I am artist Atis Luguzs, who creates sculptures from materials found in the swamp – peat and roots of swamp pines. For the peat to be suitable for sculpture carving, the raw material must be extracted from a depth of 2 to 4 meters, which corresponds to the biological age of sphagnum found in the peat, dating back to the time of Jesus Christ to the era of the pharaohs in ancient Egypt, or 2000 to 4000 years.
After extraction from the swamp, the peat pieces must be dried for 2 to 5 years until they acquire a sufficiently rigid structure for knife work. In the finished sculpture, a 10 cm layer corresponds to 100 to 200 years of swamp history. In a sculpture 50 cm high, it is possible to discern how the swamp has lived for 1000 years.
Every 70 to 150 years, a fire occurs in the swamp, marked as a dark stripe in the peat layer. The pattern of several stripes creates a structure similar to a cinnamon roll, which I call Latvia’s brown marble. The dark stripes consist of burnt sphagnum and ashes melted into glass. Cutting such places looks beautiful, but this glass almost immediately dulls the knife.
In the creatively refreshing ambiance of the Eleja Peat Art Festival in Latvia, 2019 marked a significant milestone for me, Atis Luguzs. Here, I embarked on an exciting new journey in my artistic career by crafting my very first sculpture from peat. “Selma’s Portrait” emerged from a single, solid piece of peat, carefully and thoughtfully shaped by my hands. This festival celebrated the fusion of nature and art and brought together a diverse tapestry of artists from France, Finland, and Italy. Each cut into the peat of Selma’s portrait was a step into uncharted territory for me, blending my deep-rooted passion with newfound inspiration from a community of artists.
This sculpture stands over 2 feet tall and is carved entirely from peat. The sculpture’s intricate details and flowing lines capture the essence of the art nouveau style, which was popular in the early 20th century.
Peat sculpture “Bog’s Nest I”
I created the peat sculpture “Swamp Nest I” by commission for the Olaine History and Art Museum. The original piece of peat was larger than 2 cubic meters and weighed around 3 tons. I still marvel at how such a massive piece could be extracted from the soft swamp. I had to trim the large block to fit it into a pre-made glass display case. While working on this sculpture, a vision of a nest and egg theme emerged, perfectly symbolizing the swamp as an untouched, living symbol of nature. In terms of artistic utility, the egg is a gracious form that can be touched without harming the artwork. People are often drawn to touch sculptures, and an egg shape is well-suited for this.
The Egs’ theme in peat art.
In addition to portrait sculptures, Atis is known for his large peat eggs. These eggs are created using a unique method that involves shaping the peace of solid peat with a simple pocket knife, resulting in a durable and striking final product. The eggs come in various sizes, with the most extensive measuring over 2 feet tall. These unique peat creations are a testament to Atis’s artistic skill and creativity.
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