A day I’ll start my little personal art collection, will be the day some piece by Egle Pilkauskaite, Lithuanian artist will join it. Egle always has some cosmic stories, and so does look their creations – somewhat unearthly, strange creatures visiting us here from space. However, these are more down-to-Earth than you could think, all happening because natural and unknown materials become an art piece in Egle’s head and hands.
Why materials? Not photography or music?
Seetal Solanki asks us ‘Why Materials Matter’ in her book, Saint Martins University organizes workshops, dedicated to the wave of new materialism where sustainability and ecology are the primary keys. These days design and artwork together so that that material could become a concept itself.
Material codes so much information within. Bullet Drawings, artwork by Cornelia Parker catches you in a net which seems pretty simple from the first sight. But when you get more context, you realize they are created by melting down bullets. Objects of violence transformed into art. A few years ago, Olafur Eliasson brought and placed huge ice cubes in London – leaving us confused and wondering why on Earth are these melting here? The matter becomes a concept. It’s an evocative object, evidence; it provokes you to think.
While studying, I learned that you could paint in totally different ways using different tools, and I still consider myself a painter. Again, I had made a study project of how Metro walls decay, and so my life with materials started. I love working with the acts of deconstruction. There is this tiny moment that reveals the real beauty of the deconstruction and it fades away immediately. I’m very interested in preserving this moment.
In my works, I often use found objects. It’s a bit similar to the ready-made objects, which, for example, Marcel Duchamp used, except found objects are not produced, these are evidence, the result, the consequence of some action. I’m always willing to know the reason – was the fire caused by somebody deliberately or maybe it’s an outcome of pollution. After knowing the reason comes the part of keeping the original form and artistic value of the found object, I try to avoid extra deformation and search for the best ways to present these. Example of Puntukas stone, a famous tourist attraction in Lithuania, should never happen again – this object of nature is impressive itself, but unfortunately got scooped for the sake of art. My creative process is based on essential findings and experiments. Glass, for example, is a demanding material, but I love working with it, so, I stage situations for the materials to behave their way. It’s like a play, you create the situation but lose control, and you have to accept it.
Well, if there were no boundaries, what would be your dream materials to work with?
Oh, so many. I think I don’t even know about them yet. Materials that are alive and changing, the ones that grow, rot, and can be preserved are intriguing. We have access to many natural ones here in Lithuania. While others invest their time in technologies, we still have this connection with forest and nature. I know one artist in Lithuanian who makes pigments in an old-fashioned way, using herbs. I would love to find myself in a workshop visiting a specific location, collecting different plants, and recreating the natural coloring of the sight. You can now make colors from anything. Dust, for example, was problematic and rarely used before, but it becomes a new thing for artists, they collect and use dust for making different pigments.
There are also studios, creating the whole interior based on reusing old materials and patterns, for example, tiles made from old jeans garments. It becomes a cycle: you collect material, wood shavings, let’s say, press it, build wooden units which are later used in the construction process. However, it’s still an expensive way, only small, niche design companies allow themselves to get on.
And what was the furthest way you took in search of a desirable material or an object?
I love local communities, so my creative process is tied to location, people, and aesthetics. I made quite a tour in Lithuania while searching for the perfect tree root, which I needed for my latest work. Trust me; I met many rangers and tractor drivers at that time. I had no idea how the root looks underneath, so, I analyzed how the tree grows, went to glades marking stumps, which I thought might be the right ones. A little tutorial to a tractor driver about the pulling process was also a must because it should’ve been subtle. I came back to the forest many times, making this root casting. Drivers, I guess, never totally got why some girl spends her time in the forest, searching for the right stump still, they all became my creative collaborators.
Car services or dumps are also places for me to be. Once I needed car dust for making pigment, so I found myself in a service offering to clean car mufflers there. Some machinists were surprised, some rejected my strange request, but some welcomed me. I love meeting new people, hearing their stories, it gives me new ideas. People who become a part of my creative process, the local ones, often show me things I never thought existed. My friend from school, a ranger, just told me about Mother Route – pattern beetles create eating a tree. It’s amazing.
When I had to cover my plaster creation with the flock, I joined the car tuning group on Facebook, where I met Yevgeny from Grigiskes, Vilnius region. A guy was used to repairing old cars of his friends. Yevgeny was pretty surprised of me showing at his garage with sculptures in my hands and no car. I don’t drive, you know. In the end, he created a special machine for flocking, because it was almost impossible to do it without this thing. In the end, Yevgeny and his whole family were into this creative process. We became friends. These backstage stories and the intellectual value is the most important, the art piece is not only about aesthetics or impression, it fades away one day, but the context remains.