Estonian Art Galleries

MONA Museum of New Art, 10 Esplanaadi St. 80010, Pärnu.

Give A New Life, the 7th Recycling Art Exhibition

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Kristiina Tikke Tuura’s Hiiglase Latern

I saw this beautiful Giant’s Lantern by Kristiina Tuura, a Helsinki based artist who made this work from rubbish, recycled and found objects. It pays respect to the hundreds of years old tradition of skilful Syrian lantern making. Made with the help of school children and immigrant students.

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Kristiina Tikke Tuura’s Giant Lantern

Rule and Ritual, Exhibition of Estonian Textile Artists Union

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Tuuli Reinsoo, Nothing is Missing

In Tuli Reinsoo’s work, a giant soft jigsaw of colour, fabric and script, I was invited to Play! Mangi! to move the pieces around as I fancied and make a new art work as I did so. Nothing is ever missing, the blobs which fit into the corresponding holes are part of the outline and the spaces between the pieces are as much part of the transitory, ‘final’ work.

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Detail from Matilda Dominique’s The Grid / No Grid III using a large number of different wool yarn qualities, it moves between clarity and uncertainty. 
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Krista Leesi, Sometimes a herring is just a herring

The juxtaposition of fish swimming across the chest, pithy phrase emblazoned on T shirt harks back to Freud’s ‘Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar’, a sideways reference to his constant search for meaning in dreams (although some say he never said that!) At one and the same time we accept what is, and are prompted to look into what exactly a herring is in this context.

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Marilyn Piirsalu, The Same Pattern

This installation, using fabric and embroidery, comments on the indolence and habits of the TV watching public. Lounging and dozing while the images flower and grow on the sunseen screen.

Shadow and Light Exhibition and Kaadrid Frames, Pärnu Muuseum

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Outi Martikainen, Pietke

Martikainen (weaver) writes that what lies behind her work is her worry that too many children are having to face fear, violence and hunger and that they should all have the same rights to a safe and unique childhood. I found these tapestries poignant and, taken from photographs, life-like.

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Monika Žaltauskaitė-Grašienė, weaving of St Mary

In 2012, the church of St Virgin Mary, Kulautuva, Lithuania was all but destroyed by fire. Afterwards, however, statues of the Virgin and Christ were found ‘miraculously preserved’. Grasiene was touched by the smiling face of St Mary despite the tragedy and that set her to think about how we are left after terrible things have happened in our lives.

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Symbiosis, Kaisi Rosin and Kadri Nutt 

Mutually beneficial interacton between form (the furniture maker’s chair) and pattern. Comfy and utilitarian, also images of growth and shadow to sit on.

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‘Threads’. A recommissioned Jaquard loom – wooden pattern cylinder restored by Eva-Liisa Kriis at MONA ‘Shadow and Light’ exhibition, Pärnu, Estonia

The Exhibition of work from the student’s of Olustvere TMK textile industries at Pärnu Muuseum were not far removed from natural Scottish woven cloth from the Scottish Islands. The hues and textures were juxtaposed with lace and ornamental buttons to make the cushion covers practical and adding artists touches.

Kogo Gallery, Tartu

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Kogo Galerii, a bijou contemporary art gallery which is somewhat hidden in an attractive square off Kastani, with cafes and sunshine
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Ede Raadik, Sailin’ on the Red Sea

This one woman show features wall-sized artwork which speaks of Raadik’s internal reproductive organs and their metamorphosis. Addressing fertility, menstruation, and the private monthly morphing of the ovaries, together with their abnormalities, these starkly beautiful, computer produced images defy the impersonality of technology. Yet they speak clearly of 21st century medical procedures at the same time as mythical, precious ‘golden’ eggs. Laid down before birth, here the presumptious belief that they will be ready when we need them is challenged. Red of blood and suffering, emotion and the flashing light of danger, precision of ovoid and sphere, this exhibition was moving and fascinating.

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Ede Raadik, Sailin’ on the Red Sea

Many thanks to the lovely woman who was watching the exhibition when I visited it. She was informed, friendly and most kindly drew up a list for me of art places to visit in Tallin, where I was headed later that day.

Tallinn Art Hall Gallery, Tallinn

This was a very large exhibition in a utilitarian building on Freedom Square, full to the brim with 20th century artwork in varying media.

 

Gea Sibola Hansen, Bundle of Joy; Leonhard Lapin

 

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Rait ‘Praat’s Archived Green Cloud (1952)
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Vivian Ainsaliu’s Mirage I-V (1979)
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Peeter Laurit’s Broadcasting (1962)
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Inga Heamagi’s Let my prayer arise as incense before you, from Psalm 141:2 (1961)
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Valeri Vinogradov, Forest III (1952)
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Lola Liivat, Clearcutting (1928)
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Mari Roosevalt, Light (1945)

 

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Erika Tammpere, The Land Should be Filled With Children (1942) textile

The Temnikova & Kasela contemporary art gallery, Tallin Gallery Lastekodu 1, 10115 Tallinn, Estonia.

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A walk from the city centre, this gallery had a yellow door with intertwined skeletons – a portent of doom?
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Edith Karlson and Dan Mitchell, The End

Starting at the beginning with the larger than life size cave person about to hurl a rock, and with hints of the big bang, this exhibition simultaneously conjures our possible, some would say, likely, dénouement. Seemingly using concrete, a semblance of lasting weight, it turns out to be empty inside and easy to push over. These materials concretise the sometimes solid sounding, hollow actions of our apparently sophisticated world. Both stark and comic-al, here is the destruction of our planet and interconnected neanderthal behaviour. It’s a warning!

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The internal heating pipes asked to be photographed! Once again the young man who opened the door to me (you have to ring), who could have been rather fed up as I arrived a mere 5 minutes before closing, was solicitous and shyly infromative, taking me into the back afterwards so I could see examples of the upcoming exhibition.

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These vaginal ceramics in their basket wombs were by Kris Lemsalu, an artist I had earlier seen in the main Art House. One of the 20 female artists ‘pushing sulpture forward’ as featured here

 Also to see in Estonia

KUMU contemporary art museum in Kadriorg Park, Tallin.

And don’t miss the ambitious art park planned for the bay of Pärnu, where each of the countries of the nine states of the Baltic Sea including Finland, Sweden, Estonia plus the autonomous Åland in the downtown of Pärnu. The Victoria and Albert Museum, in Dundee has recently opened in the harbour if you are visiting Scotland any time soon.

Kusama – Infinity

Documentary film, Kusama – Infinity about the artist Yayoi Kusama directed by Heather Lenz. The “top-selling, living, female artist.”

Kusama – Infinity is a fascinating film about the life and work of contemporary artist Yayoi Kusama born in 1929. Directed by Heather Lenz, it follows the traditional format of such documentaries with a host of famous ‘talking heads’ such as gallery directors from the Tate, colleagues including Carolee Schneemann, and Kusama herself. It charts her origins and upbringing in Matsumoto, Japan and primarily her dedication and determination which went mostly unnoticed before her consequent move to the US.

The development of her work is examined and contextualised: connections are sought between real life events and landscape, her internal psychology (she underwent Freudian analysis when she was younger and is currently living in a psychiatric hospital); and the thematic strands of her work. Beginning with the ‘net’ pieces inspired by seeing the pattern of fishing nets spread out on the surface of the Pacific Ocean from the aeroplane, the movie goes on to describe and show her love of dots and discs, chairs covered with white protruberances, the famous kaleidoscopic ‘infinity mirrors’ rooms, and ends with the current complicated collages and larger-than-life sculptures reminiscent of Joan Miro.

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She was at the forefront of artistic / political activism having lived through the Vietnam War (“I thought it was wrong, why send this beautiful [human] body to war”); the more conservative Nixon era when there was very little support for contemporary art, never mind female artists on the cutting edge; the space age (seeing the world as a series of very small spots from high up); the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki (“I made my art to try and change people’s minds”), and free love (she presided over the first homosexual weddings). To all of these she took a stance, responding with art, poignant and plaintive poetry, and costume.

There is a great deal of often compelling historical footage, particularly of her wonderful ‘happenings’. In ‘Narcissus Garden’ she hawked mirror balls for 2$ outside the Italian Pavillion of the Venice Biennale in protest. When the police tried to move her on, she stripped off her kimono revealing a red bodysuit and posed among the balls – never one to miss out on a photo opportunity.

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Thoughts on the Mausoleum of Modern Art at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in NYC was an especially delightful episode. “What’s modern here, I don’t see it” she said!

We are shown the letters between Kusama and Georgia O’Keefe from whom she asks advice early on; we see her in a non-sexual relationship with the famous artist Joseph Cornell (27 years her senior) who called her his princess; and hear how Frank Stella was the first to buy her artwork for $75 (it subsequently sold for and enormous $750,000). 

 

Like Louise Bourgeois who used her insomnia as inspiration, the two women also share the use of eyes, stitched work, and blood-red imagery, albeit this latter speaks of classic female subject matter. A contemporary of Niki de Saint Phalle, she has also worked on a monumental scale with bright blocks of colours and complex design including dots and eyes. In turn, she has clearly influenced contemporary female artists such as Anna Ray and Joana Vasconcelos. There are also tastes of indigenous Australian art and traditional Mexican patterns to be found. Pat Oldenburgh is quoted as saying that Claes (her husband) got the idea of soft sewing from her, and this and other blatant plagiarism caused Kusama to fall into depression.

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She constantly struggles with her mental health and the film addresses the possible origins of this – some “trauma in a field of flowers”; being sent by her mother to spy on her father’s sexual liaisons; being forced to sew parachutes in a military factory; and having her art torn from under her, all as a very young girl. There are lots of stills showing her with manic and tortured expressions, shots covering her multiple suicide attempts, and in her own words: “I covered myself in polka dots until I disappeared”.

There is not much to criticise in the film: she is described as touting her work “aggressively” in New York, such terms being used repeatedly about her intense resolution to get her work seen. It was sometimes difficult to know who was speaking at any one time, but it is questionable whether the language used to convey her behaviour would have been used for a male artist.

 

Kusama on the left, Michaelle Possum Nungurrayi, ‘Womens Ceremony’, an example of indigenous Australian art on the right.

Nowadays she is feted, and the feature opens and closes with her sporting a magenta bob and matching spotted dress, painstakingly painting massive and complex, undrafted art work (up to 33’ / over 10 metres) in primary colours full of symbols and, of course, dots.

Further reading:

Current exhibition: Kusama at the Victoria Miro Gallery, London

Entangled Threads exhibition review