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Random Light

Olev Subbi Random Light 1995 Acrylic and oil on hardboard 60 × 80 cm

Olev Subbi’s oeuvre developed into completely abstract art in the 1980s. In abstractionism, he was primarily interested in colours: how to make colours as autonomous as possible without having them depict specific objects. “I started making abstract pictures at the time when this genre was least popular,” said the artist. In a letter to his sister, he wrote “I am deeply interested in the question of how autonomous a painting can be and how it can manage with less of a narrative or even completely without one. By this I mean a fisherman’s yellow oilskin without the fisherman, the blue of the sea without the sea, a space without a horizon, but at the same time keeping all the scenic material. Would interest in the picture remain the same and would there be emotional references to something generally familiar?”

Random Light is comprised of abstract forms and colours used to depict these forms, with a focus on cold tones. Subbi discarded all narratives and instead of recording familiar motifs, he opened the space to associations. His emphasis was on composition. The greyish background of the shapes and the blackness underneath all the colours unite everything into a whole. In spreading out colours, Subbi attempted to create balance between different parts of the painting, for instance by repeating the yellow from the bottom right corner in the upper left corner.