Kakis' Works Display New Firmness

By: Jacqueline Hall

PUBLICATION: Columbus Dispatch, The (OH)


DATE: December 18, 1988


Page: 10E

Art is personal, says Juris Kakis, and every painting has a story behind it.

"As an artist you have to be public and willing to share your emotions," he said. But if all artists capitalize on their emotions, few have the courage to mature as openly and artistically as Kakis has in the last few years.

ANYONE WHO has followed his annual exhibitions will not be disappointed by his current one at Wehrle Gallery at Ohio Dominican College.

His style flows from the same expressive vein as in past works, but it has acquired new firmness. Whether in the linear simplicity of Querelle (Quarrel) or in the swirling and slashing strokes of Babka Akuszerka (Old Mid-Wife), there is an assertiveness that was absent from his earlier paintings.

That assertiveness gives his favorite subject, the human figure, and especially the human face, greater presence. Whether the paintings boldy confront viewers as in La Malveillante (The Malicious One) or look beyond them as in Mirka, Eesti Tudruk (Mirka, the Estonian Girl), they have challenging personality.

There also is greater liveliness in those faces, especially noticeable in Querelle, Minkus and Un Changement (A Change), where basically similar faces express different emotions. In Querelle, the emotion is pleasant surprise, in Minkus it is disapproval and in Un Changement, it is shock.

It is amusing to note the position of these works in the show. All face a huge, purple female nude. It is a lovely figure, well-endowed as indicated by the title, L'Opulence, and dominates the show with its rich, sensuous curves. But it is a surprise. Kakis, who has painted hundreds of feminine faces, has generally limited his nudes to the male figure or "kouros," deriving from Greek classicism.

ACTUALLY THERE are two kouros - Eros of the Night and Eros of the Day. The latter is a simple, linear sketch, the former a similar figure filled in with gray washes to suggest volumes.

"I work in series," Kakis explained. "The struggle for me is to sketch, and when I finally get something (which satisfies me), I repeat it, doing sometimes as many as five or six. I spend the whole evening, even part of the night working on them, then I put them aside."

And he will pick them up as the mood strikes, so that often, the final paintings have little in common.

Looking at the show's 45 works, you can appreciate the many inspiring moods, from the light and playful Gailis (Le Coq) to the reflective Poseidon to the smoldering Melna Atraitne (Black Widow) to the frightened Le Dernier Baiser de Grand-Mere (Grandmother's Last Kiss).

Kakis painted the latter after dreaming that his grandmother, dead for some time, came to him and kissed him. "I woke up terrorized," he said. "It was almost like a communication with the dead."

There is a strong strain of German expressionism in Kakis' work. But he seems to have come to terms with the anger motivating his works in last year's show. Consequently, his palette is not as aggressively dark.

"Even though I love color," he said, "I was afraid to come back to it after so many months of dark mood and dark palette."

THE GENTLEST piece in the exhibit is Solveiga, a portrait of his niece just before her confirmation. The work is firmly yet delicately executed with a fresh palette, expressive of the girl's youth and innocence. But a subtle introspective quality pervades the work, endowing its loveliness with unexpected depth and latent complexity.

There is something compelling about Kakis' art. This is because of various factors - his vital handling of his medium, whether it be ink or acrylic, the unabashed search for the personality behind the face, and his willingness to express his personal moods and emotions.

Prettiness does not matter; what counts to Kakis is the heart of the matter.

- Jacqueline Hall