Figurative expressionist painter Dzintar Kalnin explains how symbolism and duality influence his work

I have mastered the ability to notice beauty in everything

Painter Dzintar Kalnin produces work in a figurative expressionist style. He aims to produce art that results in ‘making invisible and insensitive things visible and meaningful’. His creative practice is heavily influenced by the concept of duality. Light and darkness is a theme throughout his body of work. We spoke with Dzintar about his creative process and the message he seeks to convey through his work.

Hello Dzintar, thank you for taking the time to speak with us today! We’re looking forward to learning more about your practice.

Firstly, could you introduce yourself, your work and tell us about your career so far?

My name is Dzintar Kalnin, I was born in the post-Soviet territory of the Latvian SSR, in the small town Bauska.

Each person's career begins with its birth, whether he fulfils the task or not, it stays on one’s own head.

During my school years I really liked to draw. When my mother saw me drawing, she allowed me not to go to school. I wouldn't say that my paintings were beautiful, but there was something that made me do it. This stage of my life would be difficult to define as the beginning of a career in the sense that we literally understand the term "Career" although this strange desire to draw accompanies me since I remember .... I also would not say that it started after finishing the International Design Academy. I have come to the notion that the diploma of the academy, expensive colours or contacts in the museum do make you an artist. Genuine artistry is formed as a stone, under the influence of water and temperature.

Each of us has creative potential, how, when and where we open and realise it is our personal experience. Directing the creative potential to the art does not mean fiasco in other areas, it means the perception of the nuances of other fields, that sooner or later leads to a basic understanding of things and the importance of basic things.

My artist's career began when I broke down as a nihilist when my perfectionist vision of life collapsed to the ground. Those are the basics I’m talking about.

© Dzintar Kalnin - All In One Boat

© Dzintar Kalnin - All In One Boat

To start a relationship with art, you should learn to accept and transform pain in different dimensions. You must learn not to perceive everything as obvious.

Could you tell us about how your relationship with art began and who your early inspirations were?

I have mastered the ability to notice beauty in everything, beautiful, ugly, painful and pleasant, obscured and acceptable, ongoing and occurring, regularity and contradiction that lends the ability to capture meaning, as fine objective vibrations, and to stop adding subjective meaning to everything.

To start a relationship with art, you should learn to accept and transform pain in different dimensions. You must learn not to perceive everything as obvious. There are no gains or losses, no ups and downs, these are our designations for the swing of emotions. "Up and down, inside and out". You should see the security or stability as an illusion. You should be aware of the surreal nature of the existence.

Everything that is dogmatic restricts our long flight. Don't believe in anything and anyone but remember that faith has great power.

Inspiration can be anything and everywhere, how much we will be capable to use is in our immortal inquisitor’s discretion, when we lose the spirit of the new discoverer, we lose our early inspiration. With every new work I discover something new as a scientist ... or I feel an impeccable wonder of infinity looking at the big world with a child’s eyes. Early inspiration is the decision to explore. This morning I was inspired by an early inspiration….

© Dzintar Kalnin - Water Frequencies

© Dzintar Kalnin - Water Frequencies

We understand that you are currently creating a series of works for an art themed hotel in Greece. How does your academic background in interior design influence your process in this type of project? Do you have any advice for artists working to a creative brief specifically for an interior design commission?

These kind of projects influence me in the most direct way, which helps me to feel the overall composition, not only in the room but also in the senses of the observer. Otherwise why are such projects are developed? – so that the observer can get an unknown experience.

It is easy to give advice, but to provide helpful advice, I can only recommend the following… first, build a feeling, tune it as a string, until you feel how it sounds, and then you can surround it with colours, sounds, wallpapers, furniture … and whatever comes to your mind.

 We’re very pleased to be featuring your works in our upcoming artist directory, Curatorial Volume.1, Leaders in Contemporary Art. Could you tell us about the work that you are featuring within your portfolio, ‘Milky Way Kisses’, ‘Setting The Direction’ and ‘All In One Boat’?

Usually the observer before reading the name of the picture looks at it… if it attracts him, then long and close looking for his feelings in his thoughts…..only after a thorough investigation of his feelings, he reveals the concise attitude of the name.

The title comes in close cooperation with the process. One accidental event leads to the next. The name plays a decisive role in the interplay between senses and the motive. Sometimes the name makes the observer change his attitude towards the motive. None of these and my other works are pre-staged or sketched ... they are spontaneous. And the chaotic coincidence of independent events. My job is to choose the most interesting place between the chaos of these events and leave it to the next layers of events in different dimensions.

I usually ask people their opinion and feelings about each picture, and only then I comment. Because it is the most characteristic aspect of my pictures that they can be interpreted and seen by everyone upon their own world vision and the ability to approach this motive based on their own experience. They can draw parallels between the displayed motive and oneself. The game is not new, so the problem is never new either. There are shadows in us and all of them are similar, how much you can see depends on the level of the game you are at. There are many ways to describe these pictures, but what I want to convey and tell the observer lies in the title. If he reads it in collaboration with the characters, he can feel something from what I feel. 

© Dzintar Kalnin - Milky Way Kisses

© Dzintar Kalnin - Milky Way Kisses

The motives come to me with their message, through my subconscious, I prepare the way for them to come

You describe your process as spontaneous and you’ve said that ‘its a process not controlled by me’ - could you walk us through the steps involved in producing your art?

I already touched this topic a little about spontaneity and chaotic development. Also, multiple interpretation ways. It is difficult to define something directly and specifically. Chaos offers thousands of opportunities, I just must see what these coincidences try to tell me. But this is not something that should be searched for by the mind or should be imagined, you should follow your feelings. I reveal the motive and the image during the process, it offers opportunities itself. This image comes to me and shows me the message. This is the moment I do not control.

Let’s go step by step. First, I put the canvas on the frame, then spackle, providing the texture that is already a creative part, because every wrinkle or groove plays its unique role in this contingency theatre. I cover with first layer of colours. I never think about the sequence or colour choice. I choose based the variety of reasons… sometimes these can be colours that are less used, some other time colours that have left from the previous work. So, I put on the second layer of contingency. Then, depending on the options I continue working, either with dry or less dry picture. In this case I also use offered options and find creative applications if possible. I'm trying to see the first apprises of a motive… feel as much as possible and deep. (This gives confidence to work if it seemingly has been developed in one breath). But it is not decisive… sometimes I observe for so long from all possible angles, and there are so many images…. I repaint the picture, cover with paint motive after motive revealing new messages. Even then the painting does not lose its individuality and interesting charm, in this case I do control this aspect with my own skills. The motives come to me with their message, through my subconscious, I prepare the way for them to come and speak in my charming composition. 

© Dzintar Kalnin - Setting the Direction

© Dzintar Kalnin - Setting the Direction

The signs are everywhere, we just must learn to see them.

Symbolism is a key feature of your creative process, and you’ve commented that you include stories within your work. What message or theme do you want to convey to the viewer through your art?

The signs are everywhere, we just must learn to see them. These messages are about the basic things for those living in the common energy field of mankind. Everyone should reveal this theme in themselves. I hope that my works help a bit to get closer to these stories and think about the initial beauty. As I said the game is one and each of us plays on their own level, the cage is one but each with own birds….

Every one of us has shadows, I show them differently in my works, like birds or animals, as heroes in mythical images, as objects or activities.
© Dzintar Kalnin - Peculiar II

© Dzintar Kalnin - Peculiar II

The concept of duality is a significant influence on your work particularly the use of light and shadow. You often use the phrase ‘Let the light shine into your subconscious depths’. I’m curious to find out what this means to you and how this relates to the concept of duality.

Every one of us has shadows, I show them differently in my works, like birds or animals, as heroes in mythical images, as objects or activities. Duality observation is the ability to balance between the contradictions of darkness and light on the way of enlightenment. The path itself is dual and this is the path I’m talking about trying to touch as carefully as possible the fears, doubts faced on this path, showing them as a visualisation of the multidisciplinary revelations.

Until you start looking for a balance you are not able to define and distinguish shadows, you are in the shadow. You do not see the basic things stored deep in the depths of the subconscious. When you start this path, somehow or under some circumstances, you learn to see these shadows and work with them, you start to see the light all around, and you understand the meaning of the shadow. Then you allow the light to shine in your subconscious, understanding how everything is relatively simple and at the same time complicated and what deep meaning lies in the senselessness.

What is the most important lesson you have learned as an artist?

To perceive life more illusionary without refusing to enjoy life as it is.

Do you have any ‘bucket list’ projects that you’d love to work on?

To be honest, I would like just to paint, but unfortunately it is not possible at the moment.

© Dzintar Kalnin - Flowering Branch

© Dzintar Kalnin - Flowering Branch

I do what I want, and that’s the main plan….to continue in the same way.

Finally, could you tell us about your professional goals for the next year and can you share details of any upcoming projects?

Several exhibitions will take place in Germany in the city of Neuss. As you could understand after talking to me, my life happens rather than being planned. It is spontaneous and more subconscious. I do what I want, and that's the main plan….to continue in the same way.

Thank you very much for your questions.

Thank you for your time today Dzintar! We’ve really enjoyed speaking to you and finding out more about your creative practice and background.

© Dzintar Kalnin - Cleaning Jobs

© Dzintar Kalnin - Cleaning Jobs