Julija Skudutytė, the best young artist of ArtVilnius23: things speak the truth

October 24, 2023
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The 14th ArtVilnius23 Contemporary Art Fair, held during the weekend at the Lithuanian Exhibition and Congress Centre Litexpo, continued its tradition of selecting and honouring the most talented young artists under the age of 35. This year the laurels and a monetary award went to Julija Skudutytė from Užupis Art Incubator in Vilnius.

The jury noted the artist’s unique approach, blending lifelike everyday subjects with elements of fantasy to craft personal and emotionally charged narratives.

This is the second time that J. Skudutytė has participated in ArtVilnius. However, she is far from a newcomer to the art world. Skudutytė has held a dozen exhibitions and expositions to date, earning accolades and prizes across various artistic genres, such as book illustration, painting, and exhibition design. She actively engages with the art community, showcasing her creations both domestically in Lithuania and on the international stage.

Photo by A. Solominas, ArtVilnius2023

Inspiration – a disorder

Speaking about her contribution to ArtVilnius23, she highlights that the exposition was a collaborative effort with her colleague from the Užupis Art Incubator, Danielius Rusys.

“Given D. Rusys’ shared interest in depicting kitchen motifs and our joint affiliation with the Užupis Art Incubator, we jointly chose our studio as our shared focal point. This studio, brimming with creative disorder, serves as our artistic home – a sort of ‘artistic kitchen”, so to speak. That’s how the exposition came to feature eggs, numerous jars, and, of course, my constant feline companion, who never leaves my side,” says Skudutytė, noting that her primary medium of choice is watercolours. “At times, I delve into installation art, and I’ve dabbled in scenography as well. However, what truly captivates me about watercolours is the enchanting effect they yield, rendering even mundane household clutter in a translucent, gentle, and aesthetically pleasing manner, thanks to the captivating contrasts they bring forth.”

When asked about the recurring theme of the home in her art, the artist explains that her fascination with the concept of home began during her studies at the Vilnius Academy of Arts, when she moved in with an elderly woman suffering from compulsive hoarding disorder: “I began sketching that apartment. I came to understand that things convey more than our elderly hosts. When they speak, they are usually careful with their words, and the household and the things around them serve as the unmistakable backdrop of their lives. It was a unique and captivating experience for me, and I felt compelled to record it, perhaps because I, too, occasionally feel the urge to amass possessions. I believe we all share a part of that inclination – collecting and accumulating things that hold significance for us”, says the artist, who in her more recent work transitioned from portraying interiors to depicting objects within specific contexts and exploring the quirks of life.

“I have a keen interest in consumerism and manipulation – the process through which we engage in consumption and are influenced to obtain things. It’s important to note that I’m not passing judgment on this phenomenon. I’m fully aware that I’m also a part of it, as I too am a consumer. I enjoy portraying the excess of material possessions because I observe it within my surroundings,” says Skudutytė.

Photo by A. Solominas, ArtVilnius2023

A motivation for the younger generation

The ArtVilnius programme traditionally includes the selection of top galleries, artists, and artworks. These categories include “Best Artist”, “Best Gallery” (with seven galleries), “Best Foreign Gallery”, “Best Installation” and “Best Young Artist”, all determined by a panel of art critics.

The “Best Young Artist” category is unique because the winner is presented with a special €2,000 prize. This prize, which has been awarded for the eleventh consecutive year, is aimed at supporting and motivating young artists and is generously sponsored by the law firm Cobalt, a dedicated patron of ArtVilnius.

“I firmly believe that Skudutytė truly deserves this award. Her work is conceptual, rich in layers, and open to various interpretations. These are precisely the qualities that the fair’s organisers strive to promote: open discussion and interpretation. Over the past decade, thanks to ArtVilnius, our capital city has risen to prominence and firmly secured its place on the map of Europe’s most significant contemporary art hubs. Simultaneously, the fair has played a pivotal role in facilitating the emergence of numerous young artists, a contribution that we regard as even more significant. We take great pride in being a part of this transformative journey,“ says Dr Irmantas Norkus, Managing Partner of COBALT, the patron of ArtVilnius.

The theme and main focus of this year’s ArtVilnius art fair is performativity. The fair’s organisers have extended an invitation to us to explore the concept of performativity with an open and imaginative approach, to engage in candid discussions, and to delve into the extensive range of interpretations linked to this phenomenon. ArtVilnius23 took place on 13-15 October at the Litexpo Congress and Exhibition Centre in Vilnius. This year, 70 art galleries and institutions, along with 300 artists from 18 countries worldwide, showcased their works to visitors.