Four painters


E. Balsiukaitė, Šančių repas, 2016.

E. Balsiukaitė, Adoration, 2020

E. Balsiukaitė, Doctor love.

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Reminiscence of 4 painters at the start of their creative careers

In the centre of Kaunas, at K. Donelaičio St. 79 (architect Vladimiras Dubeneckis), first floor flat – a kommunalka – there was a private art gallery, one of the first in Kaunas. But do you know what a communal flat, or kommunalka for short, is? Most likely not. The great Smetonian apartments were turned into kommunalkas, where 4-5 families used to live, all with very different outlooks on life. Kommunalka was a social experiment and a reflection of a grim reality of Soviet routine. 

The exhibitions were organised there since 1990, when four young painters and an art historian settled down in Kaunas after graduating from the Vilnius Academy of Arts. The fine arts exhibitions started in the two rooms of a kommunalka. This was an informal gallery, most active between 1990-1992. At the time, Kaunas was starved for spaces to show young and unrecognised artists. The painting galleries of Kaunas would only open their doors for famous and distinguished creators. It is no secret that in the field of arts, dominated by men, the women would face even more frustrations. For example, when trying to book a hall for a joint exhibition, the reaction of the head of the picture gallery was sceptical and telling: “keep dreaming, girls”. Pondering this pressing problem of exhibition of young artists, Rasa and Aušra had an idea to start doing shows in their flat, the two rooms of a kommunalka.  The place was in the centre of the city, the space was bright, the ceiling high, with bells of Kaunas chiming through the windows. Paris, almost. The shows would attract a lot of friends and acquaintances. The kommunalka neighbours would sometimes be intimidated by the number of visitors to the openings of improvised exhibitions. Although the more surprising thing was that the youth would not come to make noise and have a good time, but to talk, discuss art. 

This home gallery hosted the shows of nowadays famous Kaunas painters Aušra Andziulytė, Elena Balsiukaitė, Aušra Barzdukaitė, Judita Budriūnaitė, et al. One could say the the first objective works of art created by the Kaunas painters were first shown in Kaunas, K. Donelaičio St. 79.

Nowadays the famous painter and Kaunas local Aušra Andziulytė describes the origin of the gallery like this: “I was friends with Rasa since the institute days. She was working at the M. K. Čiulionis National Museum of Art and residing in a two-room flat on K. Donelaičio street. Once when I was over, we decided that this bright space would fit perfectly for an exhibition. I convinced the future members of “the Four” as well as other artists to take part too. The flat-turned-gallery hosted a number of shows, where we would gather to discuss, exchange ideas”.

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