TRUTH AND TROMPE L'OEIL: MIERVALDIS POLIS' PAINTINGS IN THE CONTEXT OF LATE-SOVIET LATVIA
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Miervaldis Polis is perhaps best known in Latvia for his Bronze Man performances of the late 1980s and early 1990s. Less discussed are the paintings he created in the 1970s, during his student days as well as those from the 1980s, all of which may be seen as a precursor to his performances in terms of the artist's approach and the effects of the images. By using the technique of trompe l'oeil and the genre of photorealism, Polis compelled his viewers to become actively involved in looking at the image, and in the creation of meaning, much in the same way that performance art does. In the context of Soviet Latvia, this empowerment of the viewer took on a certain significance, in that Polis' paintings provided an alternative space, outside of the official political one, for viewers to look critically, distrust and dispute the trompe l'oeil appearances, and seek the truth behind them. Throughout his career Polis has used his art to engage in a dialogue not only with his viewers, but also with artists and art history itself. From his early paintings, which are pastiches of travel diaries, to his later appropriations of photographs and prints of paintings from Western art history, the artist employs his images to compel viewers to carefully consider the forms that they are presented with, and fully engage with them. His paintings are a puzzle that the viewer must unravel himself, through active looking and careful consideration of the image.
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