The experience of pre-experience

“All adults were children in the beginning. (Only few remember this.)”, – said Antoine de Saint Exupery during his “visit” to the exhibition of Tadas Gutauskas and Kipras Mašanauskas.

This quotation came to my mind when Tadas Gutauskas mentioned that he was interested in a “pre-experienced thinking”. This could be imagined as a flow of certain speechless thoughts emerging from yet unarticulated consciousness.

For there would be no language in the consciousness without experience. An analogy to such a thinking is easy to imagine – it would be a child’s thinking when strata of experience do not press against his eyes. But how and what is it possible to think about before experience? And how much is it possible to get through experience without experiencing amnesia, which would delete all psychic information collected from the first glance cast into the environment? Maybe this painting is that glance? These questions are not only provoked by the author’s interview. They arise immediately when one enters the white space of the exhibition, which functions as an installation of unidentified objects “generating” their music. Thus the viewer is also involved into an experience, the novelty of which in a way returns him/her into a situation of the “not yet experienced”.
The return to the beginning of the formation of consciousness manifests itself in the external “childishness” of painting. Bright colour combinations and the weightlessness of forms in the white space without any indications of a three-dimensional world remind of children’s drawings. But after a moment there appears something that denies the “preexperienced thinking”. The seemingly absurd figures consist of recognisable elements: flowers, crosses, parts of a house. Hence these figures are not nameless forms which would manifest for an inexperienced glance in total unfamiliarity, but rather configurations, consisting of the elements seen before and already familiar.
However the relationships between the elements are illogical, unfamiliar. Familiar things join into useless and purposeless combinations. They do not belong to this culture and the world of handy tools, where everything exists only because it has a function. Thus the usefulness of things is not yet formed. This is a beginning when all forms and all uses of things are still possible.
Later it comes out that the composite figures made of colour blocks and recognised elements are also “experienced”, though many of them are not named in familiar concepts or could be attributed to a naive imagination. Their virtual (and amorphous) abstractness carefully conceals “things” which have archetypal meanings. The recognition of such things, like an axe, an eye, is postponed. Information has to be deciphered. Nevertheless, a deciphered text is never understood properly – there is always a doubt, whether there was an axe or an eye, or maybe there is something else encoded?
After revealing the names of the figures it is possible to read their meanings (such as “a piercing eye”, “an evil eye”, “a seductive eye”, “an all seeing eye”, “a poisonous eye” etc.). But the meaning is never defined – an eye, for instance, is always placed in an ambiguous surroundings of colour planes and other elements. Its aggressiveness or activity is always tampered with soft colour and closed into a larger form. Thus an eye really does not have a prescribed meaning. The signifying function is still latent – waiting for any experience. From this point of view the figures Tadas has painted are still “raw” matter of perception. However the postponement of conclusion is a rational (non childish) act, which gives time to enjoy and get “hooked” (only because Shecherezada knew how to do it, she kept her listeners’ attention for thousand and one night… and survived).
On the other hand, it comes out that the orgy of colours which has blinded the viewer in the beginning is made of precisely selected combinations. The brightness of colours is open, but it is also tamed by the neutralising adjacent colours. The combination of colours turns every figure into a closed unit. The white space of paintings and the one of the exhibition becomes fourdimensional when it is filled with musical harmony, which intervenes with painting. Here the sounds of an experienced nature are arranged into unusual combinations. In other words, the visual and musical harmony filling the space of the exhibition has not appeared by accident, by playing somehow unconsciously, but was created by an experienced consciousness.
Therefore, neither composition nor colours or forms could be attributed to a naive inexperience. The “preexperienced thinking” could be found in the work, which covers not the surface of canvas, but the making of the paintings themselves. It points to the author. Experience has two sides to it. It gives the “know how” and knowledge, but it can also suppress. Experiences of failures do not allow to repeat the same, and “the same” often means: to experiment, to do something for the first time, to walk on a tiny bridge over an abyss, to say what is true to you without paying attention to others’ opinions. After understanding the doubleness of experience, the meaning of the “pre-experienced thinking” becomes clearer. On the one hand, what is painted (and recorded on the tape) is not yet named. The object of experience is not yet formed. This means – it is not yet experienced. Only the process of its forming and naming which takes place in the viewer’s consciousness becomes experience. On the other hand, while watching the newest Tadas’ works and listening to Kipras’ music, it is possible to notice that another – discouraging and hampering – experience has gone away. Just to allow the viewer to experience the first flash of light.

Agnė Narušytė, art critic