Tadao Cern


With several renowned series and projects, the ‘Black Balloons’ may be one of the most famous ones of the Lithuanian artist Tadao Cern (1983). As someone who studied architecture, physical spaces and geometrical precisions are familiar terrains. Tadao Cern has a very original approach to the art world. Merging architecture, photography, and art, he now creates the most interesting and profound projects and art pieces. Thanks to his training, this artist has specialized in creating imposing facilities immersive in which it is questioned how human actions influence everything that surrounds us. Cern doesn't believe in muses and the creative process, for him it is more like a workout: the artistic outcome is a consequence of the amount of the effort that artists put in. Consciously or not. Briefly, his curiousity about human behaviours makes him a rising star in international contemporary creative sphere although he refers to himself as — nobody. And his artworks are almost as mysterious as the man himself.

I must admit that I didn't know this Tadao Cern until a year ago although he did get the chance to work with big brands, including advertising campaigns for Samsung, BMW, New Yorker, Mentos and Chupa Chups. Through his Instagram page I ended up with him and his fascinating artworks. Since I had been traveling around the Faroe Islands for a few weeks, I suddenly saw an image of an 'installation' in the tiny, but impressively located village of Saksun. Only it was not clear to me whether the installation was really made at that location or whether it is some kind of generated a three-dimensional image or a photo montage?

Tadao Cern Instagram pictures

'French Exit', since 2020. Installation in Saksun, a village near the northwest coast of the Faroese island of Streymoy.

If this improvised 'stairway to heaven' made of wheat is really built on site, I am very impressed and would have loved to see it up close. But even if it's an immersive CGI-installation, the image captivates me anyway because of the sublime concept. Thereafter I quickly started looking for more about this versatile artist. Many of his projects have charmed me and I hope to be able to visit an exhibition by Tadao Cern in the future somewhere ... nearby.

"Nothingness or a calm empty void inside would be a perfect achievement and a relief from all the noise around. When everything is so important, everyone has an opinion or a statement — having an empty head may feel like a blessing." — Tadao Cern
Tadao Cern Instagram pictures

Above three different projects of Tadao Cern. | Top left: French Exit. Top right: Black Balloons. Bottom left: A permanent version of Black Balloons. | Bottom right: Matthew is a digital LCD barrier that separates the viewer from the outside world. Instead of offering an unobstructed view, the screen presents an interpretations of what lies beyond it. With each passing moment, the LCD screen's depiction of the outside world invites contemplation on the fragile nature of truth.

SIMPLICITY IS GENIUS | A never ending story of an explorer

Tadao Cern combined his architecture studies with contemporary art, which gave him a very original approach to the art world. The artist was born in Lithuania as Tadas Černiauskas, which he simplified to Tadao Cern and now lives and works in Vilnius. He started his career as an architect, but soon started experimenting with photography. Cern’s artworks articulate the dictum of ‘simplicity is genius’. The artist, well versed with the two mediums of expression — installation and photography — may simplistically produce and execute the work to lend final form and shape to it. Yet, it does not intend to compromise his reflection on the not-so-simple realities set in motion to waver humankind. Tadao Cern takes it as a challenge to express ideas in the cleanest possible way, but it's still a complicated process. His artworks are therefore visually very strong, yet sober and simple most of the time.

COMFORT ZONE | The beauty of imperfection

In 2011, Tadao Cern decides to change from a career in architecture to photography. One of his first series as a photographer was a documentary photo project about the beauty of imperfection. Sleeping, unsuspecting beach sunbathers, portrayed close to the skin, unrecognizable and depicted in all their vulnerability. With humour, tenderness and curiosity, Cern wants to show how beautiful we humans are and he hopes that people will also care less about their shortcomings outside the beach too. Because the bathers hide their faces from the unrelenting sun under a newspaper or towel, they remain unrecognizable. Cern choses to showcase only the photos with hidden faces not by an accident, but to grant an observer with an opportunity to calmly scrutinize each and every detail without being distracted. It also helps to avoid empathy or connection between people in the photos and the observers. It really doesn't matter who they are — the details not only reveal their stories, but make us face ourselves as well.

"I started this series because I was surprised how a certain place or surrounding can affect people’s behavior. During our everyday life we attempt to hide our deficiencies, both physical and psychological. However, once we find ourselves on a beach, we forget about everything and start acting in an absolutely different manner. Is that because everyone else around us is doing the same? If yes, I would love to see those same rules were beyond the borders of the beach." — Tadao Cern
Tadao Cern Comfort Zone

Dozing sunbathers, initially photographed without their knowledge, have constructed a hermetic microcosm atop their colorful beach towels that makes their physical presence unassailable. The range of beachwear fashions and the selected accessories, the contortions of the sleepers’ bodies, as well as the differences of their physical appearances come together as still-life arrangements causing an aesthetic elevation of the beach and its temporary inhabitants. The mundane and the unique, the ordinary and the artful, the sublime and the (unintentionally) comical melt into a fascinating diagram of human lifestyles and variety.

Capturing candid moments of men, women and children lounging on the sand, Cern makes intimate moments public. He called this series Comfort Zone because none of the people meet the imposed ideal of beauty and yet they literally expose themselves on the beach in often tiny swimwear. They are completely in their "comfort zone". It is only about the seaside, sunbathing, and holiday somnolence that is free from the usual surrounding world. Cern wants us to worry less about what the other person thinks or thinks of us.

"My previous education that became my current hobbies, affect my present creative practice in every way. In architecture, like in every other creative process, the same principles are applied: composition, aesthetics, work processes, etc. I have always been a fan of a systematic and rational approach to creativity. My work looks is very aesthetically polished. I guess that comes from my architectural part and making your work look perfect is like an obsession." — Tadao Cern

BLACK BALLOONS | The perfection of simplicity

Everything Tadao Cern creates comes out of curiosity. He uses balloons because they are very temporary, very fragile. As anything else around us. Nothing is forever and unchangeable, therefore thinking that you can preserve something is just a naive illusion and just a matter of scale. For that reason, Cern gives more attention to ideas that have a tendency to last a little more and have a stronger impact compared to physical installations themselves.

Cern often makes use of contradictions such as minimal and intricate, lightness and heaviness, inanimate and lively, light and dark. The black floating Black Balloons also represent nothingness or emptiness. Connecting two balloons together — one filled with light gas and the other one with heavy — might seem as a simple idea, but in reality it is a difficult task to achieve, while the working process, the resourcefulness and the clarity of such an unexpected concept remain embedded within each installation piece of the series. The opposition created by two very simple and playful objects once again brought a unique childlike sense of discovery.

Thus, Cern demonstrates a clear inclination towards minimalism, while his aesthetic ideals continue to shine. Each composition is like a bouquet of flowers: once installed, they are at their peak and start withering. In a couple of days, the installation will look different and in couple of weeks (if not maintained), it will leave only a recollection of it behind, which is the most important and valuable thing for the artist.

Tadao Cern Black Balloons

Tadao Cern Black Balloons
"Creating art is like forming an alliance between an artist and a viewer, against the rest of the world that they are facing. By creating something I am looking for people that think in the same manner. And experimenting is nothing more but a way to find more efficient ways to communicate." — Tadao Cern

A SENSE OF CALM | Exactly what we need in this day and age

Impetuous events in the artist's life, such as the corona pandemic, depression and anxiety disorders, were the motivation to realize the work French Exit. In this immersive CGI-installation looms a cloud of dried wheat suspended from the ceiling. The images are made completely digital. Despite this, it looks quite realistic. An immersive experience describes the perception of being surrounded by — and being a part of — a different environment than our normal day to day.

The soft beige tones and fluffy textures of the strands blend together, floating above the viewer. The title refers to the colloquialism about leaving a social gathering, or bad date, without saying goodbye, also known as ghosting. Emitting a soft glow, the long-stemmed grasses connect to both the organic nature of the life cycle and the human desire to situate ourselves within a broader context, particularly when confronted by aging and death. It invites the viewer to contemplate and reflect; the installation makes us think about who we are and how we say goodbye.

Tadao Cern French Exit

Tadao Cern French Exit

French Exit, 2020.

"The idea to create compositions of wheat fields came into my mind because humankind has a constant urge to think about extinction and different variants of how the final days would look like and what would be the reason for it all." — Tadao Cern
Tadao Cern French Exit

Tadao Cern French Exit

French Exit, 2021.

Tadao Cern Matthew

Matthew, Episode 05. 2023. Video installation on the LCD screen showing interpretations of a view that it is blocking.

All images courtesy of the artist. Photos © Tadao Cern.

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