2003 | 3 | 136-143
Article title

EDGARS ILTNERS' PAINTING 'SPRING (V. I. LENIN)' (1973), ANALYSIS OF THE RHETORICAL STRUCTURE (Edgara Iltnera gleznas 'Pavasaris (V.I. Lenins)' retoriskas uzbuves analize)

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Attempts to interpret totalitarian art have often resulted either in reducing art to an elaborate form of propaganda or in complete excluding of the political discourse as irrelevant to the artistic value that becomes detached from the political and social contexts of the time. This paper deals with a particular politically charged artwork, trying to analyze it from the viewpoint of pictorial semiotics. This method is conceived as an option to counter the above-mentioned drawbacks. The painting 'Spring (V. I. Lenin)' (1973) by Latvian artist Edgars Iltners (1925-1983) is a typical example where rhetorical structures of several discourses coexist. Spring as the season of awakening could be read as a metaphor of the desired new society. It is also the season when the so-called 'subotniks' ('voluntary' joint work of the Soviet people) took place, and they were particularly important in the propaganda of the 1970s. The painting depicts a group of moving workers and soldiers with various tools and weapons; Lenin is placed at the centre. Women and children are also present. But the painting contains expressive means that work against the reading of political discourse, like the rising sun that according to the plastic modeling of figures, is not the only source of light or broken tree-trunks and elongated proportions of Lenin's figure that may evoke ambivalent associations. The rhetoric of the visual discourse has been explored by Goran Sonesson and Groupe 'Mu' as relationships between iconic and plastic layers of a picture. Iltners' painting can be treated also from this viewpoint of reciprocity between iconic and plastic discourses that exist in a state of mutual tension. The flat surface is the main element of the plastic layer, but it counters the iconic layer significantly. As both layers interact with the flat surface, they can either conceal breaks or unite differing elements into a whole. Plastic means in this painting are applied to unify different pictorial elements in different ways, e. g., by means of colour, by treatment of some areas, by handling of figures.
  • Andris Teikmanis, Latvian Academy of Art, Kalpaka bulvaris 13, Riga LV-1867, Latvia
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