Art critic Eglė Dean

Romualdas Inčirauskas is a prominent Lithuanian sculptor, metal artist and medallist. The winner of multiple prizes and awards, a FIDEM member, he is full of unbridled passion, expressed in his work, driven by the desire to create. From complex medals to the door of the Telšiai Cathedral, from "TELZ" (project, dedicated to Yeshiva Jews) to the landmark bear statue in the city, his unmistakable, almost sacral attitude allows the search for new and decidedly individual means of expression. Always an innovator, he pushes the limits of artistic capability and proposes a new dialog with the viewer. Especially these innovative features are visible in artist's medals, even though traditional medal is also presented. In between the two poles there is room for transitional medals, such as "De jure, de facto", where parts of the reverse are presented in a pile next to the medal. Such a treatment opens up a variety of possibilities for the viewer, who is left with signs and symbols ready to be arranged. As if a pile of "ready-mades" is prepared for a creative intervention. Such a free thinking approach characterizes all works created by the artist. "1410" presents a pile of screws as well, but here the gesture serves differently, emphasizing the military needs and soldiers not in use, as opposed to two orderly medals included. Designed in such a way medals lose their binding limitations.

His "traditional" medals are not so simple after all – they still are full of secret signs, associations, metaphysical and biblical references. "King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba", traditional in approach to the form and relief are quite unexpected in style. Pompous, regal, they remind us of Mannerist mentality, multifaceted and complex. The element of kitsch usurps the stage and eases the ornamental design into a fresh, contemporary look. Composed from parts of "ready-mades" the medal is a quintessential product of the 21st century, when parts and objects are traded and transfigured. This assemblage connects to the main appropriation technique, so popular in late postmodernism. Culturological references abound in author's work, adding an uncanny depth. Mannerist richness and decorativeness are employed in another example of a man and woman theme - "Judith and Holofernes". The figure of Judith, stretching beyond the limits of the medal, is vaguely Jugendstil, juxtaposed with mannerist elaboration in the reverse. Neo-Mannerism here reaches another level and becomes subtly prevailing, determining factor. There is something monumental in Judith's figure, as if the medal was just a preparation for a statue, intense and dynamic. Such minimization of a grand scale objects can also be seen in the doors of Telšiai Cathedral. In "Man and woman I" biblical story is presented using different materials (bronze, aluminum, ceramics) and therefore a play of textures is introduced. Rough ceramics contrast with smooth aluminum, supplying the medal with richness and dynamic, even though the figures are extremely static. These are figures-symbols, signifying disbelief in God, as well as questioning man-woman relationships. Thus existential experience is reached. In addition, white aluminum makes figures look ghostly, ephemeral, like a vision. It introduces a certain poetic nuance, a certain lost in this century romantic quality. These are mystical personages, redefined and elevated. Hidden faces invoke ancient customs and are a prelude to mysticism. The medal is mysterious and thought provoking. "Hans Christian Andersen – 200" is the Grand Prix winner in Israel.. Thoughtful, intense face of the writer is juxtaposed with a mannerist ornament, which extends to the reverse. The head is framed in a medal within a medal circle, concentrating, focusing the attention. The medal is precise and masterly executed; the use of three different metals (bronze, aluminum, iron) makes it painterly and adds movement, as does the circle. Composition is refined and complicated, cut in half by the scissors in the reverse, full of dynamic and lightness. Spatial differentiation is captivating, differently worked and textured areas are joined together in an overwhelming sense of unity. This is the one of the most traditional medals created by the artist. Another traditional, extremely mannerist medal is "Masaccio - 600". There, besides bronze and copper, photographic etching is used, creating an intensely rich result. In the reverse, again medal within a medal approach is visible, concentrating on the photograph in the circle. High relief also is a common feature in Romualdas Inčirauskas's work, there are always nuances of monumentalism minimized. But even in miniature, the sculptural strengths are showing - in this case, in architectural details - Corinthian column and the frieze. Photographs soften the strict architectural lines and add depth, tell a story, therefore the medal has a strong narrative. Photographs supply the chiaroscuro effects that mould the dynamic and create tension. Spatially complex composition is balanced using clean clear areas, which contrast with busy photographs and high relief. Two colours of the metal add sophistication and refinement. This piece is also exceptionally well executed. In „Sea museum and aquarium“ appear surrealistic tendencies, which later in contemporary medals will grow to be complex collages. "Chernobyl" is a threatening, tragic creation, with raven symbolizing the onslaught of deadly radiation, death. It refers also to soul, which is trapped beneath the raven's shadow and shall be lifted "Nevermore", according to Poe. These multiple interpretations are common in artist‘s work; there never is just one meaning. On the reverse, depicted is a destroyed town, gloomy and damned. Uneven treatment of the background creates tension, so common in Romualdas Inčirauskas work. Tension always is developed whether by contrast of metals or by the molding of details. "Chernobyl", laconic and suggestive in its simplicity, envelops in a tragic aura, all the more for its straightforwardness. The narrative is multifaceted: there is a theme of catastrophe, there is a theme of madness, and there is a theme of rebirth. Another interesting work is "Noah", here artist’s beloved portrait of the Jew is used. The Ark is sturdily floating in stormy waters, depicted with a lot of expression. Expressionistic are all of the details - the animals and birds against the molten sea. There is a chance of German expressionism influencing the artist. Animals and birds are sculpted flatly, as if just remarked upon and that gives them symbolic character. The Gospel of Luke, (Luke17:26), compares Noah's Flood with the coming Day of Judgement: "Just as it was in the days of Noah, so too it will be in the days of the coming of the Son of Man." Such is the message the artist is sending, opening up a discussion about the bliss of being chosen and righteousness, about the disaster that is waiting for us. The creation also has air of mystery, of mysticism, of unknown and elaborate events.

Artist's contemporary medals are full of unusual views towards the medal; there are no boundaries in the treatments, imagination is running wild. There is a clock-medal, a candlestick-medal, a box-medal, a chair-medal. Therefore medal can be used with an additional function. Besides the use of assemblage, appear miniature figures; in other cases what is left of the medal is just a curving line, enhanced by text; three dimensional, sculpture like medals are created. "Genesis I" is based on four rivers, flowing out of Eden, medal itself is just a small circular island with a spiky wavy object on top. The four lines, as if noting four corners of the world, are embellished with biblical text, which allows a clear emphasis on the sacral theme. In "Genesis III" a line curves ending in a paisley shape, here also introduced is a figure, as if stopping the continuation of the line. Text extends throughout the line, adding an aesthetic nuance as well as sacral. These creations have little to do with the traditional medal; here the structure is free from the limits, imposed by the circle or square. Relief and text as defining characteristics of any medal here are explored with an uncanny vision, breaking them down in essential way and transfiguring based on the newly formed basic rules. Rules, which allow just a fleeting mentioning of the features necessary in order to create a medal. "Ecclesiastes" is another example of defiance – here a circle houses a fully-fledged sculpture. The work emphatically proclaims all the actions of man to be inherently "vain", "futile", "empty", "meaningless", "temporary", "transitory", "fleeting" or "mere breath", as the lives of both wise and foolish men end in death. While Qoheleth clearly endorses wisdom as a means for a well-lived earthly life, he is unable to ascribe eternal meaning to it. In light of this perceived senselessness, he suggests that one should enjoy the simple pleasures of daily life, such as eating, drinking, and taking enjoyment in one's work, which are gifts from the hand of God. The tube, which is part of the sculpture, is like a channel, connecting the beginning and the end of human life. It has spikes and additives, complexity, balancing out simple circle at the bottom. Or is the tube full of sins, piercing the arrogant figure? "The Earth remains for ever", claims the text on the circle, as if Eternity is here. "Medal for the most prominent citizen of Telšiai" consists of a pyramid, embellished with a low relief. Collaged motifs are juxtaposed to each other, creating a wondrous intense "carpet", decorating a form, which can be perceived as a church symbol. It‘s a sculpture comprised out of medal parts, varied in size and shape, which create dynamism, tension and movement. The narrative is uplifting, calling for spiritual values. "Nostalgia" series presents sculpture as well, small figures, connected to low relief. Most interesting is "Nostalgia II", where there is also a function - candleholders. Created like a cart, dragged by the figurine, it boasts complex bronze collage and narrative based on the reminiscences. The added function transforms the medal into a multifaceted object, where additional meanings (light) surface, unexpected and vital. The candlestick triad reminds of divinity, of sacred signs and themes. The figure is vaguely Mesopotamian, archetypal, calling to attention ancient civilizations. Nostalgia is for the lost worlds, lost tales, lost cultural and spiritual treasures. "10th medal creator's camp" shows another completely different from custom medal, which consists of two aluminum hands. Inserts in bronze (a nest with eggs in a circle and a strange character, the old Jew, appearing in a lot of author's creations) seem surrealistic and tell their own stories, while hands symbolize sign language. Introduced is a feeling of a new element of communication, besides ecological and Jewish themes, a new way of thinking. It opens up a new understanding of a medal, where medal becomes an integral part of sculpture. Contrast between two metals adds richness and concentrates attention on the medals. The idyllic scene depicting a nest seems like a warning; a picture so naïve that it loses actuality, evokes thoughts of doom. Maybe hands can be treated as a protector? "Vincas Kisarauskas" is remarkable in the capture of the artist's style. Constructivist and multi-colored, the medal is designed as a sculpture, with three prominent figures above the marble sign. Stone and metal are contrasting, striking a surprising balance and infusing composition with tension. There is a feeling of Bauhaus influence. "Telšiai Yeshiva" is a composition using an authentic brick from the house that belonged to the Jews. The lettered line encircles it and the old Jew, the usual artist's character, is seen again. This is a very unusual medal, more easily confused with sculpture, but it has medal's attributes as well. Yeshiva is destroyed and 65 years of studies have ended. Tragic destiny of Telšiai Jewish population is registered laconically, but with a wondrous use of texture that the brick provides against the inserts. The brick is a symbol, a metaphor, which involves associations buried in our memory.

Romualdas Inčirauskas worked in other areas - sculpture, metal art, painting. His doors, created for Telšiai Cathedral, are a marvel of style and precision. The narrative tells a story of the christening of Samogitia. Created in collage principle, using iconic tradition, varied figures of bears, knights, kings and bishops create a whirlwind of interrelated associations, embracing history, tales and legends. The craftsmanship is superb - bears alone can be treated as a wonderful art object, the doors with their 8 segments provide a new understanding of the possibilities of metal art. A special visual place is awarded to text - it is applied as if the text can stand on its own, taking figure's place. Created only in three years, with sophisticated, detailed style, refined juxtapositions and quite a few interpretation possibilities, it enhances the Cathedral in a contemporary way. From other sculptural objects its worth to mention "Twins" (two bears - a wooden one and a bronze one), "Samogitian millstones" (plaster casts of life scenes on bronze foundations), "Pasture" (Agnus Dei), "Durbė, Žalgiris and other battles of my childhood" (a table full of toy bronze soldiers), "Mini Eden" (zoomorphic, phantasmagoric figures), "Apolonia" (a double line of figures, patrons of dentistry), "Cross" (crucifixion) and others. His special project was "Telz", dedicated to the Jewish community, which once resided in Telšiai. Starting out with antique bricks, he created 20 sculptures, adorning each brick with etched photographs, bronze ornaments and figures. In the collection there were included purely bronze sculptures as well, which enhanced the brick objects even more. This collection was so successful, that the Jewish Tolerance Centre in Vilnius purchased it.

The artist is always mysterious and prone to include associative layers into his creations, doesn't matter how big or small they are. His objects are intellectual and emotional games, sometimes surrealistic, sometimes mystic, but always refined. Great craftsmanship entices and surprises, narrative is mostly complex and thought provoking. The novel use of collage technique in bronze opens up new creative possibilities - certain parts start to look like an ornament composed out of people, horses, and birds. But in the end, these creations undoubtedly are fine art pieces and therefore their mystery will stay with them. That's the prize of being in the avant-garde.