The spatial sculpture “K-Totem”, located in Kaunas Old Town, has a new visual identity created by illustrator Justė Urbonavičiūtė (Kissi Ussuki). What is a happy city? This was the question the author had to answer when creating the illustrations for the sculpture.
Urbonavičiūtė decided to use the hormones of happiness – dopamine, serotonin, endorphins and oxytocin – to interpret it. She also used her drawings to explain how to make them. She dedicated a part of the sculpture to each of the methods, turning K-Totem into a reminder of how easy it is to make happiness.
This year, the multifunctional spatial sculpture K-Totem has become a space of expression for local creators – graphic designers and illustrators. The idea for the sculpture was born out of a cultural cooperation between two members of the UNESCO Network of Cities of Design – Kortrijk (Belgium) and Kaunas. Kortrijk, which is aiming to become the European Capital of Culture in 2030, presented the three-dimensional sculpture of the letter “K” to Kaunas.
“When I was contacted by the representatives of Kaunas – European Capital of Culture 2022 and offered this work, the theme was a happy city. Instead of sketching happy people or the city itself, I thought I would take a different approach – like a recipe for Kaunas on how to make simple happiness. I took four hormones and started looking for ways to make them,” the artist said. The creator made associations. For example, dopamine is released by falling in love, by food, oxytocin is released by physical contact with another person or animal, serotonin is released by spending time in the sun, by being in nature and endorphins are released by exercising.
“Everything came together very well, including the colours. I wanted it to be a more cheerful object in the city in November that would attract attention and yet be practical for people,” said Urbonavičiūtė.
– Juste, have you ever worked on the theme of happiness?
– Yes, and often. My style is with happy colours. I often get hooked on the theme of happiness.
– What was interesting for you about this work in Kaunas?
– It’s unique only because I’ve never done a 3D sculpture before. I agreed to take on this project because it was a challenge for me, I wanted to see my work not just on paper, not just on a computer screen, but on a bigger object. The second reason: I love Kaunas, so it was fun to dedicate my work to Kaunas. I don’t visit Kaunas as much as I would like. I want to come back and visit all the museums I visited as a schoolgirl. I like the architecture of Kaunas. Kaunas, with its interwar architecture, looks like another world, like a foreign country. Kaunas is a city that has its spirit.
And this sculpture is a beautiful part of Kaunas – it is a beautiful project between two cities, a friendship between two cities. It is very nice when there are projects like this for artists in general, who can express themselves and contribute to the city.
– How would you describe your artistic style?
– I find it hard to define, it’s hard to put myself in a frame. I would probably say that my style is a bit funny, colourful, and naive. For me, colours are a fundamental moment of my work. They are like an engine – they inspire me to experiment and to keep creating. It happens that I see a combination of colours in the street and a drawing is born from that.
– How has your style changed over time?
– I have been working for almost 10 years. I started with black lines and simple line drawings. But at one point I decided it would be fun to draw. Then I went to the shop and bought the colours I liked the most, which were pink, blue and purple. And so I started. These colours have stayed with me over the years and have not changed. It’s just that there are more colours in the colour palette. As the year goes on, maybe the themes change – it depends on what I do, how I feel and so on.
– What is a happy city for you?
– I thought about it when I started sketching and the idea of happy hormones was not yet there. For me, the most important thing is to have nature in the city, so that people can do the activities they like, whether it’s walking, cycling or other sporting activities. And also that the city is designed for that. And for all people – young and old – to be able to use and enjoy the city.
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