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Like stones in flowing water

Updated: Oct 6, 2020

TALLINN 11.09 – 8.11.2020

Two painters and a ceramicist.

The other exhibition I saw this week is a group show called Like stones in flowing water at Tallinn City Gallery curated by Tamara Luuk. Two painters (Naima Neidre and Tiiu Pallo-Vaik) and a ceramicist (Ingrid Allik) share the space at Tallinn City Gallery and rarely do we see a group show as cohesive. In fact, if the supporting information (wall texts etc.) were taken away some might think at first glance that this was the work of one artist exploring similar themes through different media. And although such similarity might seem slightly odd, and dare I say, boring, that couldn’t be further from the mark.

This exhibition is a perfect illustration of what curating is all about. Tamara Luuk has conceived a show through a deep understanding of the work of the selected artists and a sensitivity resulting in an exhibition by three mature artists that is measured, poetic and beautiful while also being fresh and new. The master stroke arguably being the inclusion of Allik’s ceramics. That is not to say that the offerings from the other two rely on Allik’s presence, but this particular collection by Allik, in its mixture of the playful and quirky and more serious, understated poetic and suggestive forms, helps to provide a counterpoint that activates the lyrical abstract qualities of the 2D works by the other artists.

The watercolours by Naima Neidre in the front room, with their repetitive exploration of ovoid forms, enter into an obvious dialogue with Allik’s ceramic ‘rocks’, some of which resonate with Neidre’s contemplative and mysterious works on paper reminiscent of Klee and Chagall, but also of Morris Louis. This viewer was slightly irritated by the way the paper in some works had buckled and wrinkled, and although this did work against a pure and meditative appreciation of Neidre’s handling of colour in some cases, overall the works stand up to such a narrow attitude that says all such work should be on heavy hand-made Italian or German paper.

The oils in the back room by Tiiu Pallo-Vaik also worked well alongside Allik’s ceramic objects. The paintings were all large without being monumental, and while Neidre in the front room played with the wateriness of her medium to exploit its scope for layering and blurring the undertones of the pigment, Pallo-Vaik’s canvases used layering and a scumbled brush technique to produce images that also seem to come and go. A screen is laid across many of her images using deformed diagonal lines. Like looking through the crystalline patterns that form on a window facing a stormy sea, the screen rendered in muted greys takes us to a dark place, perhaps in the depths, a sunken wreck, a lurking monster. Indeed, in a couple of these, a clear animal form does appear – is it a horse? Is that one a dog? Animals often used symbolically by the romantics and expressionists loom at us out of the gloom as if from a poem by Ted Hughes.

Allik’s ceramics in the darker back room are also more sombre, suggestive of artefacts long lost on the seabed, only to be unearthed by some unusual and perhaps violent and cataclysmic natural event, thrown up to the light of day to reveal their hidden charms like forgotten treasure.

Hats off to Luuk for seeking out these artists and seeing the potential for such a satisfying and sensitive outing for all three.

Running until early November, this is well worth a visit and even benefits repeated viewings.

Nagud kivid voolavas vees (Like stones in flowing water)

Ingrid Allik, Tiiu Palo-Vaik and Naima Neidre

Curated by Tamara Luuk

Tallinn City Gallery

Harju 13 (just off Vabaduse väljak)

11.09 – 8.11.2020


By Michael Haagensen

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