On the Lakeshore

Ado Vabbe On the Lakeshore 1945 oil, canvas 43.8 × 55.5 cm

Sometimes art can be a means not for self-expression, but for remedying oneself. Perhaps this is too grandiose a word, but when looking at Ado Vabbe’s painting Järve kaldal [On the Lakeshore], such thoughts inevitably arise. The work was painted in 1945 after a whole series of tragedies both individual and affecting society as a whole, including among others the death of his wife, the burning of his studio, poverty and hunger. The bright tones of the painting, however, yet above all its openness, leave the viewer with an altogether different kind of feeling. Vabbe has worked quickly and many-sidedly. He does not even try to turn the painting into an insipid platform for personal feelings, rather he continues to be guided by the principle that the true value of a work of art stands apart from what is consciously put into the work. A painting is always an aspiration plus something more – and that ‘plus something more’ lies in the language of the brushing style as well as in colour in this case. Particularly in the front part of the painting, the trajectories of Vabbe’s brush have left behind an abstract arabesque. His brushstrokes are of different lengths and in different directions. This ornamentation spreads over the whole painting, rising especially on the picture’s right-hand side to its upper part and continuing in lines evidently made using the back end of the brush across the water surface. Although the painting is filled with numerous layers of colour, the work has not been ‘painted shut’. Freedom and lightness emanate from it, and the work’s motif stresses this feeling even more so. Vabbe is interested in the situation in general. He has not focused on faces or on psychologising or dramatizing the scene excessively. Like many other Estonian artists, Vabbe prefers to describe a situation not at a concrete level, but rather at a universal level common to all humanity.