Pēteris Martinsons (1931-2013) was born in Daugavpils and made history as the best-known Latvian ceramicist worldwide. Consistent and outstanding creative performance made him a true credit to Latvian art and culture and a major contributing force to Latvian contemporary ceramics, which he brought to a whole new level of quality and acclaim. As a leading member of the famous Ķīpsala Ceramics group and a longstanding participant and creative director of artist symposiums in Dzintari, he was the beating heart behind two major phenomena in Latvian culture that transformed national ceramics from an applied craft into a legitimate art form and inspired generations of ceramicists in Latvia and beyond.
At the close of his most ambitious retrospective exhibition in 2013, Pēteris Martinsons donated a substantial part of his life’s work to the Daugavpils Mark Rothko Art Centre. The collection includes some of his first moulded and wheel-thrown objects, reliefs depicting literary characters, monumental figures, series of functional and stylised vessels, brittle porcelain pieces, representations of living beings such as crows, lions and dogs and tectonic structures such as towers and cages in different materials, other assorted figures and multiple sketches. The artist’s ceramic work is impressively diverse in terms of ideas and forms of creative expression, materials, techniques and places of origin. Meanwhile, his ink drawings are striking examples of artistic meditation and essential practice drills for hand and mind.
The Martinsons House is being opened with a permanent exhibition of the artist’s work called The City of Dreams. Having trained as an architect, Martinsons spent his entire creative life building his city of dreams, populated by fantastic creatures and filled with distinct architectural forms. We hope his city of dreams and its citizens can finally find a true and permanent abode that really feels like home – something the artist kept missing throughout his life.
The first display to fill the temporary exhibition zone of the Martinsons House will be Ķīpsala Ceramics from the Daugavpils Mark Rothko Art Centre collection. To quote from curator Valentīns Petjko: “Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Ķīpsala Ceramics made the name of Latvia known all over Europe – its artists earned honours and awards in international exhibitions and participated in creative symposiums and other events. More than forty ceramists have worked in the Ķīpsala Ceramics Studio since its foundation. In the information vacuum of their Soviet reality, each artist, to a greater or lesser extent, focused their individual efforts on shaping the image of Latvian professional ceramics, which developed into a fully competitive field.”
In addition to the two exhibitions, the Martinsons House will offer an open stock of contemporary ceramics and several reproductions of graphical works by Pēteris Martinsons, marking the transformation of the former gunpowder magazine at 1 Nikolaja Street, Daugavpils Fortress, into a fully functional repository for professional art. Nine years ago, a neighbouring building – the former artillery arsenal – was reborn into a premium art space that carries the name of Mark Rothko. The latest repurposed structure follows in its footsteps – from now on, it will be known as the Martinsons House, guardian to the memory and legacy of the brilliant ceramicist.