Let the artist speak: an interview with Tomas Cernisevas

During my two weeks’ stay in Vilnius, when I was walking down the main street, I met an artist selling his photographs, Tomas Cernisevas. We got the chance to exchange some impressions concerning his work, and here’s what we told each other…

What’s the message you want to convey?

“Imagination will take you everywhere” is my motto. In other words, it’s the motivation,

the intention that I have to improve my way of thinking, to contemplate, to ponder. People generally forget to imagine.

It’s difficult to let yourself imagine the world without limits, especially if you don’t know the limits. Letters have limits. A form has a limit. Infinity has a limit. Mind doesn’t. Time can limit mind. But just human mind. My postcard aims to be my message, a message for all the people, in order to start creating and improve their and our imagination.

What’s the meaning of “Haute Couture” for you? Do you want to play with the term or do you want to provoke a reaction?

Ten years ago, in 2007, I opened an exhibition called “Haute Couture”. The triptych featured the pictures of Madam Rose as a model. My idea was to invite Rose for the opening of the evening, but she rejected my offer, probably because she is a very proud person. At that time, to be fashionable in Vilnius was a prestige, and she didn’t feel as prestigious as others expected her to be. In addition, many TV programs and newspapers were pondering over how to really become fashionable.Yes, with this exhibition I wanted to provoke a reaction in society.

Why did you come up with the idea of making Madam Rose stand in front of famous fashion retailers? Do you feel people in your country are missing something about the connection between fashion and the ability of expressing oneself?

I came up with this idea in order to show to locals, who know Rose, that you do not need to have a bunch of money to have a style. You do not need to be a rich person to have a style. To have a sense of dressing yourself in beautiful way is a talent. I carefully use the word “a sense” because sometimes you cannot explain this with words, you have it or you don’t.

The idea to take a picture in front of famous fashion retailers came from showing and following Rose’s everyday route. She is walking along the most expensive streets in Vilnius and she stops in front of shops which only rich people can afford to enter. She waits for customers to come out and also asks them some money. Thanks to people’s offers, she can also buy some clothes and dress herself nicer than those clients who spend a lot of money in famous shops. I am not really able to judge the feeling Lithuanians may have in relation to fashion and their ability of expressing themselves. I think it’s very individual.

How do you expect people to react in front of these postcards?

I expect people to feel and to try to imagine what is she thinking.

Do you want to make people reflect about their personal style versus the idea of being fashionable by showing how Rose is expressing herself through colour?

I wanted just to show Rose’s style. How people will understand this may depend on themselves. I wanted to ask Rose “What is a colour for you?” but the answers was “ Do you believe that parallel worlds exist?

What would you say to the people who may criticise Rose’s style?

You know it is strange but many people get disappointed when they see Rose sitting at a cafe, a terrace or a restaurant. They tell me: “she is sitting at X bar having a beer or a snack at X”. They sound somehow angry, frustrated or jealous when they see her enjoying for a moment in a place reserved for fancy locals or tourists.

They feel this way because of the contradiction of looking at her begging for money and then having a pleasant moment. I personally don’t get that. I feel happy every time someone is actually happy. Happiness is contagious. If you give money to a person in the streets you should just wish the best to this person, to wish that he or she will use this money for the best. I find that Rose has her own lifestyle, which is a unique way of living as an artist. I cannot criticize her. She is somehow an artist, because she is a street performer and probably one of the most famous in Vilnius.

What’s your personal perspective on fashion? Is it all about appearance and wasting money or do you see a more “cultural” or personal aspect behind it?

I’m sorry if I affirm that for me fashion is for sophisticated people.

When we talked in Vilnius, you hinted at a project you had in mind, which was a calendar where Rose would appear on every month of the year. Could you explain this idea further?

Actually it is still a secret, but shortly… My future idea is to make a calendar of Rose and to present each month with a different style of Rose.

Pictures by Tomas Cernisevas, “Haute Couture” exhibition, model “Rose”

Place: Vilnius Old Town


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