Capri

Konrad Mägi Capri 1922-1923 oil, canvas 57 × 66.5 cm

While the colours in Konrad Mägi’s Saaremaa paintings amplified the colouring of nature so intensely that their charge of energy grew somewhat larger than that of nature, the colouring of Mägi’s paintings still remained connected to what that colouring was depicting. The intense blue of sea cale, the brown rings of lichen covering the rocks, or the bleached white of the shingle originated from observation of nature, yet on Capri, where nature was exotic and foreign to Mägi, he separates colour from what it is depicting even more boldly in a certain sense. While he is indeed more discreet and laconic in his colours, not wishing to amplify them or to heighten their tension, the mountainside leading to the colonnade, for instance, is covered with abstract cascades of colour, for which it is difficult to find a counterpart in nature. The studies of colour around the lakelet at the heart of the picture also do not depict anything that is comprehensible to us. They are colours in and of themselves that have acquired complete independence from what the world offered Mägi at that moment. Mägi appears to be just as autonomous with its composition, dividing up the space according to the needs of the painting and not of the world. He singles out elements that suit him, and completely shuns those details that are useless for the painting. In his selection of motif, in other words at the literary level, Mägi’s ongoing affection for mysterious archaic objects naturally stands out: the church tower on the right-hand side of the picture and the colonnade that does not support anything on the left-hand side of the painting are good examples of the artist’s desire to find moments in the modernised 1920s when everything could only just have been born. Mägi does not demolish, he does not break up or destroy the existing world. His paintings never enter into active dialogue with the existing social order, rather they gently yet nevertheless relentlessly take us into moments when that order has lost all meaning whatsoever. Beneath apocalyptic skies, in intense coastal landscapes, or among ruins on Capri, we can admire a world that man has not yet managed – or is no longer able – to spoil.