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Flowers and White Cloth

Olev Subbi Flowers and White Cloth 1982 tempera, oil, masonite 79.5 × 56.7 cm

Still lifes have always been part and parcel of Olev Subbi’s oeuvre, but they offer an alternative point of view on Subbi’s artistic temperament. Subbi’s art, particularly from the 1970s and 1980s, is known for large-scale spectacles that are extremely elaborate and complicated, with multiple layers to their composition and intricate colour schemes. His still lifes, on the other hand, reveal a more unsophisticated and straightforward Subbi. Instead of a staged pictorial space his still lifes tend to feature spaces consisting of only a few components, and the artist is overtly focused on what is most important for him: colour.  In this painting we can also see that the purpose of all the props in the background is to serve as a neutral screen highlighting the colour of the flowers. Subbi painted white pieces of cloth throughout his career, but in this case the role of the simple white sheet drawn on the backdrop is auxiliary: it prevents the background from being too interesting, which is often the case in Subbi’s paintings. Subbi has resorted to primary colours in depicting the flowers, with the addition of a few delicate nuances and details. Special attention ought to be paid to his brushwork: the artist has really made an effort to fine-tune every square centimetre, the brush moving in different directions with varied force, and the length and rhythm of the brushstrokes also alternate.