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Southern Estonian Landscape

Aleksander Vardi Southern Estonian Landscape 1945 oil, paper 46 × 63 cm

In quite a few instances, the astonishing ability of Estonian artists to poeticise the pitiful is surprising. As people who grew up in the midst of nature, they have a perception in relation to the landscape, but also in relation to its individual elements, that people who are estranged from nature do not have. The person who walks about in the landscape as a flaneur oohs and aahs in response to external glamour. He can never get enough of enchanting landscapes because that is exactly what he has come to look for. Yet people for whom nature is not the Other, but rather is experientially intrinsic, often look at nature in an entirely different way: more intimately, in a friendlier way, forgiving nature for its flaws. Aleksander Vardi found the motif for this painting in inexpressiveness: a shrivelled tree in the middle of an empty landscape. It is difficult to see poetry in the motif itself. It is more of a non-place that does not induce one to feel or think. We pass such places by without stopping or noticing anything. But not Vardi. He patiently takes that which is shrivelled and starts making it poetic by mixing, blending and covering colours. He divides the surface of the painting more or less in half between the sky and the land, and he is intense in the lower half. A dense network of flat little brushstrokes creates ornamentation that is offset by the purity and significantly larger open expanse of the sky. On the one hand, it is as if Vardi does not notice details. Aside from a few trees, he does not consider anything else to be worth depicting. Yet on the other hand, that which is worth depicting can precisely be the very particular perception of details, because the artist generalises. Little nuances in the landscape are not unimportant for him, rather by joining them together and by generalising their forms, he gives them even greater value – the value of speaking of nature in general.