Let me start from the beginning. Vasilij had fallen ill, and I went to see him after visiting an exhibition in the Riga Art Space.[1] The exhibition included paintings of the most diverse quality (including very poor ones), grouped by decade and forming what was quite literally a kind of labyrinth. The subterranean exhibition space was crammed with works, which had even prompted someone to write in the visitors’ book that art isn’t firewood (evidently meaning that paintings cannot be piled up like logs of firewood). I recalled this comment when, trying to step back in order to get a better view of a large painting, I tripped on the steps directly in front of the painting. And so I sat in Vasilij’s living room with my sprained leg on a pillow and, while sipping tea, recounted my impressions. Our state of health prompted us to adopt a resignedly ironic view. At the beginning of the conversation I mentioned the guiding principle of the exhibition: to cast a look at the art of the Soviet period without ideological prejudices, something that may have accounted for the varying quality of the exhibited works. “I didn’t know that ideological prejudice or the lack of it could serve as a criterion for quality in art”, said Vasilij scornfully.

more from Janis Taurens at Eurozine here.