With her project “ PUMPUNELLA ”, Una Gura celebrates a big anniversary and a full return to ceramics. The title of the project is derived from the artist’s nickname, Unella, given to her by members of Daugavpils Clay Art Centre, and from the pimple-like specks that cover her abstract ceramic works. The artist admits that preparation for this exhibition, which involved creation of a number of large-scale ceramic objects, reminded her of her student years at the Ceramic Department of Rēzekne Secondary School of Applied Arts, where her graduation project involved making large-format vessels. Now as then, the artist finds this process both frustrating and exciting: “It may be hard to get started, but, once you are in it, you cannot tear yourself away from clay. And ideas drive ideas!”
This personal show of Una Gura features two distinct bodies of work. One is made up of large-scale ceramic objects, stone-like in shape and reminiscent of rigid biomorphic forms or, as the artist puts it, ceramic spaces squeezed into the universe: “I like to experience in a tactile way the shapes and spaces that I create. The material speaks for itself – all you need to do is work it. And, the more experienced you get, the more interesting it becomes. In any case, ceramic work can give you a sense of unconditional gratification.” The other body of work is smaller in size and features silhouettes reminiscent of air bubbles, frozen in time on their way up towards the surface of a dense layer of water. It is almost as if Una Gura’s works harbour bubbling life and, possibly, even the artist’s very soul in their hard earthenware shells: “Behind clay, I can hide from everything, best of all – from reality itself.”
All Una Gura’s works have a rhythmically ornamental pattern of ‘pimples’, which add another dimension to the artists’ ceramic wares. This pattern rather resembles a wire mesh, which reinforces the illusion of dynamism in the artwork’s surface as well as gives it a continuously emergent silhouette, which is so crucial to the artist’s creativity. Una Gura finds the creative process meditative, which gives it the added value of pleasure: “I love the smell of clay and chamotte… I find pure tactile joy in the slickness of clay, in its butter-like texture, when it is cut with a sharp blade… It drives me wild.”
Una Gura was born in Daugavpils in 1972. As a child, the artist-to-be was drawn to ceramics when she attended ceramic workshops at the public applied arts studio “Latgale” in the mid-1980s. There she decided to become a ceramicist. In 1992, Una Gura graduated from the Ceramic Department of Rēzekne Secondary School of Applied Arts, followed by studies at the Latgale Branch of the Art Academy of Latvia (1994-1998) and a double master’s degree in art and pedagogy from Daugavpils University (2008). At that point, her artistic pursuits veered towards painting. A return to ceramics came in 2010, when she became involved with Daugavpils Clay Art Centre. Since 1998, the artist is an active participant in plein airs, exhibitions and other kinds of art-related events both in Latvia and abroad. “I am inspired by my surroundings and by the interplay of natural forms and textures. I am still drawn to painting, which keeps me going towards my goal – creating pictorial ceramics,” she admits. For all that, as a teacher of visual arts and ceramics, Una Gura successfully combines her own creative pursuits with educational work.