Estonian artists have been fascinated by the islands many times during art history. For example the works that the twin brothers Kristjan and Paul Raud made on Muhu island, Amandus Adamson’s Pakri reflections, scenes from the åland Islands by Nikolai Triik, Konrad Mägi’s Saaremaa period, Evald Okas’s fishermen from Kihnu island – and so on. Although the locus has been the same for all the artists and although they have all found inspiration namely from the islands, yet their approach and point of view are entirely different. One of them captures exciting characters, another is inspired by the laconic landscape, yet another admires the ethnographic exoticism and someone depicts the island’s everyday life. But Uno Roosvalt with his current exhibition adds another dimension here.
The islands, of course, are not a new subject for
Roosvalt. Actually he is well-known namely due to those works – Uno Roosvalt
and “the islands” belong together on Estonian art landscape. Having been born
Unlike the works of Paul Raud or Evald Okas we almost never see people in Roosvalt’s works. The islands breathe in their own rhythm but people are nowhere in sight. And still Roosvalt does not paint landscapes without people. The traces of human activities can clearly be seen here and there: some boats or some patterns from folk costumes. Roosvalt paints the so-called cultural landscape, i.e. how the human beings change and influence the landscape, and vice versa. Namely the latter constitutes the very essence of Roosvalt’s paintings: he is interested in how the landscape changes human behaviour, what kind of influence the specific forms of nature have on the signs, meanings and symbols of human culture and on the human life itself.
Roosvalt’s paintings are nature paintings, no doubt. However he does not paint the nature in itself, he does not capture trees and bushes and the sea but puts them all into context. We may not learn anything about geography from his paintings, we do not recognise the specific places, we may even doubt whether these landscapes and these trees really originate from the island. But we may definitely learn something about what living on an island means for a human being. What way of thinking suits living on an island. What do you have to do to make the island talk to you. From Roosvalt’s last pictures it seems that after decades of peaceful dialogue it is now time to be festive. It is time to be elated, epic, uprising and proud. It is time to be happy.