Inner Courtyard

Olev Subbi Inner Courtyard 1986 tempera, oil, masonite 85 × 115 cm

Inner Courtyard is a miniseries of nudes in which the figures have been made one with the background by using the same colours on their bodies as in the backgrounds. Subbi used the same technique in his later oeuvre for some urban motifs, tying the focal point of the painting together with the backdrop with the help of a colourful horizontal strip (see, for example, The Eighth Strange City). Here the artist was more discreet in his treatment of nudes. He does not make his nude as open to the viewer as in the 1970s and, instead of erotic tension or harmonious ideals, we sense thoughtfulness and a cautious shutting down. This brings the focus to abstract colour planes and Subbian brushwork. Earlier, these were used as a mere backdrop for the nude figure but now they play the dominant role, while the human figure is just part of the ornamentation, being dissolved in colours. In the mid-1980s, Subbi moved towards abstractionism, which is also witnessed in Inner Courtyard: while the nude figure is used to hold on to reality, the rest of the painting is quite abstract in nature. An important aspect is the transition between cold and warm tones: warm spots of colour make up little nests in the overall expanse of the cold shades.