Interviewed by Audronė Jablonskienė for balsas.lt in 2010.
The well-known painter from Kaunas I saw at the plain-air symposium at Bikuškis Estate in summer. The thatch of bright brown hair held by the green shawl, the long apron containing all the colours of the palette, and the little white Scottish terrier bitch Tina always by her side. Once she was carrying an unfinished painting, and another participant from Vilnius fired a slipshod remark. Instantly, she dashed three words back at him. One of them was a Russian swearword. The smartass got lost forever.
Elena Balsiukaitė-Brazdžiūnienė and co-owner of Bikuškis Estate Dalia Gruodienė. July 20, 2013.
The Lady with the Dog
She has chosen the most remote nook of the Estate to work – a place near the old barn. Tina would settle in lush grass in the shadow. If anyone would walk over to chat or comment, she would show at the headphones “I cannot hear anything!” Together with Tina they walked back the long alley to the manor house for lunch when the table had already been cleared. Tired, exhausted but clearly satisfied with the results of the long working hours. Quite quickly around her there gathered a little but cozy group, within which the wit prevailed and the authentic stories from her life. One afternoon we found some time to talk, just the two of us.
The dog. Tina at the Estate. 2013.
The Vision of Jimmy Hendrix
Frankly, an odd thing has happened. I got an idea to paint the huge canvas hat of Lionė Grigaliūnaitė’s. That fantastically lush violet in the limpid green, and in its background – a woman’s pale face. I am painting, painting, and everything is too pretty. I cover it up, destroy. And suddenly I see: from the canvas …. Jimmy Hendrix is looking at me! The absolute opposite. I got angry with myself and furiously destroyed everything.
Did you not get angry at yourself once again for acting to inadvertently? Perhaps your hand was guided by inspiration?
I must control the situation, be free, but in this situation I could feel some kind of dualism, as if someone else was guiding my hand.
Could it have been inspiration? Why to fight something that materializes itself. Do you not like a game, an experiment?
Perhaps you are right, perhaps I did behave impulsively.
The old barn at Bikuškis Estate. 2013.
You are listening to music when you are working. Are you open to other arts?
Of course. Literature. Theatre. Cinema. They are important authorities for me. I am a Kaunas person to my bone marrow, I was so happy to see Liudas Truikys, Kazys Šimonis, Algimantas Masiulis leaning on his stick. For me the generation of the 1920s and 1930s was very special. I was impressed by the old etiquette, communication based on mutual respect. „Comrade“ had never spread, only „Sir“ and „Madame“. My parents were opera lovers. At home I could hear the names of Kipras Petrauskas, Antanas Kučingis. And my generation was also very influenced by theatre. It was in Kaunas that Eimuntas Nekrošius, Jonas Vaitkus, Gytis Padegimas started their careers…
At the entrance of the first M. K. Čiurlionis Gallery in Kaunas. The 1920s.
It is said that Kaunas is a closed town. Even the slogan „Life is possible even in Kaunas“ has been put up. How have you reacted to this?
Painfully. It is a superficial point of view. The point of view from above. Put this slogan anywhere, and everyone will feel offended.
Shedding of the Skin like a Snake
Your husband Arvydas Brazdžiūnas is also a painter…
I get your point. One profession, one house, one bed… It is very important to have certain ethics, certain professional autonomy. There is the silent agreement between us: do not interfere, do not comment if not asked. On the other hand, we have got the possibility to talk about other things than daily chores.
The husband. Arvydas Brazdžiūnas-Dusė with his paintings. 2013.
Does art help you during hard moments in life?
Often. Canvas, brushes are the reprieve. While working you can forget many things, the head becomes lighter. Some time passes, and you see that the best works had been created during the most critical periods in life.
Painting with open nerves, emotions?
That is how it happens. I am no longer worried about being accepted, liked. If it does not kill you, it makes you more pure. Makes you more resilient. You can shed of the skin like a snake. An artist does not need to find another person for getting consolation, for unloading. To lay down on the therapist’s coach. Art is the strongest medium.
It’s your fifth time at the plein-air symposium at Bikuškis Estate. There is no need to ask if you are liking it.
It looked too beautiful the first time I came here. A resort! But an artist needs a conflict.
The old pier on the Alaušas Lake at the Estate. 2013.
Have there been any conflicts at this plein-air symposium?
Yes, there have been. The first time I was here I was painting at the balcony of my room. In another room a neighbor was painting. Now and then he was throwing a glimpse at my canvas. Finally, I heard, “Why are you trying so hard?!” It made me curse heavily. The neighbor was stupefied – such a gentle woman and cursing like that… It was self-defense. You ought learn how to survive, not allow another person’s arrogance kill you. A woman, as a wolf, has to growl and show the fangs sometimes. Clarissa Pincola Estes talks about the same things in her novel Women Running with Wolves. It took her 20 years to write that novel, and I read it during a week. About me! About us! I know that I will come back to it. It is the women’s Bible.
A part of the exhibition of the newest works at the Estate. 2013.
I have no doubt that you are a wonderful teacher.
Children are more interesting than grown-ups. I also receive a lot from them. When it is time to say good-bye to my pupils, I always thank them for the time we have spent together. When my colleagues are complaining that children are naughty, I tell them to bring these children to me. I am convinced that there are more bad teachers doing the job they are not cut out for than there are bad pupils.
The outdoors exposition before the rain hits. 2013.
The interview was published on October 4, 2010 at balsas.lt