Cold Look. Variations of Hyperrealism in Estonian Art 13/05/2016 – 09/10/2016

Kumu Art Museum
Adult: Kumu Art Museum
  • Family: Kumu Art Museum
  • Discount: Kumu Art Museum
  • Adult ticket with donation: Art Museum of Estonia
Jaan Elken. Kajakas (detail). 1982. Eesti Kunstimuuseum

Cold Look. Variations of Hyperrealism in Estonian Art

Location: 4th floor, B-wing

The term hyperrealism denotes, first of all, an art trend that evolved at the end of the 1960s, spread to various parts of the world, and focused mainly on the contemporary Western lifestyle, its visual dominants and the perceptions shaped by those dominants. Secondly, hyperrealism is a technique used in different types of art since the 1960s; it is based on photographic images, which are imitated and intensified, creating the effect of being “more real than real” (hyperreal or over-real).

If one was to look for something that all hyperrealists throughout the years have had in common, it would be a certain way of perceiving the world and understanding art which accepts and highlights the fact that our experiences and self-expressions are mediated. Instead of using photography in order to arrive at an image that is as natural as possible, hyperrealists emphasise the conflict between picture and reality, and take advantage of the magnetism of photo-like depiction.

In the 1970s, there were lively responses to hyperrealism in the art of socialist East European countries, as well as in the Soviet Union. In an environment where the official doctrine favoured realism in art, the new trend caused something close to a conceptual short circuit. After years of fighting against the Western trends in art that avoided depicting reality, the Soviet art world now had to face paintings that were more realistic than ever before. Although the ideological purpose of this exceedingly realistic manner of depiction was not straightforwardly definable, hyperrealism was well-suited to socialist countries, where it was used in a multitude of ways.

The aim of this exhibition is to show the hybridity and versatility of the Estonian hyperrealism of the 1970s and 1980s. On the one hand, the photographic manner of depiction was a stylistic technique that enabled artists to overplay the demand to create realist art; on the other hand, photography became a partner in dialogue and a mediator of contemporary sensibility, intertwined with the conceptual, metaphysical, critical, symbolist and postmodernist trends that existed in art at the time.

In order to comment or expand on the historical insight into Estonian hyperrealism, some photo-realist works from the 2000s have been included in the exhibition. They either link the photographic manner of depiction to temporality and movement (the principle of seriality), or use it to shift the perception of space or study the materiality of photos. The dialogue with photography provides art with the opportunity to make various pictorial strategies of recording reality visible and comparable, and to ask questions about the power or powerlessness of the artist in opposition to all the other visual worlds that surround us and participate in our lives.

A selection of Estonian hyperrealist art can also be seen at the permanent exhibition “Conflicts and Adaptations” on the 4th floor of the A-wing of Kumu.

Art Allmägi, Jaan Elken, Ülo Emmus, Ando Keskküla, Miljard Kilk, Ilmar Kruusamäe, Holger Loodus, Mare Mikof, Maarit Murka, Lemming Nagel, Kaido Ole, Jüri Palm, Illimar Paul, Urmas Pedanik, Urmas Ploomipuu, Heitti Polli, Kaisa Puustak, Enn Põldroos, Tiit Pääsuke, Tõnis Saadoja, Ludmilla Siim, Vladimir Taiger, Rein Tammik, Enn Tegova, Andres Tolts, Silver Vahtre and Ignar Fjuk, Irene Virve and Marje Üksine.

Exhibition curator: Anu Allas
Exhibition designer: Anna Škodenko
Graphic designer: Külli Kaats

We thank:
Aine Art Museum, Tallinn Art Hall, Tartu Art Museum, Museum of the University of Tartu, Vaal Gallery, Robert Kimmel and Māris Vītols.