Rimantas Šulskis


Listen to the story

varis, h 35

varis, h 42

Paukštis ir medis, 1991-1993
varis, h 56

Rimantas Šulskis, “Fauna” (1979-1980)

Usually, while travelling on Radvilėnų Road in Kaunas, one’s attention is drawn to the Zoological Gardens, hoping to catch a glimpse of some inhabitants. However, you should also check the other side of the road. Even a stop here would be worth it. Four huge reliefs, erected here around 1990, stand in front of the verdure of Ąžuolynas. These works, commonly known as Fauna, were created in 1979-1980 by a Kaunas local, Rimantas Šulskis (1943-1995). At first they were suppose to adore the facade of Tadas Ivanauskas’ zoological museum in Laisvės Avenue that was being built at the time. The theme of the pieces was dictated by the purpose of the building. The bronze reliefs contain fantastical beings with both human and animal qualities. So why do we find these reliefs in a completely different part of Kaunas nowadays? Perhaps the mixed nature of the figures and the effectiveness of the images were the factors that bothered the Soviet censors, wherein they perceived something inexplicable and simply forbade the sculptor to continue with his work. Four finished bronze reliefs were erected in a secluded space near the Zoological Garens and Ąžuolynas. The other three compositions were not cast from bronze. 

The first relief shows a male figure with a bird’s head. This is “birdman”, typical for Rimantas Šulskis, a combination of two different natures and one of the most important motifs of his creative work. The sculptor created dozens of decorative sculptures with the metaphorical birdman, sometimes cute, sometimes terrifying. The male figure in this relief slowly develops into a bird with his its head bowed. The weirdly transformed body is being embraced by the hand-wings. 

The second relief shows a different human-animal hybrid. Anatomically correct naked body has the head on an unidentified beast. The composition is grand and energetically charged. The mighty human-beast looks cornered in the rectangle. He is fatigued, distressed and not dangerous any more.

The third relief is the most decorative and quite hard to interpret. The winged horse is flying above the bird or perhaps has already attacked the bird and won, therefore both of them are so stiff? It seems the sculptor leaves a lot of space for our own interpretations. Not everything in art can and must be rationally explained all the time. 

The fourth creation shows a human-bird hybrid again. What catches the eye first is a birdlike silhouette, predatory beak and huge feet. The eyes register the body of the bird also being an athletic human body soon after. The legs and torso are brilliantly modelled, you can see the strong muscles hiding an immense power. Finally you realise that this is neither a human, nor a bird, but a symbolic figure, related to the insights of struggle, drive, resistance and threat. The reliefs of Rimantas Šulskis show a constant fight between good and evil. Perhaps this was an indirect way for the sculptor to express his view on the World and his own time. 

Rimantas Šulskis created sculptures, enjoyed graphic arts and drawing. All of his creative work is full of emotion, mostly anxiety and expression. The titanically strong, otherworldly corporeal shapes are always bursting with power and passion, they show little acceptance or submission. The artist would constantly recreate and add to the real, natural forms of humans and animals with his unlimited imagination. Being as strong as Hephaestus himself, Rimantas Šulskis had mastered a special technology, unique to his own ability – he would hammer out huge sheets of copper and in this way obtain very high reliefs. He enjoyed depicting strange, and sometimes terrifying through their sheer size, combinations of humans, animals and ornaments. The world of Rimantas Šulskis’ creation thrived at the intersection of reality and fantasy, sheltered by his own individual mythology. 

Rimantas Antanas Šulskis (1943–1995) was born in Kaunas. In 1963 he graduated from Kaunas Secondary School No.2. After school he briefly worked at Kaunas Institute of Industrial Construction Design. In 1964–1967 – served in the army. In 1967–1968 he worked at Kaunas Institute of Industry and Construction Design as a technical drafter. In 1968–1974 he studied sculpture in the State Institute of Art (Vilnius) and acquired the qualifications of an artist-teacher. In 1975–1989 he worked at Kaunas Children’s Art School. From 1974 – participated in numerous group shows in Lithuania and abroad. His two solo shows of sculpture were held at Kaunas Picture Gallery in 1990 and Contemporary Art Centre (Vilnius) in 1993. 

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