Lina Jonikė uses embroidery – one of the oldest techniques of textile decoration – to apply a lyrical, secretive and intriguing pattern to large format photography, and, thus, “silently” offers the viewer clues to a number of potential stories and interpretations. By choosing to portray (or dress up in embroidery) a naked body, the artist compares it to a blank canvas, on which, through the application of stitching, rather than painting, she creates a destiny for an imaginary human being. The textile technique and the textile itself semantically form a parallel to the expression of individuality. A thread in Jonikė’s hands is more than a tool for creation. It serves as a century-old opportunity to reveal both national and cultural identity (determined by family relationships and social-political processes). The artist often employs subconscious codes from the Lithuanian mindset that are inseparable from religion, intermingled with a mythical heritage and mysticism (interpretations of the motives of the Pensive Christ, Virgin Mary and little mermaids). But Jonikė is also not afraid to transform metaphors and attribute to them new meaning. For example, in her work using three colours (a reference to the Lithuanian flag), named “LIE-TU-VA” (Lithuania), she does exactly that by portraying the country’s idyll through the concept of a family.
Jonikė portrays the topic of motherland, which is a reflection of oneself as a part of the nation, (in a technical sense) in a number of her works. Even though the artist combines stitching with photography in all her work, some of her works, however, are embroidered on canvas, and still others create only the illusion of traditional needlework. One particularly intriguing decision by the artist is the creation of a garment (cloak, towel, loin cloth, drapery) to cover a naked body on a transparent plastic panel, thereby further removing it from photography. By employing such a principle in works such as “Pensive Christ” (2001-2002), which shows Christ seated in a melancholic mood, an image peculiar to Lithuanian folk sculpture, or “LIE-TU-VA” (2005), the artist creates an element of intrigue by offering opportunities for the multi-layered interpretation of the works and presupposing the idea of “undressing” the hero.
Jonikė’s work is particularly feminine. By choosing feminine topics and perspectives, as well as an ancient technique (embroidering), the artist is able to speak about the archetypal experience of contemporary women, and focuses not on feminist or cultural frustration (as, for example, is the case in the embroidered works by Ahmer), but on the search for an inner peace that is only possible through realising ones identity.
Art critic Virginija Vitkienė
Translated by Michael Haagensen