Kęstutis Kes Zapkus. Painting, a Search for its Essence

Exhibition time: 01 06 2023–09 07 2023
Opening: June 1 | 18:00
Meno Parkas Gallery (Rotušės a. 27, 44279 Kaunas, Lithuania)

Kęstutis Zapkus. About the Exhibition, its Content and Ideas

The exhibition presents a selection of works made between 2010-2022 representing my creative ambitions of this period. I would call this the cycle of my late painting as it continues, changes and reexamines. I believe in the special importance of the Art of Painting to history and human self-esteem. The evolution of painting began in the caves. The theory that the emergence of the first drawings were not only hunting documentation but also a ritualistic magic to enchant, create or capture the elusive missing game. These drawings, as annals of history, play an important role in conveying life of the time. In Egyptian tombs / temples the images become narrative in a symbolic, pictographic language, conveying places, objects, religion and people. In ancient Greek, early Christian and the Renaissance cultures, visualization becomes depiction of religious beliefs, in stylized ornamentation, monuments, figuration and portraiture expanding in an emotional and philosophical narrative. Eventually, in the pursuit of accuracy of image production, capturing reality was successfully overtaken by photography. Painting now sought other issues: emotions, feelings, psychology, poetics, theoretical, intellectual and other ideas of representation. Due to the improbable notion of advancement or evolution for painting, in society, there was talk of the “death” of painting. For me, painting remained irrefutable as a pursuit. I could foresee an abstract art built only of its visual elements, made as complex and rich as in the imagistic culture of the Renaissance. This way, painting as a high art could continue its evolution. In the concept of human values, painting is rich in content even as a scientific legacy. There is a social contract which attributes great importance to cultural issues -- the arts, from which grow notions of human worth, wisdom and dignity. This distinguishes the human from beast and are considered more significantly than histories, economies and war records. Just as expression is created as music in the language of sounds, my assumption is to create expression with visual elements and associative material. Visual language consists of its color, organization, light, movement, layering, gesture and spatial references. We can see this in the deformations of painterly form in Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Soutine, Mondrian. I seek to speak with these elements and signs. In visual expression complexity, cross referencing and simultaneity are very important to me intellectually and emotionally (due to childhood war experience and the complexities of thought). I see an example in the Sistine Ceiling, where a thousand faces, still lives, structures and myths create a form complex equaling a symphonic work. It is important to me that a vision carry associative and emotional material. Multiples of elements are ordered and active in my work. The inspiration is from musical composition, our world’s informational abundance and global concerns. The essential soulfulness of a work becomes the image, an underlying narrative is only secondary. That’s how my creative vision formed itself: completely abstract, complex in association, expression, representative of experience, displayed through structures of multiple details.

So given artists’ goals, what is left for a viewer to enjoy? Often, progressive ideas or evolutionary issues are not active to a viewer’s concerns. Is an artist’s attempt, with its uncertain aesthetics, frustrating to a viewer longing for familiarity?

Art must achieve its mission of advancement, yet to be apprehended requires a viewer’s understanding of its intricacies as one must in other current informational fields. Contemporary issues in art, music, science must be true to today’s reality.

Kes Zapkus


Kes Zapkus - painter born in Lithuania in 1938. He has exhibited extensively internationally and his work is in prestigious collections in the USA and abroad notably The Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY, The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL, Joseph Hirshhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., Museum Boymans‑van Beunignen, Rotterdam, The Netherlands. Jacksonville Museum of Modern Art, FL, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, Morgan Library and Museum, NY, NY, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, VA. Exhibitions include retrospectives at Museum of Art, Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh, and The Vilnius Museum of Art, Vilnius, Lithuania, coincident with the publication of a catalogue Kestutis Zapkus, with essays by Lucy Lippard, Sandra Skurvida, and Marjorie Welish. Zapkus lives and works in New York.


The exhibition is partly financed by the Lithuanian Council for Culture.