THE FACES OF SILENCE
Kostas Ulevicius is an American-Lithuanian artist set out on a journey in search of an Ideal Face. His art belongs to far more than one country of origin, encompasses a lot more than the artistic traits of one cultural context, transcends the boundaries of one spiritual tradition. A son of a Gulag and Nazi prison survivor, Ulevicius has had the opportunity to witness through his own family history the cruelty of totalitarian regimes, the impermanence of empires and the fragility of human life. It is not surprising then that his art attempts at addressing the values that do not easily change with time and context, and above all - the harmony that emerges from silent contemplation and solitude. Born and educated in Lithuania, the country that has endured a nearly total destruction of its Jewish community by Nazis and their local collaborators as well as the persecution of Roman Catholic Church and all other religious communities by the Soviets, Kostas Ulevicius is in constant search of his own individual form of spirituality and humanism. His art asserts the locus for such spirituality to be The Face of the Other, almost as if in accord with the philosophy of Emmanuel Levinas.
Here are at least 3 reasons to enjoy his art (ranging from superficial to deep).
The 1st reason to enjoy Kostas Ulevicius’ sculptural portraits
Is their 3-dimensionality and texture. We are constantly surrounded by the blinking screens that tend to flatten our perception, reduce it to 2-dimensionality. The absolute majority of the representations of faces that reach us are 2-dimensional photographic or video images. Ulevicius art offers an alternative. Kostas is a virtuoso in sculpture and ceramic technologies; his play with shapes, forms, textures and glaze is highly nuanced and implies the possibility of tactile enjoyment of the surfaces – the kind of aesthetic relationship with the world that we seem to be deprived of since childhood. As one art theorist has remarked with good reason, the 3-dimensional corporeality in art will remain important as long as our own bodies will remain 3-dimensional.
The 2nd reason to enjoy Kostas Ulevicius’ sculptural portraits
Is the air of peace and harmony that surrounds them. Seeing any of the sculptural portraits by Kostas Ulevicius is like meeting a kind person that you almost instantly perceive could become your friend. A certain kind of harmony and peacefulness is instilled in these large sculptural heads. Immersed in deep contemplation the faces offer us a refuge from the fast pace of our contemporary life, the collage-like postmodern condition that leaves little room for silence and a calm wisdom that emerges from it. The faces by Ulevicius are just being there. They could be called a minimalist images, but minimalism here is exactly the kind of artistic language that works for the spiritual message behind the seemingly simple surface.
The 3rd reason to enjoy Kostas Ulevicius’ sculptural portraits
Is the universal character of their humanism and spirituality. The artist is clearly in search of an Ideal Face that resides in his own Lost Paradise, his Eldorado. One could try to trace the obvious influence of Buddhist sculpture and the idealized faces of the Christian Medieval saints, but judging from the titles of the portraits the influence is much wider than the two sources mentioned. It is his own way to engage into conversation with art history and with the spiritual traditions of the world. To render the possibility for the Universal to manifest itself in the Concrete and the Actual. To give no privilege neither to the Masculine nor to the Feminine and to no race either. To search for a common spiritual source of all of us, inhabitants of the Mother Earth.
Arunas Gelunas, Ph D
Art theorist and philosopher, Lithuania’s ambassador to UNESCO, former minister of culture