Kakis' Evolving Art is Intensely Personal

PUBLICATION: Columbus Dispatch, The (OH)


DATE: December 9, 1990


Page: 8H

Few artists allow their art to be as unabashed an outpouring of personal emotions as does Juris Kakis; consequently, few artists have been as fascinating to watch in their artistic maturing.

Kakis' annual exhibition of his most recent paintings - always held in December at Ohio Dominican College's Wehrle Gallery - has become a tradition for many central Ohio art lovers and collectors. They are attracted by more than the artist's drawing talent and his audacious use of color.

He delivers unflagging honesty in mood and emotions. His repeated statement - "I don't paint to please the public but to express myself" - is a credo for the vigorous and individual works he continues to create.

Because art is such a personal affair for Kakis - a squaring-out with his emotions for his own benefit rather than the building of a bridge between himself and the spectator - his work is either embraced with enthusiasm or totally rejected. Few remain indifferent.

The anger that characterized Kakis' paintings in the mid- to late 1980s has been replaced by an indefinable sadness, particularly noticeable in Eros of the Night, in which a melancholy but peaceful face materializes from dark brushwork.

This work is the natural conclusion of last year's Les Fleurs du Mal, dealing with a personal event in the Latvian-born artist's life. An uncle of Kakis' was released after 25 years of internment in Siberia and ordered to settle in Estonia. He died there of cancer last summer, among strangers. None of his family was notified at the time. Last year's painting expressed Kakis' anger, while this year's expresses sad relief that the man has finally found peace.

"I never know where I'm going when I start a painting," Kakis said. "I push the paint and brushes around, and they become extensions of my thoughts and emotions of the moment."

Some themes reappear. Essentially a painter of human figures, Kakis also is attracted by the horse, which he sees as an expression of strength and freedom; by the rooster, which to him symbolizes earthiness and pride; and by wildflowers, which he links with the Baltic States.

But he admits having no understanding of trees. The few trees in his show are humorously whimsical, which makes them stand out even though they are small works. Kakis' humor, rare in his painting, is dark and sarcastic.

His palette, broodingly German expressionistic in recent years, has lightened. "I became reacquainted with France and the School of Paris this year," he said.

In certain works, his characteristically thick, opaque paint has been handled in delicate washes, letting lines dominate in simplified yet vigorous images as in Solveiga as Empress of China and Balios at Heel (Achilles' Horse). Even where the paint has retained its rich opacity, there is a new brightness, as in Salumite, Sindi Agonia (Native).

Kakis' outpouring is tremendous. His paintings are like pages of a personal journal, catching the author on bad as well as good days. The tremendous vitality of artist and this show can leave a viewer trying to catch his breath.

- Jacqueline Hall