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Finding inspiration in mass media Soviet-era images, Latvian artist Janis Avotins peels ghostly figures away from their original printed contexts and transposes them into photorealistic paintings. The lint-speckled canvas is prepared by thin layers of dark imprimatura wash, creating a menacing shadow that threatens to engulf the fragile figures into an inescapable void. Some parts of this background have been left unwashed, adding yet another dimension to the work’s treatment of omission, which Avotins believes to reflect the mechanisms of cultural systems, collective symbolisms, and changing ideologies.
Through this process, the painting achieves the grainy, foggy texture that has become Avotins’ signature. Most of the images he sources from are often already unclear due to age and poor print quality; they are images he considers “free, worthless, and banal.” Yet somehow they are also poetic and mythological, especially if introduced to an innocent mind. His figures seem to be in the act of disappearing, almost as if they have been rubbed into the bleak background that surrounds them. It is this liminal space between source image and painting, between old and new, that holds the key to Avotins’ work.