Interview with BERLINER LISTE exhibitor Edvardas Racevicius · Between Eastern and Western Traditions

Edvardas Racevičius was born 1974 in Lithuania and has been fascinated for a long time with the traditional Lithuanian depiction of icons. He has been able to pursue this interest during his visit at the catholic seminary and during his study of theology and social pedagogy at the University of Vilnius. For the past 14 years he resides in Germany where he has been able to study more Western approaches in sculpture. His pieces seem often to bridge Eastern and Western traditions. He chose to work with wood and does that in a rather brute manner sometimes, with a chainsaw, while occasionally using lighter tools to cave the forms. Ultimately, it is really important for him that the material stays visible. The figures in his pieces are connected to the plinth and one can sense that this connection is a part of a wider truth within his artistic practice. Racevičius pieces deal with the philosophical relation between the human and the nature. In the following interview we talked with the artist about his German-Lithuanian relation, his artistic topics and his repeated participation at the Berliner Liste.

When artists move to other countries it seems always surprising when they decide to not move to well-known metropolis. Why did you choose to live in Greifswald?

Edvardas Racevičius: I am living since 2002 with my family in Greifswald. The reason why we chose to move to this city is my wife. When she finished her studies we decided to stay, as we enjoyed living in the small university town. The landscape is very similar to the one in Lithuania and the people are really friendly. These are good conditions for a place you chose to work and live in.

Your artistic practice seems to be inspired through the dialogue between your Lithuanian origin and your new home in Germany. How do you see this relationship?

ER: My first sculptures were inspired by the tradition of old Lithuanian folk sculptures. I was interested in the reduced use of forms and fascinated by the spirit that these sculptures transmit. I worked for over 10 years in this artistic direction. Then, when I was in Germany, I observed that the artists here have a different approach when working with wood. The artists use different tools, apply colors and work conceptual. This is when I really started to experiment, in the beginning with abstract sculptures and then with figurative ones. Nevertheless, it might be the case that one can still sense the spirit of the old Lithuanian sculptures within my pieces.

Your biography mentions that you visited a priest seminary and later on decided to become an artist. How did this decision take place and do these very different worlds ever intersect in your work?

ER: After graduating from high school I decided to join a seminary. My decision has been a big surprise for a lot of people in my surroundings. It would have been a logic consequence to visit the art academy directly instead, after I attended an artistic oriented high school for over ten years. But I thought that art would not be enough for me, I wanted to become a priest instead and change the world. As a young person I was searching for the meaning of life. After three years I left the seminary.

As a sculptor you decided to work with wood, which has a long art historical tradition. What makes this material appealing to you?

ER: When I was 17 years old I made my first wooden sculpture at the sculpture Vilius Orvydas, I made it out of oak wood and carved the forms with the use of an axe. It has been a wonderful experience and totally different from working with clay, plaster or stone. I was enchanted by the material. Later on I worked a lot with wood.

In your pieces the human figure, partly dissolving into abstraction, seems to play a significant role. One can see this interest particularly in your well known series “Trees and Humans”. What are the topics in the human being that you are interested in?

ER: In the series “Trees and Humans” the figures are carved out of one block of wood and are connected to the remaining branches and the split abstract forms. It is really important to me that wood remains visible as the material. The level of abstraction of the figures becomes also visible in the branches, the bark and the torn open wood grain. To put it in a nutshell, my topic is: Where does wood finish and where does the human figure start? Where does the border between the self and the world start? I am interested in the question of: Who am I? This question became kind of my guiding theme.

You are a loyal exhibititor at the BERLINER LISTE. What do you like in particular about the fair and why do you participate?

ER: I showed my sculpture 2013 for the first time at the Berliner Liste. It was a real success for me back then. A lot of visitors admired my sculptures and I was able to establish new contacts with galleries and collectors. It has been a new experience for me to present my work in front of such a big audience and to observe how people react to my art. This experience was really encouraging for me.

Can you describe from your own experience with the fair its development over the years?

Even though I participated three times at the Berliner Liste this has not been enough to really be able to describe a development. I appreciate at the fair that has an open atmosphere and is well-attended. Young not yet established artists are able to present their pieces in front of an art interested crowd. I think that art with content, that is professionally worked, is particularly successful at the Berliner Liste.

What are the topics or pieces that you are currently working on? Are you bringing any of them with you to the fair?

I am still searching for my “self” and I want to continue to experiment with wood. This year I started to work on wood reliefs, made out of old wooden planks. I might take some of these new pieces to Berlin.

Which special events or exhibitions are you planning for the rest of the year?

Apart from the presentation of my sculptures at the Berliner Liste some galleries will show my pieces at other art fairs such as the Art the Hague, Scope Miami or YIA Young international Art Fair Paris.

Are there any specific goals you want to reach with your artistic work? Any further dimensions or materials you would like to experiment with?

ER: I want to continue to experiment and to explore new opportunities, and eventually develop new concepts. Furthermore, I want to continue to work with wood, as I really enjoy the work with this material.