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I really felt honoured to be invited as an International Jury member for the 4th International Textile Art Biennial, organised in Kaunas, Lithuania. Kaunas – the city, where cultural traditions can be admired in various museums’ collections and artists’ creativity and energy can be felt through organizing international events and striving for leading positions in the European context.

I would like to express my appreciation for the work done by the organising committee. Due to its enthusiasm, the significant cultural event - textile art biennials, which was started in 1997, this year has European significance, gained consolidating 68 artists from 14 countries in the world.

As a jury member you always feel responsibility for the forthcoming exhibition to become as good as possible, as challenging as expected. This is a very serious task. It is not just to decide each individual artist’s success in the career, or just to say: I like or dislike, it is also a great chance to draw the picture of contemporary textile art in Europe today and a possibility to foresee its development in the future perspective.     Right and Wrong Sides – this simple and at the same time philosophical title – to my mind opened very wide interpretation possibilities for artists.

What conclusions can I draw from applications and the selection of works?    
We really felt that artists’ interest for international competitions is great and to my mind it is a very positive tendency in Europe. Not only artists from European countries – Denmark, Sweden, Germany, Belgium, Iceland, Finland, Rumania, Estonia, etc., but also from Japan and Taiwan have sent their applications.

Out of 194 works submitted by 155 artists, the international jury selected 66 works created by 68 artists, so it is possible to draw a conclusion, that the competition was quite hard.     The two dominant countries this time turned out to be Lithuania (22 artists) and Latvia (11 artists). This means that weaving tradition in the Baltic countries is very strong. Not only because of dominating quantity. Alongside good ideas and new concepts the Baltic countries have good educational bases on the highest level. It seems also that our previous collaboration during 1970s-80s in the Baltic Decorative Applied Art Triennials in Tallinn, which sometimes led to a hard competition, has formed good beginnings for textile art development today. This was proved in Riga Textile and Fibre Art Triennial Tradition & Innovation in 2001 as well.

What can we see through the artwork submitted? Do they really reflect the whole scenery of European textile art development? Is there any tendency to globalisation, like we feel in many art fields today, or do traditions prevail?

To my mind, works submitted, reflect European textile art trends only partially, but we can speak about constant values as well as new features in contemporary textile art.

Here I would like to touch upon some aspects we can speak about when analyzing the submitted works: high professionalism – or perfect execution of the piece, the understanding and revival of theme from deep philosophical attitude towards simple and illustrative approach, less play with form and material, more attention to the visibility of the idea.     We experience a kind of return back to political tapestry - dedications to history and political events – the theme, which has been almost forgotten during last years.

Several art pieces influenced by today’s lifestyle are simple in expression. Is this just lifestyle or irony about lifestyle? We can state a fact that fibre art, which has gained popularity during the last decade, is still urgent for many artists. Instead of synthetics artists favour natural materials. This wide range of fibre art pieces (made from natural materials in different techniques) up to fibre sculptures created by professional sculptors, gives possibility to compare, discuss, foresee…

It was amazing to see that some artists are infatuated with figurative realism - compositions and portraits in the manner, which can even be characterized as natural realism (like human ageing process). Is it in fashion or is it urgent, contemporary approach…? Being perfectly executed, some of these textiles really fascinate us by strong artistic expression.

 M. A.Velta Raudzepa