I didn’t think about becoming an artist – it just happened naturally. I studied art from an early age and continued to all the way to university. My final degree show caught the attention of the founder of photography magazine Portfolio, which unfortunately no longer exists, and she published my work. Following that, the Yossi Milo gallery in NYC showcased my work and the sales from the exhibition funded my MA at the Royal College of Art. By then, I could see how art could be a viable career path – people showed real interest in my work. The RCA was an incredible experience, very creative and at the same time, competitive. But it was exciting. The graduating exhibition was a life changing experience – the V&A even purchased works for their collection. That final year show was also where I met my now-husband, David; he was meeting the former rector of the RCA, Sir Christopher Frayling, and dedicated some time to view a couple of artists’ works that he rated, mine included. He saw my work and bought the whole show. It was a meeting of like-minded individuals – we shared a lot of the same aesthetics and ideas, and the rest is history.
My aesthetic reflects my personal history. Growing up in Lithuania – then an occupied country – with the scars of war and never-ending family stories of trauma, has informed my work enormously. I am inspired by humanity and its experiences, and create art that explores history, individual and collective memory and loss, across photography, sculpture, performance and painting. The two proudest moments of my career were having my work exhibited at Tate Modern and MOMA – I never imagined I would ever see my work in such revered institutions.
Since having my daughter four years ago, my focus has shifted. Now, I create more textile-based works that form the series From.Between.To. These textile canvases explore culturally charged symbols as an abstract language: a form of communication that traces a universal discourse. These works are a study of culture and the messages embedded in the fabric. I create them at home in my living room or on even on the kitchen table – it’s very intimate and domestic, which feels very right for now.
When I met David, he was already an established collector. But immediately, we started collecting together. We only collect what we love and never fall for the hottest thing – it’s an easy mistake to make. We buy photography, film, sculpture, painting, outdoor installations – we don’t have a specific theme. It’s very varied, which makes the collection very exciting. I love artists like Louise Bourgeois – we have some of her pieces, like the pink head in our living room. We have a big collection of female artists, like Anj Smith, Rachel Jones, Fiona Banner, Phyllida Barlow, Doris Salcedo, Mona Hatoum, Louise Giovanelli, Flora Yukhnovich, Ellen Gallagher, Yayoi Kusama and Tala Madani to name a few. When we first bought our home in Scotland, we only hung work by female artists. It’s been amazing to showcase so many incredible and talented women. Otherwise, Emmanuel Awuni is a really exciting new name to know – I first saw his work at the Royal Academy graduation show and was immediately struck by it. It’s bold and powerful and I’m so interested to see how his work will evolve.
Last year we launched a Scottish residency as part of our non-profit contemporary arts organisation programme. The Roberts Institute Of Art is an arts charity David founded in 2007. The residency is a bespoke experience for each artist – they can choose to stay for few weeks or a few months and there’s no requirement to create anything – they can just think, read and research if they want to. There are no expectations; we just wanted to create a space for creativity. Last year we hosted two sculptors, Jesse Wine and Monika Sosnowska, and this year we have writer Vanessa Onwuemezi and two painters, Francesca Mollet and Ayan Farrah coming to stay. After Jesse’s residency, we bought his first bronze, which is now installed in the grounds.
I love watching dance. I go to Sadler’s Wells frequently, and see as much dance and ballet as I can – maybe I would have been a choreographer in a different life? In 2022 I was commissioned by Josée Drouin-Brisebois for Kaunas Biennale to create a performance piece in Lithuania using 13 dancers. Right before I was due to travel, my household came down with Covid, so I had to direct it over Zoom over three days instead. It was probably the most stressful thing I’ve ever done, but also the most inspiring and rewarding. Lithuania was still in partial lockdown and my three works were inspired by breathing, saliva and touch which felt very poignant. The dancers were extremely open to my ideas and were prepared to touch each other, share breath and saliva with each other. I called the piece Haptic – the performance work was a reflection of the gestures that make up normal daily human interactions, but in the pandemic, became a source of fear. The masked audiences were uncomfortable, but as an artist, I’m always trying to provoke an emotion, or at least leave the audience with thoughts and questions. If I did that kind of work now, it wouldn’t have as much power.
We had an exhibition space in London for over ten years. But we decided we weren’t needed in a city brimming with so much culture. London is full of incredible galleries and museums that can be enjoyed for free, so we felt that could pursue more interesting and fulfilling collaborations with institutions outside of the capital. It was the right decision for us and so far, we’ve completed some incredible collection collaborations with museums such as The Hepworth Wakefield, Mostyn in Wales, The Hunterian in Glasgow, Sheffield Museum and currently, we are in MIMA Middlesbrough. Our curators work collaboratively with the institutions and the result seems to provide a very vigorous discourse between the two sides.
Pinault’s new gallery, Bourse de Commerce, in Paris is so beautiful and the collection is incredible. It’s an old building and the way they’ve married it with a new exhibition space is very clever – I was very inspired when I went. It also has an incredible back-to-basics style restaurant. Elsewhere, Seoul has emerged as a new creative cultural centre in Asia. In fact, Frieze Art Fair chose Seoul as Asia’s next major art market in 2022 and I am excited to see how it will all develop over the next few years.
I don’t feel fully Lithuanian or English – I have an accent in both countries, so I don’t feel like I belong anywhere. London is the one place where I feel at home. It’s so creative and has an incredible energy. I love Scott’s, DUKES Bar and the new Mount St. Restaurant – it was designed by Studio Laplace and incorporates art, design and architecture. The whole space is full of incredible art and many of my friends have created beautiful site-specific works. Rashid Johnson designed the floor, Phyllida Barlow who sadly passed away just a few weeks ago created an incredible ceiling in the Audley Public House downstairs, Anj Smith hand-painted a beautiful mural in the Games Room turret. Date night is always Claridge’s as it’s where we got married. We especially love our Sunday routine. Our tradition is a trip to the Marylebone farmers’ market, where we have our favourite vendors for bread, cheese, fruit and veg. We go to the playground afterwards with my daughter, then we come home and eat our market finds whilst reading the FT.
I rarely shop but when I do, my go-to store is Alex Eagle Studio on Lexington Street. If I don’t have enough time to leave the studio, I will visit ISSIMO which puts together a highly curated edit of pieces online. I recently bought a lamp from The Radford Gallery for our ten-year anniversary. I’m very particular about following the appropriate anniversary gifts and ten is aluminium – I found a beautiful lamp from a London based designer EJR Barnes and that’s my favourite item in our home. Finding something chic in aluminium was no mean feat!
I shop for clothes very infrequently. My new philosophy is to buy things that are timeless, combine rich heritage and exquisite craftsmanship, and pieces I’d rather save up for like an Hermès coat or bag. I recently bought an Hermès Constance in Paris – it’s a mushroom colour with rose gold hardware. My daughter’s name is Constance, so it was a natural fit. When I buy things now, I’m shopping with her in mind and thinking about pieces she will enjoy wearing in the future. Style for me should be effortless. I spend most of my days flitting between the studio and meetings, so I need a wardrobe that’s as functional as it is beautiful.
I visit Italy a lot – it has so much to offer, from wine to art. The two places we always go to are Il Pellicano hotel and Castello di Ama Vineyard. Il Pellicano is the chicest place on earth, and I feel my most relaxed there. Castello di Ama is in hills of Tuscany and not only has the most incredible wine and the best restaurant, but also stunning art. Lorenza, the owner, invites artists to create site-specific work every year. Anish Kapoor has created beautiful pieces in the grounds of one of the chapels, Louise Bourgeois installed an exquisite sculpture in the dark vault filled with water, Daniel Buren’s outdoor piece is my favourite work I have seen so far by him, Roni Horn has one of her circular glass works in a little cellar – it’s just magical. Lorenza has five suites, so it’s not really a hotel – expect a very authentic experience where you feel like you’re staying in someone’s home.
The creative world is very sociable. A dream dinner party would hosted be at home with some of my incredibly talented female friends as guests. I like to mix women from every creative field – there are a lot of strong, successful women out there and I’m lucky to be able to call a few of them friends. I would also beg my friend Florence Knight to cook for us. She’s a genius.
Photography by INDIA HARTFORD DAVIS
Hair and Makeup by GRACE HAYWARD