Hana Vater, “Still Life with Embroidery,” 2022. Oil on canvas, 24” x 36.” (Courtesy: Agora Gallery).

Currently on view at Agora Gallery is “A Midsummer’s Dream,” a group exhibition of paintings and photographs that capture the mystical atmosphere of the summer season. In this show, the artists explore themes of public and private spheres through dreamy landscapes and gauzy domestic interiors. 

Heralding simple pleasures on a languorous summer afternoon is a series of carefully arranged still lifes by Latvian oil painter Hana Vater. Featuring books, fruit, flower vases, African masks, vessels, embroidery, and classical artworks, the artist captures the hidden beauty behind our surroundings. Described as “mysterious representatives” of the natural world, Vater creates joyful vignettes that embody a quiet harmony amongst the chaos of everyday life. 

WHAT: A Midsummer Dream ( a group exhibition featuring Hanna Vater)

WHEN: June 7—June 27, 2023

WHERE: Agora Gallery, 530 West 25th Street, New York

The artist says, “When I am creating a still life, I challenge myself by asking, ‘Where is the secret of this little piece of nature and the mystery of its beauty?” And in her still life paintings, Vater follows the principles of colorist abstraction based on the tenet that the visible world is a unique composition of color spots and forms. Taking cues from colorist painters, Vater follows the principles of abstraction to create realistic tableaux. Working predominantly with oil and acrylic, she begins her process by outlining the composition with diluted oil paint using a fine paintbrush. She then places appliques of pigment on the canvas, which are then modified and deconstructed into a mosaic of chromatic planes, which are also juxtaposed, resulting in complex fields and shapes. Vater offers, “I try to look at nature and objects with fresh eyes and capture their hidden beauty, discovering harmony within natural chaos. In a still life, I see a model of nature, its mysterious representative. All this makes my artistic process joyful and happy. When I work in the studio, I have more freedom to ‘choreograph’ each element of the composition. With still lifes, you can create your own composition.” 

Hana Vater, Still Life with Canvases, 2022. Oil on canvas, 18” x 24.” (Courtesy: Agora Gallery).

For Vater, the perpetual study of nature is an inexhaustible source of inspiration. Exploring its beauty gives her a boost of artistic self-confidence and clarity, allowing her to view her works objectively. Vater explains, “For me, the shapes and spaces that consist of a still life are a kind of ‘model’ of nature. The way one observes nature is strictly individual, and, from my point of view, this is what makes any artistic outcome so unique. This approach was taught to me by my art teachers, outstanding Latvian painters.”

Born in Latvia, Vater earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Painting, Drawing, and Art History from the Riga Art School and a Master’s in Painting and Art Education from the Art Academy of Latvia. At the beginning of her practice, Vater initially looked to the works of renowned painters like Cezanne and Morandi to develop her signature style. Through Morandi’s work, Vater realized that there were no contradictions between the approach of realism and abstraction. She discovered that true realism in painting is carried out through abstraction. This synthesis allowed her to set the creative goal of ‘reading’ colors that make up the objects before her and then rendering them onto canvas.

Hana Vater, Still Life with Small Mirror, 2023. Oil on canvas, 24” x 36.” (Courtesy: Agora Gallery).

Over time, I realized that while many great artists may be our teachers, imitating them is pointless. The only way to become a mature artist is to develop your own vision. By forming my style, I found the format in which I could express myself – the still life. At the same time, participation in exhibitions was very instructive for me,” Vater states. Nonetheless, her most profound artistic influence came from her cultural environment, having acquired many techniques from her native land. Latvian painting is grounded in European realistic and modern art traditions, with a strong emphasis on colorism and attention to detail. At the same time, Latvian art has always maintained its uniqueness and values. “Following the tradition of colorism was my goal and the source of artistic satisfaction,” continues Vater.

Hana Vater, Still Life with African Mask, 2022. Oil on canvas, 20” x 24.” (Courtesy: Agora Gallery).

Vater’s artwork reflects current cultural issues by recognizing a continuum of artistic expression. Vater considers artists from all movements to be contemporaries because only the form of expression has changed over time. As a painter, Vater wishes to contribute to the artistic canon by sharing her vision uniquely. Specifically, her work invites the viewer to look with fresh eyes at the quotidian and the everyday objects surrounding them. “Only then will you see their hidden beauty, albeit an open book or a simple glass of water. Isn’t the three-dimensional space in which we exist—and which I try to depict—a miracle? I invite all to enjoy the wonders of the world around you, for we have been given the gift of vision,” Vater opines.

When not in the studio, Vater teaches art to children. She finds the experience gratifying as she discovers that almost all of the drawings her students make have the qualities adult artists should acquire. In many ways, they naturally adopt the abstract approach. Vater has exhibited extensively in Europe and the United States. She currently lives and works in Conshohocken, PA.