Augustinas will not be an unknown face to those of you who have frequented the late night establishments of this city. Whether behind the bar at the Hallamshire House or rocking in the front row; the chances are you will have met him. What you may not have known is that, as well as being the person whose smile never slips as he gets you another pint, Augustinas has been creating breathtakingly surreal and beautiful digital images, a collection of which even won a medal.
Tell us about ‘Requiem for a Post-Soviet Dream’.
When I came to England in 2008, I brought with me an archive of about 2000 negatives which I had photographed over about 10 years back in Lithuania. I did not have any clear plan of what I was going to do with them at all. I had become curious about montage techniques for a while at that point and eventually started using my archive as a source material for experiments. It wasn’t until I had 3 or 4 compositions that I realised that there were beginnings of a story there. It seemed like it formed by itself, subconsciously. I became aware of it and began developing it. The finished series contains 19 photomontages and tells a story of a little boy growing up in the Post-Soviet world. In it my childhood memories merge with historical events, anecdotes and fictional elements. It’s also about learning to find and cherish beauty in a dreadful environment.
In 2010 the series came third at the national competition for young photographers in Lithuania. Since then it has been on a constant tour around the country’s exhibition spaces for 4 years.
What is it about digital photo manipulations and montages that appeals to you?
I received a classical artistic training in drawing and painting, but I am also very passionate about photography. I always wanted to bring them together into a kind of synthetic visual art form. Digital imaging seems to be it. This medium seems to have a voice which stands right between figurative painting and photography.
What other techniques and art forms do you use?
I’m a visual artist, mostly interested in image-making. In addition to digital and analogue photography, I also do a considerable amount of drawing (preparatory sketches etc.) Up until very recently I practiced painting as well.
How do you spend your days?
Well, I’m a part-time student, doing a part-time MA in Fine Art at Sheffield-Hallam University. Along with the aforementioned bar tending at the Hallamshire House, I also do a fair amount of commercial work, take illustration and design commissions (mostly music record cover art), do event photography etc.
When I can I try to get off to the Peak District. I’m a bit of a rambler in fact (camera always with).
Which other artists or art forms inspire you?
Oh many different things really. I hugely admire English and French painting of the Romantic era, the 1900, (J.M.W.Turner, John Martin, Gericoult, Delacroix) but then I am also a big fan of contemporary photography and artists like Jeff Wall, Gregory Crewdson, Wang Qingsong. The Surrealists and their ideas had a massive influence on me as well, artists like Leonora Carrington and Max Ernst, Raoul Ubac and others.
Good advice you wish you’d been told earlier?
Well, I wish I had a chance to live and work abroad earlier in my life than I did. This is something I can’t recommend enough for any young person – try to get out there, spend some time living in a different country, maybe learn a foreign language. It frees you up, forms your character, challenges stereotypical thinking. In the end it helps you to understand what humanity is all about.
Interview by Sara Hill.
Images © Augustinas Našlėnas.