Vija Doks

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Artist Statement


On Vija Doks’ Latvian Cartoon Cookbook Paintings

The paintings of Vija Doks are benignly pedagogic in their anecdotal portrayal of the slice-of-life travails of daily matters. In one series of works, cartoonish tropes of non-human characters confront mundane occurrences. A menagerie of mice, birds, dogs and the occasional insect serve as anthromorphic avatars, in a nod to Aesop, Egyptian animal gods and Saturday morning cartoons. These non-human stand-ins serve as a distancing ‘other,’ from the objective personal pronoun ‘me’ to the third person ‘them.’ This convention of transference places our foibles at a comfortable remove, but the threads of self identified empathy eventually lead to the denouement ‘us.’ Unremarkable in distinguishing features, Doks’ cast of characters register little expressive range, yet still convey a quality of uncomprehending, hapless resignation to the grind of quotidian experience. The banal becoming the stuff of faux-heroism; the mundane, theatrically transformed into high drama.

The protagonists of these aphoristic vignettes do not elicit pity, instead they conjure an absurdist humanism. A mock Sisyphean frustration is alluded to as one senses these creatures as resigned to a type of behavioral amnesia, in which knowledge through experience is elusive, forgotten as soon as a task is about to be completed. One is reminded of the cyclical, fatalistic lines from Samuel Beckett, “…can’t go on…I’ll go on…can’t go on…”

Generic depictions, as exemplified by a faux-naif ‘badness’ is actually sophistication in an artless guise. Expectations of craft and mastery are turned inward, questioning notions of the distinction between crafted content and mere craft. Models for traditional painting merge with schematic rendering and artificial flatness. A catalog of normally canceling attributes conspires to produce works that are both disarming and effectively subtle in their convincing charms. Various types of paint handling, saturated colors, washed out stains, tentative lines, detail and unresolved areas all find themselves deployed in the same picture. Doks coaxes her repertoire of conventions and their opposites to the point where they re-emerge, aesthetically contextualized, like a visually codified analog to comfort food.

Ventures into portraiture or landscape offer a similarly ironic approach to derailing one’s expectations. Dead-pan portraits, whether family or acquaintances, are sardonic, yet not without affection for her subjects. Verisimilitude is employed only as far as needed to fix a level of recognition. Locations and events are homogenized to the minimum information level one finds in generic snapshots. Doks is content to register the accumulation of small moments, in a Jane Austin-like examination of life in which the trivial or overlooked components are the most telling. This could be intended as commentary on the lack of faith, or failure in depiction to convey much beyond a degree of factuality, which is not equivalent to meaning. This also suggests an exploring of the elusive vicissitudes of memory, an archeology of ones behavioral history and perception, and a prospect of empowerment and self-realized mastery, or only its teasing mutability dangling art out of reach, a self deluded carrot on the stick of pop-psychology? A certain insouciance informs Doks response to that question. Her background as a poet and writer serves her, without evidence of the habitual pitfalls that usually accompany attempts to visualize largely literary material. The work remains unburdened by an over determined gravitas, and a droll humor answers that yes, we must go on.

Joseph Karoly, NYC 2002



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