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19.11.2010–04.02.2011 A Selection of Graphic Prints and Drawings From Enn Kunila’s Collection

The exhibition A Selection of Graphic Prints and Drawings from Enn Kunila’s Collection was held at Hiiumaa Museum’s Long House on 19 November 2010 – 4 February 2011.

Seventeen graphic prints and drawings by Aleksander Uurits, Jaan Vahtra, Eduard Wiiralt, Günther Reindorff and several other artists were on display at the exhibition.

It was technique first and foremost that these works had in common. The artists had used pencils or needles instead of brushes and focused on expressive forms, to which colours had also been added in some cases. The exhibition’s curator Eero Epner wrote in the text introducing the exhibition:
The charm of graphic prints and drawings lies in how a paucity of means is turned into artistic richness. The printmaker or also the drawer never has extensive opportunities for strikingly altering their works: as a rule, these works are small in size, and black and white, while at the same time the entire spectrum of colours is at the disposal of the painter, and he can even create mural paintings. Yet the printmaker and the drawer have to focus on something else. This is usually referred to as the ability to convey direct and sincere moods, situations and atmospheres.

Take Günther Reindorff’s drawings for instance. As is known, Reindorff hiked an awful lot, often spending entire days in the open air and incidentally also being a legendary fisherman. For this reason, Reindorff never went out into nature just to look around with the gaze of a city boy. He perceived very well that it is important to notice the passage of time, even if time is not measured in seconds, but rather in decades. He knew how to see beauty not only in striking and outrageous forms, but also in an ordinary tree trunk, which every viewer would not necessarily even notice. For this reason, we see completely ordinary motifs in Reindorff’s works, but they are conveyed warmly and with sincere interest.

Or look at the drawings of Aleksander Vardi or Johannes Võerahansu as well, for instance, which depict that which is the most important for those artists – their homeland. That was something which was on the verge of disappearing, was in danger at the time when the works were completed. Nowadays we perhaps see in them even ordinary views of Estonia, but in the Soviet era they kept alive something that was disappearing, that was endangered.

Aino Bach’s graphic print depicts a mother with a child – a frequent motif through the ages in art, since often the artist’s wish was to depict the so-called core values. The motifs and themes at this exhibition are also primarily ones that aspire to answer the question, what actually makes a person happy? It goes without saying that the answer is: family, home, nature.

Yet alongside such works, the works of Eduard Wiiralt, for instance, should also be looked at. They often touch life from the opposite side altogether, especially at the time in particular when Wiiralt himself was at enmity with life: alcohol and the vices of the big city were what simultaneously destroyed and inspired the artist. It is natural that these contradictions are also reflected in his oeuvre. Admittedly, upon returning to Estonia from Paris, even Wiiralt turned to Estonia’s natural settings. Viljandi tamm [Oak in Viljandi], which symbolised the Estonian homeland as it hung in the homes of many expatriate Estonians abroad, is perhaps the best-known example of this trend. Wiiralt, like Reindorff as well, knows how to admire the simplest motifs in particular: tree trunks, branches, leaves…

The cover of Gustav Suits’s collection of poems Tuulemaa [Land of Wind], created by Nikolai Triik, is also very important in terms of cultural history. Suits’s collection is one of the most important works in the history of Estonian literature, and not only because of its literary value, but also because it belonged to the time at the start of so-called contemporary European nationality culture – just like the paintings and drawings of his good friend Nikolai Triik.

It is worthwhile to look at the works of Aleksander Uurits in exactly the same context as well: these are prominent signs from our cultural history that speak of how in the space of only a generation or two, individuals emerged from among a relatively uneducated people who were able to connect with modern art trends and also interpret their own cultural heritage through those same trends.