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Why are moths white?

Since the 1990’s, a new trend has become prominent throughout Eastern and Middle Europe. Many young artists are working less as individuals and instead are gathering into groups that collaborate to create art. Collaborative artistic activities which used to be common for promoting art exhibitions or propagating art entertainment programs are becoming increasingly more popular. The important characteristic of these group activities is a collective work in every aspect of the creative activity which ranges from an idea to the full realization. The work of an individual artist can feed into the collective idea or can be implemented individually on a parallel to it. These artistic groups do not limit their activities to one area: traditional forms of expression are frequently exchanged with various creative forms including video-art, photography, and installations. Small artistic artifacts are often created side-by-side with large projects. A lot of meaning is attributed not only to ideas and their convincing expressions, but also to individual artistic skills.

By employing new communication methods and organizational skills, these new artistic groups are increasingly mobile and successful in promoting international relationships, and are capable of implementing art projects of various kinds at flexible times in different working conditions. Young artist groups of Eastern and Middle Europe are united by open cosmopolitan stance, which is oriented not only towards the art centers at large, but also towards the wider scope of artistic activities. The passive take of an artist who is waiting to be invited to create has been transposed to vigorous creative and organizational activities. Artistic groups are propagating their art independently, and their members actively participate in both foreign and domestic arenas, while searching for collaboration with artists from other countries.

The artistic group “Baltos kandys” (“White Moths”): A. Jurgelionyte, K. Kuncinaite, M. Lebednykaite, R. Leonaviciute, L. Pavilonyte, J. Vosyliute, which was established by six textile majors working together since 1998, is a group with the above discussed characteristics. They share equal responsibilities and professionalism in strategizing exhibitions, summits, educational events, as well as ideas for spatial project architectures. The extensive geography of their artistic projects include Edinburgh, Glasgow, Moscow, Shanghai, Düsseldorf, Paris, Bodenburg, Kyoto, Hogan, Mouzon, Saint Tropez, Rovinj, Warsaw, Riga, Drachten, as well as Vilnius, Kaunas, Panevezys, Siauliai, Anyksciai, Kedainiai, Moletai, Utena, and Nida.

The members of “Baltos kandys” (“White Moths”) can be compared to restless pilgrims who, like moths, are constantly trying to advance to new territories. The name of the group has many inferences. First is the choice of media for expressing their art: hand-made and hand-painted felt. It attracts them no less then it would attract real moths, except, unlike the “white” kind of these species, the artists create material instead of destroying it. The members of the group started taking interested in felt while they were studying at the Vilnius Academy of Fine Arts. Together with their professor Egle Bogdaniene they organized an international felt symposium in Lithuania in 1998. In a quest to better understand this ancient technology, they sought knowledge from experienced artists. This is how a famous Saole Bopanova, the textile artist from Alma-Ata got invited to attend the symposium. Bopanova gladly shared her experiences of working with felt, which she acquired in many years of following the ancient felt making traditions of Middle Eastern nations.

After mastering the art of felt technology, “Baltos kandys” (“White Moths”) did not limit themselves to creation of flat felt rugs and pictures. Instead they extended this technique to 3D objects. Their creations often include large, sculpture-like objects, as well as arrangements of small, hand-made installed details in interiors or open spaces. The artists are just as passionate in experimenting with colors. Lithuanian artists often replace traditional bright-colored, contrasting graphic fields and ornaments of Middle-Eastern felt rugs with no less bright, but artistically interweaved colors or even monochromes. They do not limit themselves to the use of graphical contoured threads that are characteristic to the felts of the Middle East. In addition, Lithuanian artists experiment with painting technologies which are customary for coloring silk or wool.

It is ironic that Rosemarich Trodul chose the feminine technology of netting in her conceptual art framework. “Baltos kandys” (“White Moths”) associate choice of felt techniques with the positive archive traditional women activities that elicit warmth, security, and ability to express themselves creatively. This is why so much attention is dedicated to the relationship between the felt and the body, as shown in various improvisations, playful elements, and artistic summits of their work.

Many of their created objects reflect the lack of artistic autonomy; instead, they become symbolic attributes used in art summits. It is during these summits that the individual objects are formed into constantly changing artistic projects. The artists demonstrated their projects created from bright-colored, hand-made felt flowers and fruits („Mandala“, „The Staring Meadow“, „Lips“) in art centers throughout Lithuania, Germany, and other countries. These projects are like rituals, during which the artists cover each other up with multi-colored layer made out of flowers and fruits, then they rise up from it like from the meadow garden, and lay out a decorative composition of ornaments. Here an unusual match of organic and geometric elements, like a slow, lively rhythm of the action itself, is a symbolic interpretation of mandala. “Lips” is another project made from the same multi-colored felt objects, dedicated to the exhibition “Bocca Della Verita” in Bodenburg, Germany. Closed, opened, whispering, smiling, and laughing lips emerge from bunches of blooming flowers and fruits, which hide the faces but reveal the feelings.

Bright-colors, soft material, poeticism, tranquility, idealism and elevating spirit are characteristic to many works of “Baltos kandys” (“White Moths”). Felt is transformed into pictures, sculpture objects, compositions, installations, summits, photographs, videos, and various accessories. The process of creation to “Baltos kandys” (“White Moths”) is a celebrated ritual of joy, energy and playfulness, which they easily convey to others. This is how moths remain to be white.

Prof. dr.Raminta Jurėnaitė