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Alchemy of the Mist | Exhibition in the attic of the Bernardine Church

"The photo series 'Alchemy of the Mist' by Virgilijus Usinavičius-Augulis refines the fundamental features of photography that formed and developed from the mid-19th century all the way up to the second half of the 20th century. The author is guided by the traditional fine-art photography criteria that combine picturesque, painterly, so-called Pictorialist photography aesthetics with the modernist ‘purity’ that rejects any manipulation of the initial image. The works of Virgilijus belong to the field of photography, where the subject and its uniqueness is important in itself, with no postmodernist doubts about the originality of the image or references pointing to the contexts outside the field of art.

One of the key features of fine-art photography that emerge in the 'Alchemy of the Mist' is the author's ability to detach landscapes, cityscapes or everyday objects from their usual context - presenting them as worthy of attention and aesthetic appreciation. Through photographic lense, what is seemingly mundane becomes important, unattractive details appear photogenic, and discarded moments turn into innuendos of stories untold.

Another distinctive feature of fine-art photography is the individual and subjective viewpoint of the author. In the 'Alchemy of the Mist' series, it is highly intuitive, unbounded by preliminary attitudes, fixed themes or conceptions. All the while, the author's gaze is very consequent, merging individual pieces into a coherent body of work. V. Usinavičius-Augulis chooses the panoramic format and utilizes the possibilities it brings. By building an impression of spaciousness and simplicity, it allows one's gaze to wander freely, expanding the experience beyond its form and therefore creating the pathway for a slow image inquiry process. In this way, photographs themselves become sources of silence and serenity, which, as the author says, are "those natural and human resources that are being depleted in the modern world, along with the other vital resources of the earth."

We are presented with an alternative to contemporary visual oversaturation, their rapid consumption and widespread doubts of authenticity that are caused by digital technology. The exhibition centers original analog prints, which convey the image exactly as the author sees it and embodies a unique vision of the photographer fully. In the face of a neverending flow of visuals and their rapid devaluation, it brings back the opportunity to appreciate photography as a form of art, not a commodity. In addition, by creating a piece of value in his prints, the author ensures that it will be saved for the future, thus reconnecting photography and memory - both personal and collective, conscious and subconscious.

However, the memory in this series is not documentary, it does not capture and depict events but rather evokes memories of the past, be it real or imagined. More precisely, the author's works are reminiscent of a mythical time that takes place neither in the past nor future, but rather behind or near our everyday sensibilities. This impression is reinforced not only by the individual photographs but also by the exhibition itself. Moving uninterrupted, the viewer will first encounter the images of Kernavė that seem not yet marked by the modern civilization, the only seen man-made objects are those associated with the old pagan faith. Encircled by the mist, the landscapes and the mounds seem like a primordial setting for the world creation. The following images somewhat reflect how this primordial world has been shaped by humankind, it shows the now abandoned traces it has left throughout various points in history. Finally, the viewer sees images capturing modern Lithuanian cities. However, they are also encircled in the mist, as if traces of the past, distancing the photographs from the everyday. In this mythical worldview, the cycles of creation and decay repeat, leaving the specific location or the exact date captured in the photograph irrelevant. Encompassed by eternal nature, all subjects - human figures, sculptures, animals or amusement park carousel horses become equally 'real' and alive.

Such is the 'Alchemy of the Mist' - it allows Virgilijus to fulfill his creative vision and to produce a body of work that - as the author himself says - "tells stories, evokes sensations and recalls memories". Furthermore, these creative alchemies enable the photographer to bring the invisible realm into form, to synthesize the mythical time with the day-to-day in the ways that allow us to find glimpses of a purposeful existence."

Photography critic, theorist and photographer dr. Tomas Pabedinskas

The exhibition can be visited at Bernardine Church (entrance through the inside of the church, take the spiral stairs at the right tower) on Fridays at 17:00 or with private excursions.

The project is partially financed by the Lithuanian Council for Culture.

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