Jaan Toomik. Galva I.
1998, drobė, aliejus, 116 x 80
Jaan Elken. Lucy deimantiniame danguje. 2001,
drobė, akrilas, 160 x 200
Art in Vilnius
Until the restoration
of the state independence in 1990 the three Baltic countries enjoyed
a relatively integrated art scene. This was possible through a number
of continuous events, such like Painting and the Young Artists
Triennial in Vilnius, Sculpture Quadrennial in Riga, Graphic Arts and
Applied Arts Quadrennial in Tallinn. Such events formed an opposition
to the conservative all-union exhibitions.
After 1992, however, all larger Baltic art projects have been hosted
outside these countries. Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia have failed
to ensure the continuity of the former key events. In more than ten
years Lithuanian audience has seen just a few exhibitions by the influential
Estonian artists. The situation has changed only this year.
The 85th anniversary of the Republic of Estonia offered an excellent
opportunity to present a larger picture of contemporary Estonian art
scene. To begin with, Vilnius Photography Gallery featured the newest
in Estonian photography. Estonian photography artists are mostly interested
in colour photography, and rely largely on computer technologies and
manipulating images, in shark contrast to the work of Lithuanian photography
Yet larger and more interesting exhibition was hosted by the Vilnius
Vartai Gallery. The exhibition with an ironic title Academics
featured the work of the art professorship from Tartu and Tallinn. Eight
artists teaching at Estonian art academies showed their achievement
in the academic fields painting, sculpture, and the
graphic arts. Beyond their academic work, the artists have little in
common, as they represent different age groups and different artistic
movements. Yet they have exhibited together a number of times locally
At the exhibition, Leonhard Lapin (b. 1947), architect, sculptor, graphic
artist and art critic, one of the most radical avant-garde representatives
since the 1960s, presented his cycle The Birth of Myth:
an abstract composition incorporating mass consumption items, very much
in the style of Pop Art.
Sirje Runge (b. 1950) is a well-known and largely esteemed painter with
the Lithuanian audience. Her cycle Silence brings her monochromic
style to extreme, by reducing the colour scheme to the colour white.
The artists of the younger generation, Mari Roozvalt (b. 1945) and Jaan
Elken (b. 1954) exploit gestural painting possibilities, and combine
different textures with elements of photographic collage.
Jaan Toomik (b. 1961), one of the best-established Estonian video artists,
has also returned to painting. Using his film experience, he structures
the entirety of his canvases like a film frame.
Kaido Ole (b. 1963) is one of the most unique artists to emerge in the
last decade in Estonia. A graduate of graphic design and painting studies,
he integrates elements of trade signs, computer games and urban environment
into his works.
To quote the curator of the exhibition, Harry Livrand, the 1990s in
Estonian art were the years dominated by Neo-Pop and erotic art. The
sculptor Hannes Starkopf (b. 1965) is the most prominent exponent of
the tendency. In Vilnius he showed erotic polychromatic wood sculptures.
Urve Kuettner (b. 1941) uses diverse mediums to give a playful and romantic
treatment to religious and love kitsch souvenirs.