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„Neatkariga”, 8/10/2008

Baiba Osīte’s Ideas Embodied in Textile Art

The textile artist Baiba Osīte (b.1958) entered the Latvian art scene in the1980s. She finished the Riga Applied Art school. In 1985 she graduated from the Textile Art Department of the Latvian Art Academy. Following Latvian textile art traditions based on folk ethnographic heritage, she soon developed into a creative artist. In her earlier works her artistic interpretations display occasional ethnographic motifs and moderation but they have evolved into more audacious artistic expressions. Having participated in international symposia, she became acquainted with the artistic processes of foreign applied art. The experiences and impressions that she gained from various cultures were the inspiration for the innovative experiments reflected in her textile and fiber artworks.

The artist’s participation in the “Cite” workshop in Paris in 2007 as well as her  impressions of France has made a deep impression on her creative expression. She studied the rich traditions of French gobelin in museum collections and at the gobelin workshop “ La Manufacture de Gobelens”. This resulted in a new creative impulse in her professional activity leading to her use of materials not commonly used and a unique expression in textile art that is regularly seen in exhibitions in Latvia and abroad.

For Baiba Osīte, art is a way of self-study and manifestation, in which a specific approach to material and execution dominates. As a textile artist, she is equally concerned with the conception, execution and awareness of the chosen material. To express thoughts, feelings and ideas, the proper choice of  raw materials is essential. The wide variety available enables the artist to uniquely express her personal ideas, as well as to introduce new trends into the overview of Latvian textile art. For the implementation of each idea, she selects the most appropriate and straightforward kind of execution. Although the choice of material is virtually unlimited, the artist even if working in unconventional manner never exceeds the established limits of textile and fiber art.

Baiba Osīte’s creations are refined, delicate compositions suggesting selflessness and purposeful work, with each work revealing an original and convincing idea. In the artist’s opinion the specifics of textile art are determined by a novel idea and an artistic goal. A viewer may be surprised by the amount of work required for each artwork. A strong conviction and lofty goals for art are prerequisite for successful creative work. The versatile application of ideas and  materials and the technical approach taken by the artist in her textile and fiber artworks clearly indicate that she has an experimental streak.

Her decorative rugs of unreeled wool in the so-called Nordic technique (ryijy) are pictorial, emotionally appealing and seem to possess a vital energy. Her machine embroidery is an re-interpretation of photographic reality, imparting  different value and quality to the technically executed image. The artist also creates filigree compositions from glass pearls. Baiba Osīte’s emotionally satisfying traditional tapestries are the equal of works having a wealth of tonal nuances and subtle fragility, as well as of those that accentuate the transparency of materials. The artist is fond of including light airy structures in her artworks that can blend with their surroundings. Even though her artistic expression was more austere and ponderous at the beginning of her creative career, it is evident that refinement has been a characteristic feature of her style. Sometimes the artist includes iron chips in traditional tapestries. She also makes good use of paper fiber as well. Some of her works give the viewer an insight into the whole process, from conception to implementation. Occasionally an idea conceived while sketching determines the choice of materials and the kind of execution. Often sketches go straight into tapestries, and metal chips are woven in to imitate the  pencil marks. Recently, Baiba Osīte has turned to felt as a material because of its properties. Working with felt permits a freer and subtler use of colour combinations opening the possibilities of painting and a greater variety of compositions. With this technique, the artist exploits the properties of natural unprocessed woolen fiber. The art of working with felt came to light in the exhibition of her work “Kingdom of Gospel”, held in the Latvian Artists’ Union gallery in 2010.

Baiba Osīte draws inspiration from her environment. She is not afraid to set difficult goals or to speak about sensitive subjects in the art language, as well as to impart tangibility to non-material objects, emotional impressions and natural phenomena and yet she creates a particular atmosphere. The artist explores, examines and dissects motifs observed in the surrounding world and then reassembles them, re-creating the world in textile materials. Impressions from nature are embodied in her works. Sometimes natural elements are used to depict a selected subject or are even used directly. Sticks washed ashore may be used in her elaborated individual technique, the idea of which emerged during the symposia held in Dzintari. Her use of natural wood with its rich tonal nuances enhances the expressiveness of her work. At times her ideas are expressed in wickerwork making the artwork look like a graphic. By exploiting the properties of various natural objects for the implementation of her ideas, she is able to express her thoughts and feelings as well as enhancing the value of each composition. A specific feature of textile art is the artist’s direct and immediate contact with the material, adding to the sensuality of the execution.

Baiba Osīte’s creative work opens up endless possibilities of textile art by proving that it is more than only traditional materials and techniques. The ability to adapt is manifested in Baiba Osīte’s urge to continually search for new impressions and qualities while retaining her conviction about the criteria of a high quality art.

Diāna Rutkovska