This exhibition by Lilija Dinere, "Unknown Garden" (2006), is the 21st personal exhibition for this artist at the Latvian National Museum of Art. The exhibition presents more than 170 works - graphics, water colours, paintings, painted photographs and book illustrations. Visitors can review the artist's various techniques, the way in which she developed her style and the system of images and symbols which dates back to a period before 1980. The exhibition, in short, is a collection of 25 years of work.

"Unknown Garden" carries us into a world made up of archetypal images and symbolic signs. Humans and gods, birds and animals come together here, in the vastness of the world. They come from antique mythology, from Ancient Egypt and India, from the Eastern cultures, from Celtic and ancient oguz tribes, from Medieval culture, and from many other inspirations. The images can flow together in a single artwork, erasing the borders between East and West, between the pre-Christian and the Christian period. These are messages which stand above a specific time. Myths, fairy tales and epic legends are presented in Lilija Dinere's art as a way of presenting the structure of the modern world. Here we see the concept of eternal and simultaneous existence.

Lilija Dinere was graduated from the Latvian Academy of art in 1980 as a painter - stage designer. Her graduate project was a set design for the Sophocles tragedy "Antigone," and her work brought her into a mythical world. The artist began to study Ancient Greek myths and mysteries, focusing in particular on their esoteric meaning.

Even though she was trained as a set designer, Lilija Dinere soon began to work with graphics and as an independent artist. Lithographs were her earliest products, then she produced colourful engravings on zinc, with flowing transfers and variations of colour. In the 1980s, this was something completely new in the Latvian world of graphics. Between 1979 and 1981 she created a 21-work cycle called "Play With Circle". Between 1981 and 1990, she produced a seven-work cycle called "Procession." In 1985, she produced variations called "Pyramid," and in 1983 audiences first saw a cycle of etchings under the title of "Inhabitants." These are collections in which elements of diverse cultures first appeared, and they made it clear that the artist's mind was focused on culture and history.

The artist turned to paints and easels in the 1990s - a new period in her art. She used acrylic paint to create delicate and precise images on canvas. Her central subject is the ambivalent nature of humankind, the conflicting properties which are brought together in people. The symbolic meaning of the images is built up in paradoxes. Anthropological animals and zoological humans are presented as figures in a single image - the visible and the hidden aspects of nature. Animals can have human faces and eyes, and humans can be as ferocious as animals. The inner world of images is complex, but externally the artist presents the images in a schematically simplified way, seeking to crystallise the symbols of signs and colours.

Water colours are another important aspect of Lilija Dinere's art, she has worked with water colours throughout her life as an artist. Some present pure and vivid colours, with paintings strongly reminiscent of those that the artist has produced with acrylic paints. Other water colours have greater nuance, they are quieter, presenting an emotionally delicate vibration which makes them particularly fragile.

Photography entered Dinere's art in the latter half of the 1990s. The artist has taken the textures of photographic images and painted her own figures with acrylic paint straight onto the photographs. The impression is of figures from an animated film, ones that have appeared in an unaccustomed environment so as to create a surreally mystical effect - a merger of different worlds.

Since 2000, the artist has made another discovery - handmade Himalayan paper. The rough texture and surface become an active element of the background, and the acrylic paintings literally interweave with the texture of the paper itself.

In addition to much exhibition work, this artist has been active book illustrator. Some of the original illustrations and some of the books are shown in this exhibition. One of Lilija Dinere's masterpieces of book illustration is the art which she produced for a 1985 translation of the Medieval French poet Francois Villon's "Poetry". In 1987, at a pan-Baltic books competition, the translation was declared to be the "Most Beautiful Book of the Year." In preparing for the project, the artist studied Medieval miniatures, or illuminations, as they were known at that time. Ever since that time, she has illuminated books, as she puts it - lighting them from the inside, making them lively and colourful.

Studies in ethnography and folklore at the archives of the Academy of Science of Azerbaijan helped in illustrating an epic from the ancient tribe of the ancient progenitors of the modern-day Turkish, Azerbaijani and Turkmen people. The epic was called "Book of Dede Korkud" (1993), translated by Uldis Bērziņš, and the strength of the world of images therein is passionate, ferocious and militant. Much more gentle are the 24 miniatures which were printed (1993) for a multi-lingual mini-book containing the "Hebrew Melodies" by Lord Byron. The artist's illustrations present images from the Old Testament, from the Ancient Hebrews, from the Psalms and from Celtic myths, but she has also created works for more than 50 collections of contemporary poetry and children's stories.

The exhibition has been hung so as to accent the power of colour. On one side, there is the passionate and active colour that is red, while on the other side there is meditative colour of blue. In some cases, the two flow together.

Symbols are important in the art of Lilija Dinere, and the circle can be seen as the most important one of all. The circle is a universal form, it contains everything - a centre, endlessness, a form which always returns to itself. It is the symbol of unity, absoluteness and completion. The circle is also an object for meditation, the nucleus of the soul. As an endless line, the circle symbolises time and endlessness, and it is often presented as a snake which is swallowing its own tail. Snakes are common in Dinere's art, and their unique nature among other living creatures make them particularly frightening, but the artist uses snakes as a sign, not as an evil enemy of human beings. The rings of snakes confirm the spiral cycle of cosmic energy. The snake has been assigned the role of the temptress, and that brings us to the tree in the Garden of Eden. The tree is no less important to the artist than the circle. the tree is a vertical symbol which connects Heaven and Earth. The crowns of trees are home to mythical animals and the souls of those who have died or have not yet been born. Birds who live in the crowns of the world's trees symbolise the highest level of spiritual development. Birds can live in the air, they represent other dimensions. Birds are non-material, they can be a manifestation of the soul. Birds in the air, fish in the water, the fish in Dinere's works - this hidden symbol of Christ, Shiva and spiritual symbol can be found anywhere, but it is particularly successfully presented in the form of the eye - the symbol of spiritual observation, the mirror of the soul. The eye is a symbol of all-encompassing knowledge, alertness, and the protective presence of God.

All of these universal symbols are ones which encompass woman and man, both separately and together. There are Biblical images, there are human beings as such. There are mythological creatures in this world - dragons, chimeras, sirens, wolves, horses and the fabled unicorn. Even a shadow is not just a shadow, it represents semi-consciousness or unconsciousness, while the light represents consciousness. Everything is included in symbolic mysteries, even the gestures of the living beings that are presented, even, and of course, the use of colour. The artist largely relies on pure and intensive colours, and they are often used in accordance with their symbolic meaning. Blue is used to represent the sky, but it also speaks to non-material and spiritual epiphany, of meditation. Green is the colour of life and resurrection, red represents love and passion, yellow is close to gold, to light and the Sun. The artist does not, however, exclude the possibility of intuitive colour choice, because the alchemy of creating energy forces a merger of the rational and the irrational.

The main leitmotif in Lilija Dinere's work is the concept of time or, to put it more precisely, the idea of eternity. Lilija Dinere does not use a linear sense of time. For her, all time is in the here and now, all time has existed forever.

The artist would like to thank everyone who was responsive in organising this exhibition: The Latvian National Museum of Art, The Latvian Cultural Capital Fund, SIA LareLini, the Siena salon, the artist Renāte Lorenca, and many others.

Curator of exhibition, art historian Elita Ansone