Maija Kurševa

View of "Maija Kurševa: Investigation,” 2018, kim? Contemporary Art Centre, Riga, Latvia.

Maija Kurševa is an artist, publisher, lecturer at the Art Academy of Latvia, program director for the Riga Zine Festival, and, last but not least, cofounder of the artist-run LOW gallery in Riga, Latvia. Her work encompasses various media, from comics to sculptures, attending to recurring characters and themes with a sense of humor. “Investigation,” an exhibition of Kurševa’s recent work, is on view at kim? Contemporary Art Centre in Riga through September 2, 2018.

MY RECENT DRAWINGS stem from a poem I wrote one winter in the countryside outside Berlin. I took out words and left only a few; some of the works feature fragments of phrases, and some only resemble letters. To look at these drawings as a poem, to try to read them, you don’t need to make up the words but, rather, can follow the forms. For me, drawing is a way of thinking, and ultimately, I’m not building the concept from the actual words. The beginning is drawing, which becomes automatically. When you put the pen to paper, you aren’t always thinking about the outcome—you are in a constant moment of the present, of now. The most exciting instant is when the brush touches the surface, and what it leaves behind is already the past.

I like to use the word comics for these drawings, mostly because I think it’s funny. Especially nowadays—with avant-garde or abstract cartoons—comics often contain graphic sequences without text, where you have to follow the transformation in order to interpret the narrative. It can be an adventure, an exciting meeting between a triangle and a square, even if there’s not much action.

For this exhibition at kim? Contemporary Art Centre, I wanted to create the mood of a novel in which I am a detective following myself. I’ve been thinking a lot about the viewer and how to physically resemble the state I am in when I think in a drawing. The gallery is divided into two rooms, the first containing black-and-white gouache drawings and the second is separated into three parts by curtains made of strips of white paper. In this dimly lit space, the viewer will have the experience of feeling a bit lost, having to pass through the curtains with extended arms to sense what’s in front of her. Usually you’re not encouraged to touch art, but the tactile involvement brings the material forward, the paper becoming part of the processional component.

In the middle section of the space, there are four sculptural objects and small tables covered with two heaps of paper, each surface representing a part of the process of drawing. The stacks of clean white paper become smaller as the piles of drawings become larger. The development is an intellectual exercise, an open-ended, different way of thinking that doesn’t rely on text or words.

While I was drawing sequences of concrete, specific objects—like a staircase or a chair—I realized that it’s more interesting when the result doesn’t resemble anything for me. So that’s the way I choose to work: without a clear narrative, I concentrate and don’t necessarily have an ultimate expression in mind. I hope it works like a Hugo Ball poem, just from the sounds that sound like words but that don’t actually mean anything.