Jolanta Šmidtienė is an artist whose name should be linked to several keywords: textile, initiative and positive attitude. Starting with the second keyword, it is necessary to mention the founding of the Textile Artists Guild in 2000 and Jolanta’s activities in this organisation in initiating projects, curating exhibitions, developing international cooperation, organising successive public art interactions in the City of Kaunas, inciting charitable activities and supporting qualified training of textile techniques and art basics. Yet, first of all, Jolanta Šmidtienė is a personality burning with passion for textile, able to inspire many people with interest in this area. She is not bothered by the ‘femininity’ of textile technologies (she mostly uses embroidery and painting on silk). She rather employs the material connotations of textile to create the enchanting magic of silk and yarn. In this artist’s hands textile is a means for meditation, an instrument of community, a possibility of (self) healing, the embodiment of beauty, the resource of aesthetics, a way to cherish tradition, the key to innovation, a practice of individuality and a life style.
Since 1995, when she finished her studies at the Vilnius Academy of Fine Arts (Textile Department, Kaunas Institute), Jolanta Šmidtienė has been constantly participating in exhibitions in Lithuania, Europe and USA. She holds several solo exhibitions every year because the original technique she discovered and perfected – spatial embroidery – fascinates new audiences of exhibitions, gallerists and museum professionals every time. What is the secret of these almost irreproducible works (even highest quality photographs cannot reveal the true technological phenomenon)? For almost twenty years, the artist has been embroidering between two (sometimes three) surfaces of transparent fabrics stretched on a stretcher. Her stitches – impossibly precise – create abstract figures and forms, which exist in their true shape not in the material surfaces of gauze or silk, but in the space between them. The spatial embroideries of Jolanta Šmidtienė are like aquariums: when walking around them, their static view starts vibrating and changing in front of the viewer’s eyes.
Although in her paintings on silk Jolanta appears to be a passionate lover of flowers – a poppy burning in red, violets in various shades of blue, when embroidering the artist simplifies the motif up to minimum: colours and the expressive qualities of the yarn’s direction become the most important elements (after all, stitches in spatial embroideries can reach up to ten centimetres and more). During her first solo exhibition, Vortexes and Dialogues (Kaunas Philharmonic, 1997), the artist publicly demonstrated the transparent, whitish composition of spatial embroidery for the first time. In her later series, colour (often monochrome) becomes a conceptual structural part of the work of art. Her series Fish (Kaunas Artists’ Association Gallery, 2000) had a convincing water blue colour, and the fish sparkled with silver. The show In Meadows (exhibited at the Textile Artists and Artists Guild Gallery, 2001) burst into shades of spring grass; The Sky (the exhibition was shown in various Lithuanian cities: Kaunas, Šiauliai, Klaipėda 2002 – 2003) paled to white and the motif of a bird with wings gracefully raised to fly. The spatial composition Radiance, embroidered with a gold yarn on black surfaces (2005) was exhibited during the international Kaunas Biennial TEXTILE 05, the presentation of Kaunas artists in Tartu (Estonia) and other group exhibitions. Finally in 2007, Jolanta returned to the white colour in her solo exhibition Angel’s Spree (exhibited in the Guild’s Gallery Balta in Kaunas and in Monkutė – Marks Museum in Kėdainiai; she also presented her largest collection in Polotsk (Byelorussia) and Warsaw (Poland)). It consists of 12 embroideries and the angel’s wings – their whiteness made transparent by shining glass crystals.
There has not been even a single exhibition during which the artist’s works would not attract the viewers to get closer, would not surprise them with the originality of her ideas and harmony of the elements of composition. For her embroideries, Jolanta Šmidtienė won an award at the Exhibition of Mini Textiles in USA (2003). Perhaps the most important recognition was the special Anchor Award she won at the exhibition Art of the Stitch organised by the Embroiderers’ Guild, UK (2005), which also meant an invitation to become a member of the Guild. In 2006, Jolanta Šmidtienė won the competition of the best work of the year at the Monkutė Marks Museum – Gallery in Kėdainiai.
Currently, Jolanta Šmidtienė heads the Textile Artists Guild, is the head and teacher of the School of Textile Arts for Adults and an active artist, a public activist of Kaunas (in 2008, she won the Kindness Award for altruistic activities from Kaunas Municipality), but most importantly, she is a positive personality. To multiply good emotions, cherish beauty and aesthetic environment is as natural to her as it is to us to marvel at the beauty of her transparent works.
Virginija Vitkienė, PhD, Art critic