Organizer: Julija Dailidėnaitė | CAP
As an urban photographer, Imantas Selenis is a pensive explorer and an attentive observer. The artist, who is also a law graduate, uses a highly systemic and analytic approach to composition, thus endowing his works with the signature aesthetic precision. He uses the medium of photography primarily as a tool for learning about and relating to his environments. It is not by accident that Selenis got into photography while living in London, a megalopolis the environments of which he spent three years adopting to.
The object of his artistic research is the relation between a city as a man-made ecosystem, and humans as its creators and inhabitants. The imagery the artist is producing is constituted of the blown-up fragments of urban cityscapes. We rarely see people in his photographs, but their presence is nonetheless evident in these overbearing architectural objects that are indelibly inscribed into our identities.
Selenis is still in the process of establishing himself in the context of Lithuanian contemporary art. However, his works have already been acknowledged in the international field of fine art photography. Selenis has exhibited his work in 15 shows, including festivals, solo and group exhibitions. He was a finalist in various photography competitions, including CBRE Urban Photographer of the Year (2014), Photolux (2014), and Gregory Crewdson & Vogue Italia’s The Uncanny Contest (2017). In 2018 his artworks were acquired by Lewben Art Foundation, the owner of one of the most prestigious collections of Contemporary Art in Lithuania.
HAWAII is a series of photographs about Vilnius, and it marks the new stage in Selenis’ creative development.
The concept of the show draws from the artist’s experiences during the Guardian Cities project in 2014, when Selenis became an object of public criticism in Lithuania for his sincere and unrefined depictions of Vilnius City. Instead of showing the predictably photogenic Old Town, Selenis chose to focus on the lesser known and certainly non-touristy parts of Vilnius—a gesture that polarised and angered a large part of Vilnius citizens who saw the photographs as offensive to their national feelings. Thus Selenis’ highly personal and genuine take on his native city ended up being largely misunderstood.
However, this has inspired an artist to create a new body of work that raise a question about the dualistic perception of a city: the actual Vilnius with all the traces of its complex and diverse history, and the representative Vilnius with its visitor-friendly facades.
Therefore HAWAII series utilises the language of ambivalence and contradiction. Selenis uses a creative interplay between the aesthetic and ideology. The main heroes featured in these large format photographs are the notorious tower blocks built during the soviet occupation—their strong ideological aura is evident due to the trauma that still lingers in our society.
HAWAII aims to question our tendency to perceive the ideologically odious as ‘ugly.’ The show features the same images of the non-touristy parts of Vilnius that were criticised four years ago, only this time, by staining them with the vibrant colours taken from the tacky palette of a Hawaiian sunset, the artist poses an obviously ironic question ‘What is beautiful?’
While these cityscapes seem aesthetically appealing at a distance, a closer inspection reveals a secondary layer that reminds us about the ‘shabbiness’ of the infamous tower blocks. By drawing on the tension between the aesthetic and ideological judgements, this juxtaposition sets the stage for a new dialogue about how we understand beauty, and invites us to take a closer look at the City with a new set of eyes.