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Exhibition at Tallinn Art Hall re-examines Olev Subbi's legacy
Exhibition view 'Olev Subbi: Landscapes from the End of Times', Tallinn Art Hall. Photo: Aurelia Minev.

TALLINN.- “This exhibition mainly focuses on the legacy of Olev Subbi (1930–2013) and is a tribute to the artist who belongs among the classics of Estonian painting. Despite the difficulties he experienced after the war, he built his philosophy of survival on constructive optimism and discovering beauty in everything around him. Subbi’s paintings are a window to parallel worlds that neither belong to the present nor the past or future and where landscape becomes a place of hope, memory, remembrance, and construction of the future,” writes Àngels Miralda, curator of the exhibition.

Ninety years after Olev Subbi’s birth, Tallinn Art Hall re-examines his practice in the context of some of the most tumultuous moments of Estonian Art History. The exhibition offers a new perspective on his practice alongside the work of contemporary international artists that expand upon his interests in the connection between ecology and the social through meditations on our relationship with nature. Subbi’s view of history is non-linear, thus the invitation to contemporary artists was made by linking particular themes present in Subbi’s work with ongoing social problems. ‘Olev Subbi: Landscapes from the End of Times' positions itself by encouraging continuous revisionism and establishing these global non-linear links in a chain. Although Subbi lived in the most difficult of contexts in the bleakness of post-war Estonia, at the core of his artistic philosophy is the constructive idea of building out of optimism.

Works by Larry Achiampong, María Dalberg, Nona Inescu, Ad Minoliti, Juana Subercaseaux, Nazim Ünal Yilmaz, and Maya Watanabe add discourses that diversify Subbi’s subject matter through the critical perspective of a contemporary context. From diverse fields of study, landscape is problematized into the fields of eco-feminism, eco-nationalism, queer theory, historical revisionism, and Afrofuturism. Adding critical angles to Subbi’s work as well as the context in which he worked, the creative explosion that took place under the post-Stalinist regime of censorship, create parallels to adverse conditions that continue to this day. In our global context of rising censorship and state authoritarianism alongside ecological collapse, Subbi’s attitude and historical value provide lessons from a time when freedom was not taken for granted.

Olev Subbi’s focus on colour and a painterly tradition is deeply rooted in the local and his portraits and compositions express the omnipresence of landscape through interiors and the mind. In his paintings, the exterior enters the home as it enters the human body, expressing a kind of synchronicity with the environment that relates both to Estonian identity and new ecologies. This exhibition begins from the tenet that each generation re-evaluates their predecessors, just as Subbi valued his own consistent references, and that changing worlds require the recovery of local artistic heritages. The semi-abstract colour-fields weave together a thesis of the persistence of memory and the inescapable imprint of landscape on conceptions of tomorrow.

Àngels Miralda (1990) is an independent curator based in Terrassa, Barcelona. She grew up travelling between Barcelona, Cambridge, Philadelphia, and Princeton. Miralda has recently curated exhibitions at the Latvian Centre for Contemporary Art, Riga; GMK Gallery, Zagreb, Croatia; Zeller van Almsick Gallery, Vienna; Museu de Angra do Heroísmo, Azores; litost Gallery, Prague; and the Santiago Museum of Contemporary Art, Chile. She has contributed to catalogues published by the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, Patricia Ready Gallery in Santiago, Jerwood Foundation in London, and the Santiago Museum of Contemporary Art, among others.

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