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An exhibition with air

TALLINN 1 October – 28 November 2021

The exhibition Pine-fulness (Mändfulness) that recently opened at City Gallery on Harju tänav on the edge of Tallinn’s Old Town is a breath of fresh air.

Here is an exhibition that, in spite of the thorough research and preparation on the part of curator Siim Preiman, has managed to retain that feeling of freshness we see in an initial sketch.

Curators and artists often have good ideas for exhibitions, but then under pressure to do the job “properly”, end up allowing the research for the show to dominate the resulting physical expression. What visitors then have to contend with is often a muddy collection of items as evidence of the hard work of the curator(s). For an exhibition to work well, it is important that it has an after-image (or sensation) for the visitor as they return home or go about the rest of their day. Like a fine wine can have a lingering palette, the longer that after-image stays with the visitor, the more the content of the show is likely to have reached its mark. And in the best cases, will inspire repeat visits.

Siim Preiman has found a sweet spot in this exhibition in that what seems like a strangely disparate collection of artists spanning numerous decades actually creates a moment. Who would have thought that environmental cartoons from the Soviet era (Ollimar Kallas) would work alongside a contemporary video work (Hanna Samosan), or a painting from the naughties (Mull Nukke).

It is exactly the variety of media and styles and the precise selection by Preiman that manages to take us through so much in such a short space without feeling eclectic or contrived or cramped.

The only place I felt was slightly problematic was the back room, where Eike Eplik’s delicate wire drawings of often overlooked beauties (herbs and weeds) from the field and the forest floor shares the space with a super-size screen showing Hanno Samosan’s striking video exploring the mind of a long-distance runner. To some extent, the video dominates the space and ends up providing a soundscape for Eplik’s delicate works, something I always find irritating – noisy works elbowing in on quieter more contemplative works.

But considering the limitations of City Gallery, we have to cut Preiman and the installation team some slack, and on reflection, the presentation of Eplik’s small works were hung and lit well enough that it was possible to more or less completely blank out the audio from the video behind you as you enter a world of minutiae. I was also able later to become totally immersed in the surreal sci-fi-esque world of Samosan's runner.

I came away with numerous after images that mostly managed to sing with clarity. I am sure I will be making repeat visits to further enjoy the individual works and the exhibition as a whole.

The exhibition includes work by seven artists: Eike Eplik, Ollimar Kallas, Reet Kasesalu, Jan Lütjohann, Mall Nukke, Hanna Samosan and Johannes Säre.

Pine-fulness (Mändfulness)

1 October – 28 November 2021

Tallinn City Gallery

13 Harju tänav


Post by Michael Haagensen


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