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Latvian artist Janis Avotins’ photorealistic paintings are gradual excavations of forgotten moments, of the collective erasure of specificity. Working with old Soviet-era photographs as source images, Avotins puts his own dark spin on the exploration of a relationship that has become a broad trend in contemporary Eastern European art: the editing power of history and the impotence of the individual to combat it.
Yet Avotins is not nostalgic. Instead, he privileges mystery over nostalgia, presenting the mythological remnants of a lost time transposed into an alternative void presenting new uncertainties. His images do not seem borrowed, however. Imbued with a pathos that merges in and out of his canvases’ signature dark imprimatura wash, Avotins has suggested that many of his ghostly figures seek instead to represent hope in the wake of trauma. Indeed, it is through the beauty of these figures that the contemporary threat of the decline of western culture can also be articulated.