Laimonis Mierinš, Latvian artist and tutor, studied at Leeds Arts University from 1961-1964. He returned to teach at the University in 1965.
Image: Laimonis Mieriņš, Untitled, not dated. Charcoal on paper. Reproduced with kind permission of Ilga Mieriņš.
Laimonis Mieriņš was born on 12 March 1929 in the Slampe parish of the Tukums District in Latvia. In 1944, with his mother and brothers, he fled the Soviet re-occupation of Latvia for Germany. In 1947, at the age of 18, he arrived in Hull as a refugee where he worked as an agricultural labourer. He moved to Shipley in West Yorkshire in the early 1950s, finding work at Salts Mills as a textile worker. During this time he met fellow Latvian émigré, Ilga Reinis, at a Latvian folk dance in Bradford, they married in 1951 just six months after meeting.
Now settled in Shipley, Laimonis began to study painting at weekends. In the late 1950s he visited the Latvian artist Valdemars Teodors Tone at his home in London, an experience which had a profound influence on him and his work.
Image: Laimonis Mieriņš teaching at Leeds Arts University c. 1970. Reproduced with kind permission of Ilga Mieriņš.
1961 was a turning point for Laimonis, he was admitted to study at Leeds College of Art (now Leeds Arts University) under the influential artist and educator, Harry Thubron, then Head of Art. On graduating Laimonis studied for a year at Goldsmiths University of Art in London, before being invited to return to teach drawing and art history at Leeds Arts University in 1965. His post at the University gave him the financial security to pursue his own work. He exhibited his work in Yorkshire during the 1960s and 1970s, however it wasn’t until the 1990s that international interest in his art began to grow. In 1995 the State Museum of Fine Art in Riga, Latvia held an exhibition of his art and an exhibition at the Barbican, London followed in the same year. In 2012 a retrospective was held at the Latvian National Museum of Art. His work is held in private collections in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Latvia, Russia, Sweden, the UK and the USA.
“My drawing is always realistic, and it is always the figure of a woman. I draw for my own enjoyment. I draw quickly. I enjoy complicated angles, the more complicated the better. That’s why it is hard for me to find good models. I just want to work quickly and get it over with. It’s a spontaneous thing. Six or seven attempts, and then I am at peace. I cannot concentrate myself any longer than that.”
Laimonis Mieriņš taught at Leeds Arts University until 1994, he died on 21 December 2011 in Shipley. A retrospective exhibition of his work was held at Leeds Arts University in 2015.