truggling to position Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis, whose works are in London for the primary time from their residence in Lithuania, I couldn’t assist considering: Tolkien.
You recognize these footage JRR Tolkien drew for The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings; these peaks stretching into some elven sky, the maps of unusual, haunted landscapes? Effectively, that’s Čiurlionis. In reality should you’re a fan of the brand new Amazon prequel The Rings of Energy, that is simply the exhibition for you: numerous enigmatic king figures and shadowy peaks and sunken cities.
He was in essence a symbolist, although you’ll be able to see different influences coming by way of the work: a little bit of Charles Rennie Waterproof coat within the Artwork Nouveau traces of his creation cycle, all-purpose Impressionism in his misty Dawn and Hokusai in his wave footage (however then anybody who wasn’t influenced by Japanese prints within the late nineteenth and early twentieth century was a uncommon chicken).
Čiurlionis was an fascinating particular person: the son of a church organist who went on to be a musician after which developed into an artist. In reality this exhibition means that you can hear his music whereas trying on the footage, a few of which bear titles like Sonata, in three cycles.
And should you add to this an engagement with the reason for Lithuanian independence and a fascination with its people tales and an enthusiasm for Theosophy, the odd mystical philosophy epitomised in that very unusual particular person, Madam Blavatsky, you have got one thing fascinating.
Čiurlionis, in Lithuania, represented a lot of the passions and fashions of the early twentieth century. WB Yeats would have been fully at residence with him. He died younger, at 36, after a creative profession lasting about six years.
Fairly how you’re feeling about these influences – people tales, nationalism and mystical philosophy – will decide how you’re feeling in regards to the work. There’s solely actually one simple panorama, Raigardas, a comparatively (for him) large-scale depiction of a stretch of countryside in three items, all calming greens and flat horizontal traces, however even right here the scene is invested with a narrative a few buried metropolis.
As for the pyramid sequences and the Zodiac cycles, you’ll both see them as hauntingly enigmatic, or pure hokum. He’s a little bit of a Blake determine then, within the mysticism somewhat than the mastery of line. He’s profoundly embedded within the tales and panorama of the north, of Lithuania (he’s nearly the nation’s nationwide artist) however he visited Berlin, Vienna and St Petersburg, and educated in Warsaw, so he’s not, by any means, provincial.
Quite a lot of Čiurlionis’s work have a fairytale appeal to them. One of the memorable is that of a king and queen determine gazing at what appears like a snow globe (the gallery missed a trick in not producing one based mostly on this image) which depicts a Lithuanian panorama inside. Behind them is the darkish forest, the backdrop of the very best fairy tales.
Then there are is the very Hobbity Sonata no 6, an enormous mountain peak sweeping into the sky, topped by an angel determine (he’s very keen on angels) with delicate tracery of traces operating throughout it. The Winter sequence of snowy bushes and tapers is haunting, and the excellent news is, they arrive as Christmas playing cards.
Most of his footage repay shut inspection: there are hidden figures or faint outlines of a metropolis tucked away so that you can discover. And since he was broke for numerous the time, a number of the items are painted on cardboard; one, which nearly appears like a clean canvas with curious little dandelion clocks on the base, is completed on brown paper.
This exhibition, then, is a fascinating curiosity: Tolkien, by way of Lithuania.
Dulwich Image Gallery, September 21 to March 12; dulwichpicturegallery.org.uk