Over 100 artists from Austria, Brazil, Denmark, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Russia submitted their works for the 7th International Amber Art Biennial “Ałatyr”, whose theme was “An Architectonic Cronicle of the World”.
This year’s theme is the organiser’s answer to the invitation from UNESCO, who announced the year 2017 the International Year of Balance d Tourism for Development, to take actions that are going to make tourism a trigger for the positive change and contribute to poverty limitation, as well as stimulating an inclusive development. The organisers expected the works that would reflect author’s individual thoughts about the topic, as well as innovative approach to amber and other artistic materials.
Over 180 works from different countries were submitted for the competition. They were collected and delivered by the curators cooperating with the organiser: Konrad Laimer – artist, the president of Claudia Augusta Project (Austria, Germany, Italy); Trine Trier – owner of galery „Bærbart” (Denmark); Iveta Laure – artist, member of Union of artist of Latvia (Latvia); Maryte Dominaite – artist of galery Meno Nisha (Lithuania); Galina Sharonova – artist, member of the International Association „Union of Designers” (Russia); Diana Tabachkova – member of the International Association „Union of Designers”; Jean Claude Guillemont – President of Assiciation „Once, one artisan…” (France).
The works of art are evaluated in several categories: Skills, Creation of Artistic Image, Innovation. Additional contest positions are also elaborated. One of them is about the 50th anniversary of the world-wide famous tourist route “Golden Ring of Russia”. Unique architectural monuments of Kostroma, Ivanovo, Rostov, Yaroslavl, Vladimir, Suzdal, Pereslavl-Zalessky, Sergiyev Posad reflect the history of Russian culture and embody the highest achivements of art. The second special nomination “Objects of Pilgrimage” is dedicated not only to artifacts, but also to the oldest reason for making a journey to get closer to holy territories and buildings with the aim of spiritual renewal and worship to the sacred places.
An international jury panel, composed of: Mette Saabye – designer (Denmark); Bianca Capello – art historian specialising in the theme of costume jewellery (Italy); Juris Gagainis – artist, professor at the Art of Latvia (Latvia); Regina Makauskienie – international project curator at the Amber Museum in Kaliningrad (Russia); Professor, Ph.D., Andrzej Szadkowski – artist; Aleksander Kryłow – artist, creator of the amber chamber copy, and Andrey Gilodo – dean of the Faculty of Steel and Stones at All-Russia Museum of Decorative, Applied, and Folk Art, qualified the works for the exhibition and awarded prizes stipulated in the rules and regulations. These were given to:
Grand Prix: Susanne Elstner (Germany) for the necklace „Stonehenge – early time” (amber, hand-made coal, gold)
Mastery Category: Stefania Luchetta (Italy) for the necklace “The City if Growing” (titanium, gold, amber)
Creation of Artistic Image category: Victoria Yaritskaya (Kaliningrad, Russia) for the necklace “Time Fusion” (compressed amber, brass, leather lace)
It is very difficult to clearly summarise the exhibition. The jurors were very divided in their opinions: there were many voices of approval, also from the jurors from the Western Europe, who were able to notice the value of the submitted works, their artistic and technical level and author’s interpretation of the topic, even though their sense of aesthetics was shaped in a completely different way than that dominating in the Russian art. Mette Sabye emphasised the use of various techniques, both traditional and innovative as well as the abundance of expression in the works of the artists from Russia and abroad – in her opinion, the visible differences made the exhibition even more interesting. According to Bianca Capello, the level of execution and creativity was very good. Professor Andrzej Szadkowski disagrees with those opinions, and thinks that jurors place too much emphasis on contestants’ craft skills at the expense of the conceptual side. The Polish juror has decided to grant a special diploma for “concept philosophy” and to convince the organisers to create a new contest category: conceptual art. The most critical opinion was that of the Russian juror, Andrey Gilodo, who appealed to the contestants at the press conference to carefully consideer their participation in future competitions and to prepare with more care: “Some works really look as if they had been created within 3 days, or even 3 hours. Of course, it is possible to create a good work in 3 hours, on condition that it was thought through very carefully”.
The “Alatyr” biennial, which apart from the contest includes also lectures by various authorities from the area of art, craft and journalism, as well as an educational programme for students and young artists, is one of the most important projects realised by the regional amber museum in Kaliningrad: it is a signifincant link with the international amber scene, and an opportunity to get to know the modern trends in the amber art and exchange experience. It is hard not to get an impression that the worlds of the West and East are still very distant from each other and there is more that divides them than just geographical boundaries. It does not mean, however that it is impossible to overcome them. “The new generation of talented creators is on the right track. It is the generation that isn’t merely concerned about amber and new technological solutions of its treatment, but most of all the way of defining themselves and their future” – says Konrad Laimer, who has been involved in student exchange in the Kaliningrad Region and Italy since 2009, as a part of international, artistic and education project. He is preparing an exhibition of young Russian artists as a part of the prestigious show SCHMUCK at the Craft Trade Fair in Munich. This is exactly how the boundries are crossed!