Over the course of many years, the Latvian artist Jānis Avotiņš has gained inspiration and motifs for his work in the visual legacy of the recent past, including photographs found in state and private archives, retouched Soviet-era press illustrations and city guidebooks. Avotiņš delves into this cultural and historical legacy not only for building blocks for his creative output but acts as a careful archeologist, attempting to free his paintings and drawings from unnecessary semantic layers, often erasing indications that would place his figures in a specific time frame. The artist moves images of the past to a different universe, a dimension of time characteristic only of a work of art, the ’now’ of art. His monochromatic figures become solemn memory images surfacing to our conscious from a distant or more recent past. Avotiņš’s work is characterized by a special intimacy, and viewers are invited to complement it with themes from their own personal experience. At the same time, they are open to the widest possible perceptions and interpretations, so that each viewer can fill in the blanks and create a common sense of memory.
Expressed in images of shared memory, the art of Jānis Avotiņš is like a festive celebration in that it offers something to unite us. Celebration is the most complete form of communal experience, through which people regain their shared existence. The aesthetic quality of Avotiņš’s work thus also becomes especially important, since the aesthetic experience when shared fosters ’sociability’, raises an individual’s desire to communicate with others, and helps form social bonds and unite people in a cohesive society. It is not necessary for thousands to join hands in order to experience the feeling of community. The shared experience of art can also serve this purpose.