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Aija Jurjāne. The Queens Kitchens

March 01, Friday 2024 - May 18, Saturday 2024
02.03.2024. - 19.05.2024.
Latvian National Museum of Art
Aija Jurjāne. The Queen’s Kitchens

An exhibition of work by Aija Jurjāne at the Latvian National Museum of Art

A comprehensive exhibition of paintings and illustrations by Aija Jurjāne (1944-2015) will be held at the Latvian National Museum of Art in spring 2024. Aija Jurjāne is a unique representative of Latvian contemporary painting, whose achievements are little known by the younger generation and wider community. The first step in studying Jurjāne’s legacy was the artist monograph “Jaunības avots. Aija Jurjāne” (Fountain of Youth. Aija Jurjāne, published by Neptuns, collated by Sandra Krastiņa) published in 2021, although her creative legacy has never before been assembled into a large exhibition. Aija Jurjāne could be called one of the first, quiet voices in the field of feminism in Latvian art. The overarching theme of Aija’s painting was her family and the everyday experiences associated with family life. In an interview for the magazine “Sieviete” (Woman) in the 1990s Aija admitted that, to her mind, “not advancing any further than the subject of family in her painting was something abnormal”. This testifies to the fact that the theme of family, children and “women” in Latvian art was automatically considered as a frivolous, unimportant artistic theme. We can only imagine what pressure Aija endured, tenaciously continuing this “abnormal” theme throughout her career.

The conceptual basis for the exhibition is a series of seven different “kitchens” - imagined and physical spaces, which harmoniously transform from one to the other, revealing the story of Aija Jurjāne as the mother of three children, as a teacher and an apprentice, as a wife and a woman, who didn’t shy away from the ageing process, but precisely the opposite - included it in her art work. The kitchen of a woman’s life is not just a physical space - historically, many various hidden rooms have existed, in which women perform “pedestrian” tasks. Aija carefully observed commonplace things such as the central heating boiler or gas stove, a snapdragon in the garden or onions stored in a waste paper basket. By recording the seemingly humble daily life and approaching the kitchen as a worthy carrier of form and content, Aija Jurjāne became one of the first artists who could prove that a woman’s space is very different to a man’s space. Aija stopped pretending that there are no “kitchens” in the lives of female painters, or that a “real artist” had to gain the skill of ignoring these “kitchens”. The exhibition team does not support the assertion that feminism in Latvian visual art is a theory-laden newcomer from the West - it has been larger than life for a long time already. Before there were any local theories and descriptions, feminist themes appeared in the art of many Latvian artists of the older generation. It is our duty to begin to identify and analyse these, in order to mark reference points in recent art history. Today Aija Jurjāne presents as an unusually youthful, witty artist who painted as if she realised that she would only really be understood by the audience of the future - us.

Text: Rasa Jansone