, architectural details and mere casual moments attempting to reconstruct their inner logic as well as to bring to light private experiences that once made them possible and necessary. Melnikova runs a journeying platform called Palette that functions as a bar. Between 2022–2023, Palette used a seasonal venue – a kiosk as a part of the urban environment – an intervention in the garden meadow of the Sporta Pils dārzi in Riga. The project activated a work of art as a meeting point, where the artist meets visitors in non-institutional and informal settings. Melnikova has held solo shows at Gallery Vartai in Vilnius (2020); Karlin Studios in Prague (2019); PLATO in Ostrava (2019); Kulturfolger in Zurich (2018); Kim? in Riga (2017, 2014, 2011); and has participated in group shows at L’Atlas in Paris (2023); KHB in Bratislava (2019); Kiasma in Helsinki (2018); Rupert in Vilnius (2018); Silberkuppe in Berlin (2017); Art in General in New York (2015); Garage Museum of Contemporary Art in Moscow (2014). Her works are included in the collection of Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art in Helsinki, Finland; Latvian National Museum of Art, Riga; Latvia; Zuzeum Collection in Riga, Latvia; among other public and private collections.
Viktorija Daniliauskaitė is a visual artist born in Yakutsk, Russia. She is living and working in Vilnius, Lithuania. Having graduated from the Lithuanian Art Institute (today, the Vilnius Academy of Arts) in 1974, Daniliauskaitė immediately discarded the art clichés proposed by official art and got immersed in the search for her individual style, discovering the inexhaustible sources of folk art and new art forms. Till today, she is often expressing her artistic visions through linocut. The tradition of linocut is often related with folk engravings and the postwar school of Lithuanian graphic art; however, the artist intuitively realised that this technique contains yet unexplored possibilities of expression. While connecting the heritage of folk art with 20th century modernism and postmodernism, Daniliauskaitė built a bridge between the old tradition and contemporary modern art. She recently participated in a group exhibition in L’Atlas, Paris (2023). She is participating in an upcoming group exhibition in MO Museum, Vilnius (2024). Her works belong to the National Museum of Lithuania, Vilnius; MO Museum, Vilnius; among other public and private collections.
Merilin Talumaa is a curator, art historian and cultural manager who lives and works in Paris and Tallinn. She has graduated from the Department of Art History and Visual Culture at the Estonian Academy of Arts. She is also a graduate of Environmental studies from University of Tartu. Her practice has evolved around research about artists’ studio and work environments and notions of migration and belonging. Her recent on-going projects include Roots to Routes (since 2020) – a curatorial initiative gathering a community of artists, curators and cultural producers. Prior to the book „Your Time Is My Time”, Mousse Publishing, 2023, she compiled and edited the book „Artists’ spaces : 16 studio visits”, Estonian Academy of Arts Press, 2017 (both together with Annika Toots).
Helena Keskküla is an Estonian artist who lives and works in Amsterdam. Her previous work centres around video, performance and installation. Humor, insecurities and failures play an important role in Keskküla’s work, which she uses to speak about universal issues. She has graduated from the sculpture and installation department of the Estonian Academy of Arts, Gerrit Rietveld’s VAV – moving image department, and Sandberg Institute’s master’s programme in fine arts. During the last three years, Kesküla has focused her practice on mythology and stone carving, while forging connections with performance and modern materials.
Marge Monko is an artist living and working in Tallinn, Estonia. She has studied in Estonian Academy of Arts (MA in Photography, 2008), and in University of Applied Arts in Vienna. In 2013-2015 she participated in a studio program in HISK (Higher Institute for Contemporary Art), Ghent, Belgium. She works as a professor in the Department of Photography at the Estonian Academy of Arts. Marge Monko uses photography, video, and installation. Her works are inspired by historical images and theories of psychoanalysis, feminism, and visual culture. Monko’s works can be found in private and public collections (e.g MUMOK – Museum of Modern Art in Vienna; Folkwang Museum, Essen; Muzeum Sztuki Łódź, Poland; FRAC Lorrain, France; Fotomuseum Winterthur, Switzerland; Estonian Art Museum). In 2012, she was awarded Henkel.Art.Award for Eastern and Central European artists. Monko has been selected for the residencies in ISCP (International Studio & Curatorial Program), New York (2015); KulturKonakt Austria, Vienna (2016), ParaSite, Hong Kong (2017) and Videobrasil, São Paulo (2018). Her recent exhibitions include a.o. Modern Love in Tallinn Art Hall and National Museum of Contemporary Art Athens (2021-23), Great Pretender in Kai Art Center (2021), Tallinn; Stones Against Diamonds in Museum Folkwang (2019); Crush in Para Site Hong Kong (2018), RIBOCA Riga International Biennial for Contemporary Art (2018); It Won’t Be Long Now, Comrades! in Framer Framed, Amsterdam (2017).
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Posted by Andres Lõo

Photography Exhibitions