Ilmars Blumbergs (1943-2016)
Ilmars Blumbergs, through his existential and consise works of art, has long earned a status of icon among the artists of his generation in Latvia. What has made him just as relatable after his death as during the lifetime, is the subject matter of his works - including relationship between life and death and the indivual. He himself has stated, that the main subjects in his artworks were LOVE, DEATH and GOD.
Ilmars Blumbergs has left a rich legacy of art in various fields and medias – from stage and costume design, posters to book illustrations, drawings to paintings, sculptures to video, earning public and professional admiration along the way.
Ilmars Blumbergs oeuvre is rooted in common human search for truth, questions and answers about our existence on Earth.
A man is in search of eternal peace, the beginning of this quest we must find within ourselves and only afterwards transfer it to family, community, country.
Through drawings and paintings Ilmars Blumbergs attempts to explore his own inner reality - the highest self, which also is the intangible string uniting all that exists.
Everything becomes one through the brain.
Individual self (brain) associated with the collective self (celestial brain).
These opposites create a whole - unreachable for mind, because mind is set to divide them. (Armands Zeivats, 2010)
Ilmars Blumbergs has talked about his works - about drawings that are locked in a box, in our heads, about art that we each interpret and perceive differently, as an inner potential that we most often do not activate. Ilmars Blumbergs' thoughts and words were always peculiar, wrapped in a kind of shamanic charm, much like Joseph Beuys’ views on art. His ideas are often consistent with those of Beuys and the concept of social sculpture, a culture that is the true human capital, the potency, and the only stimulus of change. (Andris Brinkmanis, 2016)
At the start of the nineties the symbolic image of the Servant or the humble one, which has become the most well-known symbol in Ilmārs Blumbergs’ art, first appeared. Mystery and spiritual service turned flesh in the silhouette of the stooped figure. The artist himself said: “It is actually a coiled spring. He is stooped in order to spring open. In this moment it is unravelling with strength.[...]
„It is I.
The name SERVANT is just to have a name. Although I must admit that it fits the image.
I have slowly become used to it. Others too.
The name SERVANT also expresses what I have wanted to express about myself.
Serving in different senses. I have spoken about it, and over time I become certain,
yes – I am the SERVANT.
This symbol started as an abstract, unspecific thought.
Slowly, lapping like the sea, the thought materialised, gained flesh, bones and a name.
It was drawn and painted. It transformed and changed.
It is not known what will happen with the SERVANT. How the next figure will be drawn or formed.
I will not draw the SERVANT’S end.
It will remain unfinished.” (Ilmārs Blumbergs, 2015.)
Ilmars Blumbergs’ artworks included encoded signs and words. The image of a Devotion. The image of an Observer. What he described as a “one corner” – his symbol of endlessness. Great statements: Everything is All, Tat Tvam Asi and No End. He believed that life is a process and an endless road. Ilmars Blumbergs titled his last major exhibition at ARSENĀLS I Won’t Die. That was the idea of being reborn. Samsara – the cycle of existence. (Elita Ansone, 2013)
„Within the drawing the perfection is possible, that, which cannot be acchieved elsewhere. Painting rather tends to tear the world apart, but drawing, I believe, unites.
And that is why in the drawing ... this inability is possible again and again. Or, it can be said, the desire to draw the perfection is continuous.
Because the world is also diverse and based on the opposites, and this is my attempt to unite it – to put it together, but to unite it with that drawing, with that line drawn by hand, with that caress”- Ilmars Blumbergs.
Ilmars Blumbergs’ style of drawing is expressive and telling, there isn’t a theme that he would avoid. His line crosses a range from soft, feathery touch of graphite to strong, well defined stroke of ink. Even in his last months, while living in Tenerife, Blumbergs created a series of drawings dedicated to his own passing, a sort of “memento mori” if you will.
One might say, that he has even conquered death. In his last years Ilmars Blumbergs often, in context with his art, used the ironic (and now iconic) phrase “I wont die.” (latvian “Es nemiršu.”) We all are mortal, indeed, but he has proven that art, left behind by a great artist, grants immortality to it’s creator.
Ilmars Blumbergs (1943-2016) has graduated from the Painting department of the Art Academy of Latvia (1963 – 1972). He has been exhibiting his works regularly since 1962 and has held over 40 solo exhibitions and participated in more than 150 group showns in Latvia and abroad. He also has created stage and costume design for numerous theatre as well as Latvian National Opera productions. Ilmars Blumbergs has received 31 award and nominations in his lifetime. In 1995 he was awarded the honorary Order of the Three Stars - order awarded for merits in service for Latvia. In 2009 he received the Lifetime Contribution award at the annual theater awards ceremony “Night of the Actors”. Among Ilmars Blumbergs’ last notable projects must be mentioned his solo exibition “A prayer for seeing (The Drawings are in the Box)” (2005) at Oratorio di San Ludovico in Venice, Italy; "The Rain is falling! The Rain is falling! Buy some pictures! Life, Works and Death of Voldemars Irbe" (2009), as a part of 3rd Drwing Triennal of Tallinn at Kunstihoone Galleri in Tallinn, Estonia and “I Won’t Die” and “I Won’t Die at Ilze’s” (2013) 70th anniversary exhibitions at the Latvian National Museum of Art, Exhibition Hall Arsenals and Maksla XO Gallery in Riga, Latvia. In 2001 his and Viesturs Kairiss’ joint project film "Magic Flute" presented Latvia in the 49th Venice Biennial (2001). Noteworthy stage design productions of Blumbergs at Latvian National Opera are Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s “Magic Flute” (2001), Giuseppe Verdi’s “Aida” (1998) and Rainis’ and “Joseph and His Brothers” (1981) at Dailes Theatre.
His works can be found in private and public collections all arould the world: Latvian National Museum of Art (Riga, Latvia), Theatre Museum (Riga, Latvia), Rainis Museum of Literature and Art History (Riga, Latvia), Mikolajus Konstantinas Ciurlionis Art Museum (Kaunas, Lithuania), Tartu Art Museum (Tartu, Estonia), Pori Art Museum (Pori, Finland), Bochum Museum of Art (Bochum, Germany), Hamburger Kunsthalle (Hamburg, Germany), City Museum (Chamaliere, France), Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts (Moscow, Russia), State Tretyakov Gallery (Moscow, Russia), A.Bakhrushin Theatre Museum (Moscow, Russia), National Gallery of Australia (Canberra, Australia).