VILNIUS ART FAIR 2018
7-10 June, 2018 @ Litexpo / Booth 3.13
"From Communism to Capitalism" / Selected Works by Estonian Artists from 1970 to 2010
Artists: Leonhard Lapin, Raul Meel, Peeter Allik, Andrus Joonas
This year, Avangard Gallery, which is primarily focused on Estonian art from the Soviet period, will be represented at the ArtVilnius 2018 art fair by a two-part exposition. One part will take a look at the contemporary art (by Leonhard Lapin, Raul Meel) that was condemned during the Soviet era, and this will be juxtaposed with the social critical art (by Peeter Allik, Andrus Joonas) born of a free society, which is no longer hampered by directives, prohibitions or taboos.
Leonhard Lapin (b. 1947) is one of the most important artists in post-war Estonia. He started in the 1960s, and quickly rose to be a leading avant-garde artist, as well as organiser and theoretician. His printmaking, and especially his series that dealt with the amalgamation of human and machine, attracted international attention. At the Vilnius fair, works from Lapin’s famous series Woman-Machine will be on display, which precipitated many conflicts between the artist and the authorities in the Soviet era. The works were criticised for their erotic motifs, and Lapin’s exhibition were constantly under KGB surveillance.
Raul Meel (b.1941) is one of the most significant representatives of conceptual art and concrete poetry in Eastern Europe, and he is known as Estonia’s most renowned autodidact and outsider. In the West, Meel’s experimental work was recognised with many awards as early as the 1970s, and the artist received invitations to many distinguished exhibitions. In the 1980s and 1990s, Meel’s talent and large-scale work also started to be recognised at home. Raul Meel has participated in numerous exhibitions at home and abroad and has received many important awards. At the ArtVilnius art fair, the visitors can see a small part of his enormous series Under the Sky (also known as "Under the Heavens", 1973-1974), including compositions in blue, black and white, the colour combination of the Estonian flag, which was prohibited during the Soviet era.
Peeter Allik (b.1966) represents the fresh and powerful graphic art born in independent Estonia, which had been freed from the prohibitions and taboos of the past. In the 1990s, he became a productive graphic artist and painter, whose work has been associated with the Neo-Pop wave, as well as the second coming of Surrealism of that decade. Allik’s works have a characteristic dose of socially critical grotesque. To quote Hannes Varblane, the world depicted in Allik’s works ‘invades us’ and it is impossible to ignore. Allik has won many awards in Estonia and elsewhere, including the Ado Vabbe Scholarship (1997), Konrad Mägi Prize (2001), Kristjan Raud Prize (2005), Chicago Printmakers Collaborative Prize, USA (2011); a diploma from the 5th Rokycany Biennial in Graphic Arts (2011), and many more.
Andrus Joonas (b. 1970) is a painter, performance and installation artist. He graduated from the Academia Grata of the Estonian Academy of Arts and was later a lecturer at both Academia Grata and Academia Non Grata. Joonas holds a firm place among the creators that powerfully cultivate the mystical and romantic myth of the artist. His life as an artist includes epiphanous moments of inspiration, tumultuous decisions, works burned in fits of depression, and pictures inspired by visions. Joonas’s comment on his creative output is that ‘The Answer is Aledoia’ – a word from the artist’s own mythology that was initially associated with a series of flower paintings, but later extended to his entire body of work.
Andrus Joonas’s installation Aledoia 72 or Memorial to the Victims of Capitalism or White House (2003) will be on view at the Vilnius fair's solo projects (Hall 3). A room built of old doors, it resembles a claustrophobic madhouse and functions as a metaphor for the actual countenance of the promised land and capitalism.
TALLINN ART WEEK 2018
Tarrvi Laamann's exhibition in Freedom Square, Tallinn
"KUGELBLITZ" / "Perception Games 3.0" @ Tartu Physicum Gallery
Artists: Indrek Aija, Arthur Grau, Jan Leo Grau, Jaak Kikas and Marko Toomast.
Curator: Jan Leo Grau.
"SHADES OF GRAU: 25 artists named Grau from around the world"
Exhibition at the Pärnu City Gallery, 19 October to 11 November 2017
Participating artists include: Arthur Grau (USA), Anna-Lena Grau (Germany), Cornelius Grau (Germany), Elulália Grau (Catalonia), Jan Leo Grau (Estonia), Janet Grau (Germany), Max Grau (Germany), Mathieu Grau (France/Andorra), Mia Grau (Germany), Pamela Grau (USA), Patty Grau (USA), Rubén Grau (Argentina) and others.
This international exhibition with an unusual curatorial concept brings a group of artists together at the Pärnu City Gallery, who, at first glance, seem only to be connected by their names (Grau) and their love of art. More than a year ago, a very diverse group of creative people from around the world started a Facebook group created for artists named Grau. The name Grau originates primarily from Germany, historical Catalan areas and Spain (Guerau, Gradum), and from the Jewish community, the members of which have emigrated to both South and North America.
The group of artists named Grau includes outstanding representatives of feminist art (Elulália Grau – one of the first to deal with feminist art in Catalonia), installation artists and sculptors (Anna-Lena Grau, Patty Grau, Pamela Grau, Rubén Grau), as well as contemporary painters who have tried to expand painting into a broader art genre than just one-dimensional pictures on a wall (Cornelius Grau). There are also performance artists and filmmakers (Mia Grau, Janet Grau, etc.) as well as sound artists (Mathieu Grau). The works of 16 artists from Germany, Argentina, Catalonia, France and the United States are on display. And the biographies-portfolios of nine of the selected artists are also included in the exhibition.
Although, based on ordinary curatorial practices, the selection of works may seem “random”, the concept of the exhibition can still be seen as multilayered. On the one hand, the exhibition discusses the author’s position in today’s art world where, after the death of the postmodernist author (à la Roland Barthes’s essay “The Death of the Author” published in 1967 that has greatly impacted the thinking in the cultural space of the West), the focus has been on art itself and the spread, appropriation, referring, repetition, parody, etc. of ideas rather than the romantic artists themselves. On the other hand, references to the criticism of corruption as a topical theme in today’s art world, and especially in tiny Estonia, are also included in the exhibition. And thirdly, a proper dose of absurdity can be found in the ideas at the exhibition, a theme that a great deal of contemporary art has focused on during the last few decades.
Exhibition curator: Jan Leo Grau (Avangard Gallery); graphic design: Indrek Aija
Support for the exhibition was provided by the Cultural Endowment of Estonia
HELENA KESKKÜLA "Sandgrain’s Ballad"
RAIVO KORSTNIK "Looking Back: From Social Realism to Modernism"
Exhibition is dedicated to the 85th anniversary of Estonian painter Raivo Korstnik and will give a brief introduction to his art from the late fifties to early nineties. Raivo Korstnik graduated from Estonian State Art Institute in 1957 and belonged to the painters´ generation who modernized Estonian art.
Exhibition is supported by Estonian Cultural Endowment and Pärnu City Government
LEONHARD LAPIN "MACHINES"
The Machine picture series is not simply a series of drawings on industrial themes, but rather a conceptual series with a certain philosophical subtext. By analysing machines, an artificial environment, Leonhard Lapin (1947) reached the conclusion in 1972 that machines are a new stage of development in nature, the structure of new reality. This reality does not include solely isolated machines like automobile or airplane for example, rather it encompasses artificial objects, structures and processes in the widest sense right through to modern hierarchies and industrial societies.
The world of machines, which extends from doorlocks to space ships, is a new nature created by human intelligence, new anorganics, which has independent laws already presently unfathomable and incomprehensible to people, assuming the consistent transformation of nature called progress. Here let us name the pollution of nature, so difficult to regulate, or even the military expansion of nations as a manifestation of the independence of the world of machines. Precisely a similar emancipation denotes the world of machines as a new natural structure analogous to the world of rocks, plants and animals, the existence of which we know of and which we also employ to a certain extent, yet are incapable of completely comprehending and regulating.
Lapin’s objective is not to glorify the artificial environment by using it in his work of art analogously to classical constructivism nor to expose it analogously to neoromanticism (surrealists, dadaists, abstractionists), but rather simply to present the nature of machines as a real fact through figurative art. The main point is the wish to allude to the existence of a new nature with this series, to a process which forms new conditions throughout cosmic nature and an artificial world, the functioning of which we still hardly acknowledge to ourselves.
Exhibition is supported by Estonian Cultural Endowment, Pärnu City Government and The Union of Estonian Architects
ELINA KASESALU "HAIR/FEAR"
TIINA NEVALAINEN: SHADES
02.04-30.04.2017 / Vernissage: 1st April 2017 @ 17 o'clock
Exhibition consists of abstract paintings that are all about colors and shades. Nevalainen tries to depict reality in her own abstract way and portrays the everyday colors around us the way they change day by day and season by season.
SANDRA JÕGEVA: SOFTCORE
"Softcore" is an exhibition based on Sandra Jõgeva's installation on her 12 year experience as a dominatrix, consisting of 10 images with texts, original letters from clients. The photos with texts are printed on 300 inflatable pillows (23 x 30 cm) and 14 canvases (20 x 30 cm).
Photos: Jaak Kikas
Graphic design: Teet Raudsepp
Translation to English: Juta Ristsoo
The exhibition is supported by Malle Leis, Villu Jõgeva and Estonian Artists` Association, Pärnu Town Government
SILVIA PÄRMANN & KALEVI TAMM: DIALOGUES
Exhibition is an attempt to create dialogue between two Estonian travel photographers - Silvia Pärmann and Kalevi Tamm. While Silvia is interested in depicting traditional lifestyles of poor 3rd world countries and cultures, Kalevi Tamm has chosen his main subject to be modern architecture and contemporary cityscapes.
TÕNIS VINT: PRINTS AND POSTERS FROM SOVIET ERA
Tõnis Vint is one of the key figures in Estonian art in the second half of the 20th century. After graduating from the State Art Institute of the Estonian S.S.R. in 1967, Tõnis Vint (b. 1942) worked as a graphic designer, creating innovative designs and changing the appearance of several magazines. At the same time, he worked as a fine graphic artist, staying in dialogue with both contemporary art and earlier (art) traditions, including the ornamental systems of various cultures and Oriental aesthetics. Exhibition reveals both, his graphic artworks and poster designs from late 1970s to early 1990s.RAUL MEEL / KIWA
Current exhibition is an attempt to create dialogue between two Estonian artists form different generations that work in the field of textual art. Raul Meel (b.1941) is one of the most significant representatives of conceptual art and concrete poetry in Eastern Europe, and he is known as Estonia’s most renowned autodidact and outsider. In the West, Meel’s experimental work was recognised with many awards as early as the 1970s, and the artist received invitations to many distinguished exhibitions. In the 80s and 90s, Meel’s talent and large-scale work also started to be recognised at home. Raul Meel has participated in numerous exhibitions at home and abroad and has received many important awards. Kiwa (b. 1975) belongs to the generation of artists who entered the art scene in the 1990s and whom the art critics have labelled X, Y, E or TV generation. Aside from the active, as a rule deconstructible media image, the main characteristics of this generation could also be referred to as interdisciplinary and inter-textual. Quotes, pastiche, games with language and identity, (post) psychoanalysis and schizo-analysis were all seen as self-explanatory techniques; keywords such as conceptuality, simulacrum and the absurd also hold an important position. In current show he reaserches the the topics of void and nothingness. He exhibits the series of works as hommages to Raul Meel's renowned typewriter poems.
HERKKI ERICH MERILA
"Real Estate of Mind"
Herkki Erich Merila (born 1964 in Tallinn) is considered the father of contemporary Estonian photography. And as is it often the case with great artists, he is drawn to one of the most eternal motifs of all times – the female body. Merila also works in fashion photography and uses a similar formal approach in his other works as well, with the difference of removing the clothes from his models. In an equal amount of the symbolism of the gesture, the previous remark was made ironically, yet it does have a point. The woman, whose face we never see is like a canvas in Merila’s artistic work, in relation to which the spaces of form and substance actualise. Without a human dimension, which is embodied by the beautiful nude, the composition would be empty and formalist. At the same time, however, the narrative in the photograph could take another direction: forest as a primal value ennobles and justifies the male desire for female beauty.*
*Photographic Art Fair 2014
AVANGARD GALLERY AT ART COPENHAGEN'S SELECTED ART FAIR
EXHIBITION "BEHIND THE IRON CURTAIN: Pop Art Images in Estonian Art from the Soviet Period”
Artists: Leonhard Lapin, Raul Meel
The focus of the exposition is the pop art and avant-garde art of the Soviet era during the 1970s. The artists represent a unique phenomenon in the context of Soviet art life. Lapin and Meel are members of a generation of artists who sought to update the art idiom and break out of the confines of official art, i.e.socialist realism. And to do so against the background of the youth culture and hippie movement that developed in the West. One could also speculate that the local superficial interpretations of Western pop culture and contemporary art indicated a striving on the part of the artists for (creative) freedom. The development of local pop art was helped by the forbidden art books and magazines that leaked in from the West, which introduced art that could be copied and interpreted by artists in a personal way.
The objective of the exhibition is to introduce the distinctive features of Estonian Pop Art and avant-garde art, which form a very interesting niche in the context of broader European art history. Elsewhere, the consumer culture provided the subject matter for pop art, but in the anti-capitalist Soviet system, there were not goods in the stores and the shelves were empty. Therefore, pop art spoke of haphazard narratives, quoted Western art, paused on parody and the absurd and was, by nature, more like a strange subculture than a clearly defined artistic style. Estonia, which has also been called the “Soviet West” was the only region in the Soviet Union, where pop art burgeoned and spread. Despite this, the majority of the works presented at Art Copenhagen were seldom exhibited during the Soviet era, and several of them caused great scandals at the time. According to Leonhard Lapin, he was able to exhibit only one or two of the few hundred works that he executed each year. For example, his Self-Portrait with Venus (1982), which is on display in Copenhagen, was seen by the KGB as promoting homosexuality.
At that time, Raul Meel, who used the forbidden blue-black-and-white colour combination (of the Estonian flag) in his art, appeared illegally at several foreign exhibitions, and therefore, garnered recognitions early on. In Copenhagen, a part of his series Under the Sky from 1973 will be exhibited, which has received prizes at international competitions, and prints of which are now at MoMA in New York, the Art Museum of Estonia and other large art museums.
Leonhard Lapin (born in 1947) is one of the best-known Estonian artists internationally. His main themes are related to language and space, as well as the relationships between nature, machines and people. He has been active in fine art, art theory and architecture, as well as literature. He studied architecture at the Estonian Academy of Arts from 1966 to 1971. Besides working as an architect, being influenced by Andy Warhol and Russian constructivism, he also produced Pop Art and avant-garde art in the late 1960s and 1970s.
In 1968, Lapin along with his colleagues formed the SOUP 69 artists’ group, which organised exhibits that tried to push the envelope. But the boundaries were quickly felt. The headstrong artist was blacklisted; museums and other official circles no longer bought his works. Lapin began designing private homes, which provided him with enough income to create art. After the borders were opened, he quickly garnered international attention and his works are now included in the collections of various art museums around the world.
Helsinki City Art Museum, Alvar Aalto Museum (Jyväskylä, Finland), Contemporary Art Museum of Armenia (Jerevan), Bridgestone' Art Museum (Japan), Cooremans' Institute (Brussels, Belgium), Cremona Foundation (Minneapolis, USA), Ćiurlionis Art Museum (Kaunas, Lithuania), Frankfurt Museum of Architecture (Germany), Zimmerli Art Museum (New Jersey, USA), Kaleva Art Collection (Oulu, Finland), Kiasma (Helsinki), New York Library, Niemisto Foundation (Helsinki, Finland), Oulu Art Museum (Finland), Pori Art Museum (Finland), National Gallery of Sweden (Stockholm, Sweden), Sydney Museum of Contemporary Art (Australia), Skopje Art Museum (Slovenia), Bank of Finland, Tallinn Art Hall, Tartu Art Museum, Tretyakov Gallery (Moscow, Russia), Vaasa University, Art Collection of the White House (Washington, USA), Russian Museum (St. Petersbourg), Walker Art Centre (Minneapolis, USA),Villany Art Collection (Brandenburg, Germany), Art Museum of Estonia, Estonian Museum of Architecture, Estonian Bank, Viinistu Art Museum and numerous private collections.
Raul Meel (born in 1941) is a self-taught printmaker, painter, installation and performance artist as well as concrete poet. From the 1960s to the 1980s, he represented the radical wing of innovation in Estonian art. During the Soviet occupation, he was a “not recommended artist”, but quickly gained recognition on the Western art scene. Meel has received more than 20 awards for his art; half of them internationally. In 1968, when Meel joined the circle of experimental artists, he started to feel an affiliation to the Western avant-garde of the 1960s and 1970s. In a short period of time he became the best-known representative of Estonia’s neo-avant-garde, whose artistic languages engaged the minimalism and conceptualism that was hindered by all means in the Soviet Union. Therefore his creation can also be viewed as a political discourse, which emphasizes an antagonistic confrontation with the prevailing art system.
His decision to change the iconic imagery to text, was unacceptable. Meel was the first Estonian artist to participate in European exhibitions oriented to avant-garde artists, and therefore, garnered wider international recognition. Nowadays he is a prominent figure in both the national and international art scenes.
MoMA (New York, NY, USA), Guggenheim (New York,NY; USA), Zimmerli Art Museum (Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ., USA), Louisiana Museum of Modern Art (Denmark), Charles Pompidou Center (Paris, France), Senate of United States of America (Washington), Columbia University (New York, USA), Gallery GKM (Malmö, Sweden), Art Collection of Elcoteq Network (Finland and Estonia), Kuopio Museum of Art (Kuopio, Finland), „Imatran Voima” art collection (Helsinki, Finland), Kaleva Art museum (Oulu, Finland), Museum of Contemporary Art of Armenia (Yerevan, Armenia), Art collection of the Verannemann Foundation (Belgium), Vilnius Picture Gallery (Lithuania), Museum Ludwig (Cologne, Germany), National Museum of Poland (Krakow, Poland), Kiasma, Museum of Contemporary Art (Finland), Pori Art Museum (Finland), Lahti Art Museum (Finland), New Orleans Art Museum (USA), Baltic Institute’s Art Collection (Stockholm,Sweden), Art collection of Uus-Valamo Monastery (Finland), Rotary International Art Collection (Chicago, IL, USA), Estonian Embassy in Finland (Helsinki, Finland), Art Museum of Estonia and many others.
The current exhibition displays the manuscript of Estonian first meditation comic strip using the
unique techniques of glue-prints on sand and xylopainting on canvas.
Tarrvi Laamann (b. 1973) studied printmaking at the Estonian Academy of Arts, graduated the master’s program in 2000, and has been a member of the Estonian Artists’ Association since 1994. From September 1998, Laamann has been known for organizing the Bashment events introducing reggae culture at Estonian and foreign stages.
Tarrvi Laamann justifies the use of the woodcut technique as follows: “You never know what the result will be, because wood plays tricks like crazy. OK, if I worked with a smooth oak board, the result would be more predictable. But I work with plywood. This is what makes it interesting, because there are many elements – I have the feeling that I haven’t even made it, but God or someone else has put stupid ideas into my head and then the woodcut adds its own quirks. I like that. One can’t really control it, just like life.” Tarrvi Laamann’s pictures are influenced by reggae and its homeland Estonia. Trips to the “colored worlds” have added bright colors, smells, tastes, warmth, rhythms and a feeling that you are on vacation. All this radiance and colorfulness results in a beauty that is more spiritual than decorative. Laamann’s works are positive and happy; it’s his way of improving the world.
Exhibition is supported by Cultural Endowment of Estonia
Printmaking IN" is the largest annual international printmaking festival in Estonia taking place in all exhibition spaces in Pärnu: Avangard Gallery, Pärnu City Gallery, Artists House, Port Artur, Pärnu Centre, Endla Theater, Central Library, Pärnu College and city space.
Nowadays printmaking decodes and searches trends of development from different cultural fields and brings together artists, writers and audiovisual multidisciplinary. Main emphasis of the exhibitions in Pärnu is on individual programs of internationally known artists and artist groups. Innovative approaches can be seen from every corner of the world - Europe, Asia and America.
Avangard Gallery presents the solo exhibition of Anonymous Boh from internationally renowned performance art group Non Grata. The exhibition is based on performances by Non Grata, held in various parts of the world, and the documentation that has taken on new meanings. The scenes from past performances are placed in a new context and are reconceptualised as the time, space and audience change. That is, according to what the artist wants to say to the world. Boh is the kind of artist whose creative processes involving one single work of art might never be finished. He tries to find new ways to recontextualise the documentation of completed performances – sometimes as supplements, other times as independent pieces replenished with new meanings.
“Anonymous Boh, via non-stop world tours, performances, exhibitions, and publications, has created one of the most representative, significant, timely and transformative art movements in all of history. As Ring Master, Boh has become the Wild Bill Hickok, the P.T. Barnum, the Alfred Jarry, the Tristan Tzara, the Ezra Pound, the Orson Welles of our Era. We have entered The Apocalypse, The Storm. Boh, implementing all The Arts via NON GRATA’S Diverse Universe global performances, reveals to us not only where we presently stand in The Storm but he also conjures visions of our soon to be realized post-apocalyptic absurdly playfully tormented kaleidoscopic landscapes.
-- Ron Whitehead, Outlaw Poet, Kentucky
“Al is a grizzly bear with a chain saw in a jack in the box. As dangerous and amusing as that sounds, he’s unpredictable, boundless and one step ahead of all who surround him. His stories are real, his madness is real. Just grab hold and enjoy the ride, this journey has many twists and turns and sometimes there are no roads.”
-- Andy Cook, Musician and publisher, California
LEONHARD LAPIN. MALLE LEIS. VILLU JÕGEVA.
"Pop Art Images in Estonian Art from the Soviet Period"
The goal of the exhibition is to examine the manifestations of Pop Art in Estonian art during the Soviet period based on the work of three very different artists. Lapin, Leis and Jõgeva are all part of the generation whose task it became to break the constraints of Socialist Realism and update the art idiom. The groups of young artists – ANK64, SOUP64 and Visarid – were the first to introduce “free-thinking” and contemporary art, and with their activities promote the prohibited experimental and radical ideas that were based to a great extent on the discovery of Western-style art.
Of course, the nature of the Pop Art that had sprung from the capitalist consumer culture in the West was something different than our local Pop Art on the other side of the Iron Curtain, which was domesticated into “Union Pop”. Instead of Marilyn Monroe or comic book heroes, the works of the local artists featured ordinary objects and local “superstars” à la Leonhard Lapin’s Lydia Koidula (1971) and Kristjan Jaak Peterson included in the exhibition; unknown models (Malle Leis’s Milvi, 1975) in the cheerful colouring inherent of Pop Art; or original narratives (Leonhard Lapin’s pictorial series Departed Heart, 1971).
The new and experimental works also required new and experimental technologies, which were developed from the available resources. At the exhibition, Malle Leis’s unique silk-screen prints deserve special attention. They were painted directly onto the silk and printed with paint mixed of tempera and oils onto paper, achieving an extraordinarily broad spectrum of colours.
Villu Jõgeva’s path to kinetic art started in the early 1960s along with pure aesthetics of the ANK64 group, the hippie movement and the contempt for institutions, by perceiving that things related to electronics can be enjoyable and function not only as objects but also subjects of art. The exhibition includes the later refinements of Jõgeva’s kinetic light objects from the late 1990s and 2000s, juxtaposed with photos of the Yellow Summer series completed in 1975.
Included in the exhibition are some of the rarest works of classic Estonian Pop Art by Leonhard Lapin, who was active in the SOUP69 from 1968 to 1970, most of which were only shown in narrow art circles at the time. The exhibition will be open until 29 July 2016.
The exhibition is supported by the Pärnu City Government and Cultural Endowment of Estonia.
Jan Grau (1977) is a multidisciplinary artist who plays with the traditional boundaries of photography, installation and painting in order to create an universal improved media. His main research objects are memory and empehemerality with a slight touch of social critique.
This exhibition of works by Mart Org, an exile artist with Pärnu roots who left Estonia in 1944, is his first solo show in Estonia and includes works from 1970 to 2015. This series produced by the artist who resides in Stockholm speaks about home and memories. Previously, Org’s work has been exhibited in his homeland at the Art Museum of Estonia’s Estonian Art in Exile show.
JAAK KIKAS, JAN GRAU, MARKO TOOMAST, INDREK AIJA
9.04 – 6.05. 2016
The exhibition examines the aspects of photographic art, in which it can be said that the photos do not reflect reality. In their work, the four artists examine distortions, reflections and dislocations, and play with illusions and the viewer’s perception.
"NEW YOUNG FASHION" / "UUS NOOR MOOD" - YOUNG FASHION DESIGNERS
An exhibition of prizewinning designs by young fashion designers. The exhibition is organised as part of the national NoorMood 2016 competition for young fashion designers.
Participating designers: Kirke Talu, Mirjam Kalmann, Laura Viia and Tiina Lüüsalu
Curator: Lembe Lemmiksoo
In this exhibition, Kurvits continues the Egyptian theme he introduced in the early 2000s. There are portraits of magnificent pharaohs, who are supported by Roman soldiers as new characters, which, with their brutal portraits, seem like extremely topical allegories for the current political landscape with its international conflicts and thirst for power.
On outsider art and the artist
Aivar Kurvits is associated primarily with art brut, and its synonym, outsider art, which is derived from the English-speaking cultural space.
The term art brut was introduced by Jean Dubuffet, one of the most famous French painters and sculptors of the last century, and in direct translation it means “raw art.” Dubuffet described raw art as any form of self-expression with a spontaneous and extremely innovative handwriting, which is connected as little as possible to the generally accepted concepts of art. According to Dubuffet, the people who deal with such art are usually eccentrics, who are like foreign bodies in the professional art circles. They are mental or social outsiders who plan and produce their work outside of the usual fine arts venues – schools, galleries, museums, etc. It is art that is created without a thought for the general art public, or actually, without a thought for any kind of public, regardless of the prevailing requirements and value judgements of the art world. In short, art brut is the opposite of so-called “cultural art” including even its avant-garde forms.
However, in the contemporary context, Dubuffet’s approach to art brut or outsider art can be considered somewhat outdated. During the past few decades, the foundling of the last century has pushed its way into the mainstream art landscape and the eremites who were previously segregated from the rest of the world have become full-fledged members of the art world.
This is also true of Aivar Kurvits, for whom this is his 31st solo exhibition in Estonia. He has also successfully participated in many foreign exhibitions in Europe, Chile, Africa and elsewhere.
Aivar Kurvits, who was born in 1959, was separated from his family due to congenital poliomyelitis. He spent his childhood in various orphanages, and received his education at the Haapsalu Sanatorium Boarding School.
In the years immediately after Estonia regained its independence, he lived in the Tori Nursing Home, where he participated actively in the mixed choir. Since 1995, he had been a permanent resident of the Tammiste Nursing Home.
At the end of the 1990s, when the art world was rediscovering outsider artists, and the first Art Summers were organised in Tammiste, those involved with the Academia Non Grata at that time were actively searching for local talent in this field. Thus, Aivar Kurvits found his way to the alternative art school, and by participating in the studies during the subsequent years, acquired a basic knowledge in painting, drawing, graphic art and art history. This was followed by participation in numerous exhibitions here and abroad.
Aivar Kurvits can be regarded as the most productive representative of outsider art in Estonia. And he was awarded the Art Prize by the Parnumaa Expert Group of the Cultural Endowment of Estonia in 2005, and the annual Pärnu Art Prize in 2009.