Opening Wednesday 17 March: 18:00
Press conference: 17:30

Viktor Alimpiev (RU)
(b. 1973, lives and works in Moscow)

Alimpiev’s video work often explores proxemics; the study of various spatial and social patterns that emerge when people, or animals, are assembled in a group. In this work he engages with a minimal choreography that shapes the action, and brings individuals into stark focus at different moments, to depict their emotional response to the bodies massed around them. The title of the work, the arrangement of the actors in the work, and the furled flags/standards they are carrying are reminiscent of scenes from socialist realist painting. Though shot in Sweden the video evokes the anxiety of ‘parade’ culture associated with Russian culture and soviet values.

Jonas Gasiunas (LT)
(b. 1954, lives and works in Vilnius)

Jonas Gasiunas is well-known for working with fumage; a Surrealist technique using candle smoke as a medium. His paintings explore the aleatory nature of the smoke, and its relation to memory. Half-forgotten or remembered thought, reminiscences, and dreams are often described as ‘hazy’ or ‘foggy’ or ‘as if shrouded in smoke’). This series of paintings is certainly fantastical, combining a surrealistic and cinematic narrative with what seems to be ruins of an anachronistic military, or space-race oriented past. The combination of this memory with sexual, or feminine elements evokes a Freudian dream space.

Voldemars Johansons (LV)
(b. 1980, lives and works in Riga)

Voldemars Johansons’ sculpture has the appearance of a laboratory experiment and evokes senses of fascination, alienation and wonderment – in the audience – associated with science. The water in the tanks, and the corresponding light-reflections that play across the exhibition space, is animated by sound-waves. These sound signals, are in turn, translations of data that the artist has collected in association with the Latvian Geology and Meteorology Centre of major weather-and-storm events recorded in Europe in recent years. Aero Torrents is to this extent an eco-system, a miniaturised Baltic Sea, on the coast of which the artist lives, behaving under the unpredictable forces of weather associated with the era of climate change. Man has throughout the ages been fascinated by the beauty of the elements and the weather that is reflected here in this work (though the raw storm data used in the aural experiment reminds us that this is an increasingly deadly fascination).

Tonis Saadoja (EE)
(b. 1980, lives and works in Tallinn)

This photorealist series of paintings is a picaresque of Saadoja’s hometown, Tallinn, the capital of Estonia. Painting, in the popular imaginary, is a medium associated with subjective, expressionistic and romantic depictions of their subject matter: a set of assumptions the artist overturns in this series. Saadoja has painted an exhaustive array of views of the city juxtaposing contemporary architecture, ruins, and the humdrum of urban pedestrian scenes; in a way that proves that painting can also engage documentary and everyday sensibility. The artist is equally interested in depicting the recent transformation of Tallinn under the influence of market capitalism and property development; the fact that the images are black-and-white may reflect that the artist doesn’t necessarily view these changes in a ‘rosy’ light (a prescient observation in this time of financial crisis that has stalled the city’s redevelopment).

Magnus Wallin (SE)
(b. 1965, lives and works in Malmö)

Magnus Wallin is well-known internationally for his video works, and animations, that offer alternative views to the ‘perfect’ and/or augmented bodies that typically occupy screen-culture (that is obsessed with beauty). Wallin’s misshapen, and often persecuted, bodies and protagonists remind us of the proliferation of body-types in the world: many of which, should, demand sensitivity from us, though are typically treated with derision or cruelty. In this work a grouping of individuals, whose photos are taken from two early-20th century medical textbooks, emanate from a projection in truly ghostly fashion. The artist’s intention is to remind us of the fate of many such nameless people throughout the course-of-history who were consigned to asylums and medical facilities, and subjected to pitiable experiments and examinations, outside the border of regular society. Wallin enacts a plea on their behalf.

About the Swedbank Art Award
The Swedbank Art Award was established in 2000, as a prize for Estonian contemporary artists known as the ‘Hansapank art award’. From 2003 the ‘Hansabank Art Award’ became a competitive international juried prize for artists from each of the Baltic countries. The first three Estonian laureates are amongst the best-known – Marko Laimre (2000), Ene-Liis Sempre (2001) and Marko Mäetamm 2003) – artists from their country. The first award winner from the expanded prize format, in 2003, was Lithuanian artist Arturas Raila who was followed in turn by Gints Gabrans (LV, 2004), Mark Raidpere (EE, 2005), Valdas Ozarinskas (LT, 2006) and Miks Mitrevics (LV, 2008).

In fact the format of the exhibition and prize has been under constant transformation; reflective of the dynamism and development of the Baltic region, and the constantly changing nature of contemporary art. And the exhibition format changed from an exhibition in Estonia, to a solo-touring exhibition for the prize winner to venues in each of the three Baltic States, to an exhibition in one venue in one of the Baltic capitals of all of the prize nominees. Renamed the Swedbank Art Award in 2008 the prize allocation has also grown from 5,000 to 10,000 Euro and the geographical scope of the exhibition has been expanded to include artists from Russia and Sweden. The prize, nomination process and logistics as well as the assembling of the international prize jury, is managed by Kumu Estonian Art Museum (with valuable contribution from local partner organisations in each of the five countries).

The core values of the exhibition, and the prize jury adjudication, has remained constant: to present the work of an artist who has produced an outstanding work or body-of-works in the pervious calendar year – work that will stand up to international comparison and considerations of relevance.

The Swedbank Art Award 2009 was given to the Lithuanian participating artist Jonas Gasiunas at the opening of the event’s premiere exhibition at the Riga City Exhibition Hall, Riga Art Space in December 2009.

In a special collaboration between Swedbank Lithuania and the Contemporary Art Centre, Vilnius, the Swedbank Art Award 2009 exhibition has been brought to the home country of the award-winner.

Artist’s talk Voldemars Johansons on Friday 23 April 18:00

More information about the Swedbank Art Award 2009 is available at the special project website:

Image: Jonas Gasiūnas. Radar. 2009. Acrylic, canvas, drawing in smoke of burning candle, 305 x 295