September 7, 2022 – October 8

Exhibited at Art Gallery (Respublikos str. 3)


An Imaginable City

Photography provides the opportunity to create a special relationship between a photographer and at the same time the spectator with the city. On the one hand, it encourages observation and provides an opportunity to record the urban environment and the life taking place in that environment in an accurate way. From the other point of view, the photographer, wandering around the city, captures not only fragments of visible reality, but also his own experience. The photographer intuitively collects images marked by personal experiences, memories and presentiment of the future. The photographer’s wanderings in the city are not constrained by everyday routes and rational goals, he remains open to random chance and sensitive to unpredictable, strange, but meaningful combinations of fragments of reality.

The works of Marija Šileikaitė-Čičirkienė also belong to this trend of urban photography. Looking around in the cities and towns of Lithuania, personal insights are important to the author. It allows to combine the documentary nature of photography and the subjective feelings of the photographer herself in expressively shaped images. It becomes especially meaningful when Marija ŠileikaitėČičirkienė captures the images of the city where she lives – Panevėžys. Perhaps, the author’s experiences and memories related to this city lead to the impression that one looks as if from the inside out, that reality is seen as if through the window of the photographer’s inner world, which changes and colours often grey and boring city environment. A visual metaphor for such a look could be a photograph in which a child looks out of the window at a monotonous block of apartment buildings stretching all the way to the horizon.

However, in other photographs, the same city no longer looks grey and boring. The everyday routine, faded and sinking to the past details of the city remain recognizable, but in photographs they look different, unusual. Š Marija Šileikaitė-Čičirkienė creates this gap from the everyday sight of the city and, at the same time, from ordinary experiences in it in various ways. Some of them are determined by natural conditions, for example, the fog that covers the city or the patterns of black streets and white snow. Other creative solutions depend only on the photographer’s vision – the desire to see fragmented, but balanced and harmonious compositions of urban forms isolated from the environment. In addition, one of the most striking features of Marija Šileikaitė-Čičirkienė work can be recognized in the photographs of Panevėžys – the thoughtful, conscious use of colour accents or colour combinations.

These creative solutions allow the photographer to create not only aesthetically expressive images, but also associations or symbols, which in reality are just unrelated and seemingly meaningless fragments of everyday life in the city. For example, in the photo with the advertising image of the girl and the cyclist, the colour connects two different spaces of the modern city: the image of perfection created by commercial visual culture and everyday reality, where the artificial image of aspiration can appear deceptive and misleading. In a similar way, associations are born in photographs comparing nature and the city, everyday details of people’s lives and monumental industrial buildings, and the bridge dissolved in the fog, in the context of the entire series of photographs, is easy to understand as a symbol of the way to the other world.

There are other authors who see the city in a similar way in Lithuanian photography. Šiauliai as a space far removed from everyday life, marked by the symbols of life and death, memory and oblivion, was immortalized by Aleksandras Ostašenkovas. The unique beauty, drama and melancholy of non-facade Klaipėda City were conveyed by the photographs of Arvydas Stubras and Viktoras Trublenkovas. Marija Šileikaitė-Čičirkienė works, due to the emerging shabbiness of the city, the emptiness that opens up, the monotony of everyday life that encourages us to turn to existential experiences, could even be associated with the „aesthetics of boredom” established in Lithuanian photography in the 1990s. The author’s works are similar to the contemporary Lithuanian photography, for example – Vytautas Pletkus cycle „Empty”.

However, despite all the comparisons and connections with the context of Lithuanian photography, the works of Marija ŠileikaitėČičirkienė are individual and unique. This is especially evident in the photographs of Panevėžys. Expressiveness of aesthetic experiments, playfulness of form, visual poetry more open than that of the other mentioned authors, and sometimes obvious melancholy are well depicted in the photographs. How does this allow the viewer to see Panevėžys? In Marija Šileikaitė-Čičirkienė photographs, a specific city turns into a generalized image of the city, disconnected from a clear time and defined place. The subjective experience of the author and every viewer helps to fill the emptiness of the city in the mind, to give life to the anonymous silhouettes of its inhabitants. Changed by unnatural colours, often observed from a height, drowned in smoke and fog, the real city in photographs becomes as if returning from childhood, like an image seen through a coloured glass window, which, trapped in the subconscious, exists outside the boundaries of linear time and appears in the mind in a different form, and for everyone acquires different meanings: realized or only sensed, remembered or imagined.

Tomas Pabedinskas