In the display windows of Riga Porcelain Museum from 18 November to 19 December 2021
An exhibition on the centenary of artist by Elfrīda Aldonija Pole-Āboliņa
Although Elfrīda Aldonija Pole-Āboliņa (1921-2010) was an academically educated painter, in the course of her life she took up ceramics and small-form sculpture, and she left a prolific and beautiful legacy in these media acclaimed by experts and beloved by the general public. But while professionals continue to respect her talent for plasticity, her name has faded for a broader audience today. The exhibition is intended as a small gift to the artist on her 100th birthday and to viewers who might rediscover her or encounter her for the first time.
The exposition in the display windows of the Riga Porcelain Museum in Old Riga comprises porcelain and clay objects created by Pole-Āboliņa and loaned be members of her family. These offer a more detailed look at her work and its many aspects. Figures of the child, mother and child and the woman hold a key place in her art. Alongside human figure, animalia such as ducks, hares, tortoises and fish are also found. The “porcelain episode” in Pole-Āboliņa’s career was not limited to figurines. We also unexpectedly discover functional objects such as jugs, sugar bowls and underglaze and overglaze plates, pitchers and vases.
The most popular part of Pole-Āboliņa’s oeuvre was done in clay. The exhibition includes decorative artworks and souvenirs which were in their day sold in Art Foundation stores, including free-formed mouldings, compositions on ceramic tiles, plates and plaques with decorative engraving, commemorative medals and medallions, as well as spatial and functional objects such as pins and candlesticks. Her female figures are regarded as her greatest accomplishments. Whether they are etched, hand-shaped, stuck, bent or pressed, the curviness, reserved elegance, sensitivity and mildly erotic charm of Pole-Āboliņa’s solo or group compositions are absolutely unique.
Another important section of her oeuvre comprises figures representing other countries and nationalities, reflecting the “internationalism” promoted during the Soviet era, as peoples drew closer and national boundaries disappeared. Pole-Āboliņa depicted African and Roma folk, Spanish dancers and Turkish children as well as literary characters. These exotic figures were a challenge to the artist, stimulating her to discover and materially embody their personalities. She also expressively captured a selection of Latvian figures in both clay and porcelain. These include ethnographic types she personally encountered in her life, including women, men and couples dressed in folk costumes from Nīca, Bārta and Alsunga, dancing folk from Rucava, stylised “folk maidens” and “folk lads,” and singing and dancing children generalised down to ornament.
Elfrīda Aldonija Pole-Āboliņa was born in Liepāja and attended Liepāja Applied Art Secondary School, in the Ceramics Department. She went on to study in the Painting Department of the State Art Academy (now the Art Academy of Latvia). From 1948 to 1952, she worked independently with various organisations and cooperatives in Riga. In 1955, she was employed as a construction plastics ornament maker at the enterprise “Māksla”, where she created decorative solutions for large lamps in the Museum of the Revolution (now the Latvian War Museum) and headed a team of artisans who produced decorations for many residential and public buildings throughout Latvia. She began working with porcelain, and in accordance with the conditions and opportunities allowed by the system she attended the creativity and recreation centre in Dzintari, Jūrmala, where she created a body of miniature plastic works which were cast into porcelain at the Riga Porcelain Factory. She took part in many exhibitions and competitions in Riga and Moscow. In 1960, Pole-Āboliņa became a member of the Latvian SSR Artists’ Union. In the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, she worked in clay at her studio in the premises of “Māksla” in Gaujas iela, Riga, creating numerous small sculptural works.
Photo by Gvido Kajons.