Academic painting meets pop art in Laurentsius´s works, often characterized by a masterful play with camp and kitsch, displaying also a touch of cynicism and a certain darkness.
Laurentsius (Lauri Sillak; born 1969 in Kohtla-Järve) has been called a fetishistic aesthete when it comes to his art, as he approaches his subjects with extreme devotion. Laurentsius is fond of both church baroque as well as the 17th century Dutch school of painting.
In addition to extreme precision and focus on details, Laurentsius has always had a specific interest in frames. The work with massive, dominating frames embracing tiny, highly realistic oil paintings are one of the artist´s trademarks. In these works, the frame actually becomes more important than what´s inside.
The artist is interested in the relationship between beauty and ugliness, the changes in these concepts in different times and cultures; depicting a banal, overused motif in a way that is interesting for oneself and others. There are no living models used in the portrait series. Instead he uses their visual constructions to create the portraits. Laurentsius is also interested in the relationship between reality and illusion, static and dynamic, two-dimensional and three-dimensional. Besides all of this, all kinds of cultural meanings.
In addition to extreme precision and focus on details, Laurentsius has always had a specific interest in frames. The work with massive, dominating frames embracing tiny, highly realistic oil paintings are one of the artist’s trademarks. In these works the frame actually becomes more important than what’s inside.
Laurentsius has been actively taking part in exhibitions since 1993. In addition to many solo exhibitions, he has also participated in group exhibitions in Estonia, Poland, Germany, Russia, Great Britain, the USA and Denmark.
He has received a lot of recognition, among other things, in the year 1999 he received the “Annual Award of the Estonian Painters’ Union”, in the year 2011 the “Annual Award of the Cultural Endowment and in the year 2014 the “Kristjan Raud Award”.
Prizes: Kristjan Raud Art Prize (2014), Estonian Cultural Endowment Annual Award (2011), Konrad Mägi Prize (2009), Estonian Painters' Association's annual prize (1999), Vaal Gallery annual prize (1996)
Works in collections: The Art Museum of Estonia and Tartu Art Museum (Estonia); Turku Art Museum (Finland)
His pieces which are exposed in Ultima Thule Gallery
"The Leaving of the Luigeratsur" 2015
The work “The leaving of the Luigeratsur” is a portrait of a young woman in a fictional poetic situation found and painted in a completely random magazine. Characteristic of Laurentius, a wide range of styles and brushwork on intentionally hashed substrate and in an industrial framework designed by the author. “The sudden sun on her face was captivating…”, Laurentsius.
“Dead Christ Said LOVE” 2012
“Dead Christ Said LOVE” is like an industrial modern version of a Russian icon - a realistic academic portrait on a tin background. In a graffiti bubble, the word LOVE seems to be crossed out and then written and crossed out again multiple times… (said, does not say, loves, does not love…). Wondering if he actually did rise up...
“Woman in the picture” 2017
The story behind the “Woman in the picture” is mainly connected to Lilli Parikas?
The series “Woman in the picture” began much earlier. The house of Parikas began in 2013 but I made my first couple of big “face” paintings already in the year 2000.
I was creating my pictures, the only thing connecting me with the house in the beginning was the wallpaper. Historical wallpaper which came with the picture. This was one of the reasons why I did it exactly there. Priit Valkna came and wanted to make a movie there and the portrait of Lilli Parikas was the final thing that connected everything. This picture is made of Lilli and because of that movie. Sometimes it happens that two things collide at some point in time - whether intentionally or not.
Does every painting have a story?
The story is formed throughout the creation process. Depending on the painting - the story comes alive through different ways and roads. The story about the Parikas’ house arose from the fact that there was no wallpaper. I had done some portraits before but then, after a little time off, being well-rested - I continued with the same thing! Times had changed and also I had changed - technically different and also with new thoughts.
Do stories change over time?
I feel like this is an important question but normally I don't think about it that much.
Time - my works are composed of many different times, moments and maybe even a little bit of future. When you’re painting, you get ideas on what to add and what to take off. The time when you’re painting is a time for yourself. Usually, you have something already created in your head but while you’re painting the idea starts to move on and the painting takes itself to a whole nother meaning. I cannot see a reason why anyone should hold on to their thoughts - you should move along with them. I tried to write the letter Q and at some point it turned into a heart. Finally those two pink things - they kind of look like eyes - and I don’t know if this is a story. I think these are more like meanings that have emerged over time.
Will the viewer find the Q?
The idea behind that was to make it appear like it is almost something - it shouldn’t be too concrete. I would love it if a person who has the painting on the wall discovers that there is something “hidden” maybe after a few months after purchasing it.
A lot of your paintings have unexpected tones and details
Colors - yes colorful details. They are like landmarks - like from a room or from a distance. There are not many bold colors. When it comes to the scale of my colorfulness, I guess I’m somewhere in the middle. I paint the picture, change the brightness and shadows, add colors and some random things. For example real branches - a painting painted from a photo, which is covered with real branches, just like the ones which are already inside the painting. The end result is quite realistic. I like playing with these meanings. Or with the opposites. A brick and a balloon are quite the opposites. Heavy, gentle. Flying bricks - just think about it!
I remember one fun picture with balloons.
That painting has two types of balloons - phantom- and real balloons. I have painted balloons earlier as well. In my opinion it gives some kind of transparency to the viewers.
Sometimes you remember something just the way it is, just in your mind. One of my friends told me about one of my paintings which in his mind is one of my best works ever - actually I hadn’t painted it, it is not my painting, but he was so sure that it’s his favorite piece of my art. Every person sees differently and if you translate it verbally, it will not coincide with what I think is there.
"Balloons and bricks" 2019
When translating your paintings verbally, I would use the term - fluidity.
My paintings do have a vertical, which might remind you of fluidity. Vertical, fluidity - the compositional structure is often depicted in a way that it appears as a never-ending process, it kind of seems like a dance was inside of it.
Earlier pictures are more from the concept area. I had a playful idea which needed to be dealt with. Every year the amount of those playful ideas decreases. I feel like I’m “receding from the conceptualist painting”. Conceptualist art - it is like you have one initial idea and you become so attached to it and you feel like you cannot discover the world outside of that idea. What I’m doing now can even be described as the exact opposite of that. I want to discover the world outside of those borders and I love it! The flower series came after Parikas. I thought - “I’ve done faces, now let's try flowers!”. At this moment, my topic is forest. Classic kitschy themes.
People have always bought your paintings, both faces and flowers.
If people are doing well and they have some extra money, what else should they do with rather than buying art? I guess they like it.
A classic question - how do you begin a new painting?
At first you have a motive. The topic of nature, which I’ve been recently exploring, has specific photographs. The final result is never the same as what could be seen in the photo but I need them as a starting point.
"Forest between us"
So, the newer pieces are nature-oriented?
Yes, at least for now. I have not yet shown my landscape pieces at any exhibitions. Creating a landscape requires a lot of time, it’s like an endless process.
For example, “The forest between us” - it’s about a specific situation, a person behind the trees. Against the light, just a silhouette. One of my friends invited me to the forest to take some pictures and he is actually the one who’s in the picture. I think it is boring, when you can clearly tell what is what and who is who in a painting. You cannot show the viewer everything.
What is the perfect space for your paintings?
I think my paintings go well in a room where many different eras meet. If I’d had to choose what to put on a wall, I’d first take a good look at what the room is like. My paintings also change with the light - different walls, different lights therefore a different painting, you could say.
If I'm coming to you with a wish to buy your art for a specific space/room, will you suggest an appropriate piece?
I'd recommend a few, so that you’d have options to choose from. If you come to the studio and pick out at least 10, then I’d say we did good!