This painting, created in 1993 and entitled Adam and Eve, instantly transports us to the well-known biblical story. But let's not be hasty. Vilmantas Marcinkevičius presents his own interpretation of this familiar theme.
A great woman and her husband
Let's take a closer look. On the left we see a large and very strong Eve. She tramples a helpless serpent under one foot while confidently extending an apple to Adam. All women depicted in early paintings by Marcinkevičiaus are strong, powerful and striking. In later works we note how men, appearing in the form of angels or demons, become powerful. Such transformation in imagery only becomes noticeable when viewed after a greater period of time. Let's return, however, to this particular painting. Adam is withdrawn and passive. Did you notice? He holds a flower for Eve, hiding it behind his back. This is, without a doubt, a work about a real life’s love. Through the story of Adam and Eve, it takes on the meaning of eternal recurrence.
Why was a religious theme chosen?
Traveling from Kaunas to begin his studies in Vilnius, the future painter carried a Bible with him, seemingly by chance. And although he shared a dorm room with four other students at the start of his studies, he still felt lonely. So, by silently turning the pages of the book, he found there much blood, love, and many strong and variously interpreted motifs. Biblical subjects allowed him to explore eternal themes that existed beyond any specific time period: revelation, the sacrifice of a son, Judith, Adam and Eve.
Signs of early creative work in the painting
The painting Adam and Eve was created in his third year of study at the Vilnius Academy of Arts. This is also Marcinkevičius' first large format work. Today that would hardly impressive on its own, but we should examine the painting’s context. 1993 was a year of economic difficulty for Lithuania. Artists, not to mention students, rarely could afford to paint large format paintings: both canvas and paint were in short supply. Marcinkevičius also lacked the necessary funds. He made a timely discovery, however, of analine, a dye used in textiles. Analine was cheap, vivid and durable, and so could be boldly applied to a canvas in thick layers or simply, in the words of the artist, "splashed around." This seemingly insignificant factor helped spur the formation of the artist's individual style.
Criticism from instructors
Marcinkevičius studied at the Vilnius Academy of Arts at the start of the 1990s, when painting was taught based on the traditions of expressionism. With the arrival of Lithuanian independence and the consequent social, economic and societal changes, young artists began searching for new forms of expression. Some, disappointed with painting, chose other, more contemporary media (photography, video filmography). Those that remained faithful to painting began to search for their own style.
During his time of study, Marcinkevičius was often criticized by his instructors for the decorative elements he employed alongside expressionist methods, as well as for sharp color harmonies that were out of character for the Academy. Nevertheless, the artist maintained his own style and quickly gained popularity in Lithuania, also soon finding admirers abroad. This painting from the artist's early creative period already exhibits the future character and essential features of later works by Marcinkevičius.