Exhibition > Past > SEB Gallery

SEB Gallery 04.09.2008-17.10.2008


The so-called travel landscapes constitute a truly remarkable and surprisingly large chapter in Estonian art. It is a genre that can describe the most outstanding part of Estonian landscape paintings at the end of the 19th and at the beginning of the 20th century as all the major artists travelled to a larger or lesser extent in Northern, Central and Southern Europe and were productive and successful in their creative work there. Southern Europe is of particular importance here, fascinating the artists naturally not with the “familiar”, “northern” or “Estonian” things but with exotic, unfamiliar and different. For example, Johann Köler and his Italian period, Ants Laikmaa and Capri Island, Konrad Mägi and Venice come to mind. It is Italy that clearly stands out from among the other European countries when we talk about sources of inspiration for Estonian artists. Spain which Konrad Mägi called his dreamland (but which he never visited), plays a much more modest role.


Mari Roosvalt took a trip to Spain to Valencia and Barcelona in 2007. Yet her paintings belong organically together with the series created by other Estonian artists elsewhere in Europe about a hundred years before her time. The source is the same for both of them: something unknown and unexpected is experienced in a foreign country, which, no doubt, inspires an artist. But unlike Laikmaa, for example, who lived in Capri for one year, or Köler whose Italian period lasted for three years, Roosvalt stayed in Spain only for a few weeks. It is a short period of time but namely that has determined the character of Roosvalt’s paintings.


It is obvious that if someone stays in an unfamiliar environment for such a short period, his or her perception of the surroundings can be particularly intense. Knowing that something will end soon makes one always explore that “something” more closely and with greater passion. That is what happened with Roosvalt - it took her just a few weeks to draw inspiration for a whole new series of paintings. All the corners here are sharp, only one point of view is presented, everything in her paintings strikes as new and unprecedented, and no mood is captured twice. Such intensity and freshness of impressions brightens up Roosvalt’s palette, makes it multicoloured and powerful. No, the artist has not been afraid of maybe not depicting the “real” Spain – this here is h e r Spain. It has been experienced, seen, absorbed – but is still unknown.


There is yet another aspect. If a person stays somewhere for not too long, he or she does not have the time to explore the riches of the country’s cultural heritage, thousands of characters of the people or hundreds of possibilities in architecture to their depth. He or she will see only a fragment of the country (and it is always rather random). That’s why the search for “truth” in Roosvalt’s works, i.e. what Spain really looks like, is futile. Her paintings do not constitute a detailed overview of Spain and it seems pointless to compare one’s o w n impressions of Spain with hers. No, of course Roosvalt has not seen the exact same objects, sensed the same atmosphere or found the same meanings that you have, although you have visited the exact same place. Despite of that it would be wrong to think that Roosvalt has not painted the “real” Spain. She has. But even more she has painted her own Spain, or to be more exact: through Roosvalt’s works we learn much more about the artist herself than about Spain. An extraordinary map unfolds before us, through which we understand what exactly interested the artist in Spain’s myriad of possibilities. The answers, of course, may not come as a surprise: the light, the architectural objects, the colours, the verve, the passion…


Yet in the same way as Roosvalt’s impressions of Spain do not match yours, they do not match Ado Vabbe’s either, for example. There’s nothing one can do. “Situation” confirms an old truth: each person is unique in his or her own way. And so is each country.

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