Now open: The Estonian Pavilion at the Biennale Arte with Edith Karlson: Hora lupi

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Now open: The Estonian Pavilion at the Biennale Arte with Edith Karlson: Hora lupi
Edith Karlson's Hora Lupi. Photo: Anu Vahtra.

VENICE.- Estonia opened Hora lupi by Edith Karlson, the exhibition representing Estonia at the 60th International Art Exhibition - La Biennale di Venezia this year at Chiesa Santa Maria delle Penitenti. The exhibition remains open from 20 April to 24 November. The dramaturge of the exhibition is Eero Epner.

The title, Hora lupi (hour of the wolf), refers to a mythical time before dawn, when things arise and disappear – an hour of deep darkness but also of transformation. It is believed to be the time of night when the most people are born and die.

The exhibition’s central theme is the primitive urges of man in their banality and solemnity, explored through Karlson’s array of sculptures. The new works created for the exhibition are in direct dialogue with the historic interior of the 18th century church - no longer in use as a religious space - creating an other-worldly atmosphere, in which time seems to no longer exist. Intensified by the solemn soundtrack on entry – a rendition of Henry Purcell’s The Cold Song (1691), arranged by Raul Saaremets and performed by the artist herself – visitors are greeted by three looming, gigantic sculptures depicting primitive man. Animals and anthropomorphic figures inspired by folklore and mythology populate the surrounding space, and a vast series of hand-crafted clay self-portraits are hung in a candlelit room. These self-portraits were created by people who surround the artist: children and elderly people, state officials and common workers. The faces are inspired by the 14th century terracotta sculptures in St. John’s Church in Tartu, Estonia, most likely depicting townspeople of the time. It has been suggested that the sculptures are a memorial ensemble commemorating the victims of the plague.

“I am thrilled to see that this long process has culminated in such a spectacular exposition that now stands before us in its joy and melancholy. I am particularly grateful to have had the chance to work in a location with a such rich history and atmosphere,” says Edith Karlson.

Edith Karlson is a sculptor who often presents her work as installation, using an entire exhibition space. Her works tackle the most inexplicable feelings and sensations in the current world: fear, melancholy, brutality and joy, which she transforms into material form, often in clay, concrete or found materials. Frequently working with animal forms and anthropomorphic figures, she approaches humans as animalistic beings whose impulses, wants, and desires are hidden just under the surface of their well-pressed suits. Karlson studied installation and sculpture at the Estonian Academy of Arts (BA, 2006; MA, 2008). She was awarded the EAA Young Artist’s Prize (2006) and Köler Prize People’s Choice Award (2015). Karlson is among the recipients of the national artists’ salary between 2018-2020 and 2022-2024 and was granted the Estonian Cultural Endowment’s main award (2020).

Eero Epner is an art historian, dramaturge and writer who has worked for the avant-garde theatre NO99 as well as with many Estonian artists. He worked with Edith Karlson for her last large-scale show Return to Innocence (Estonian Contemporary Art Museum, 2021). He was granted the Estonian Cultural Endowment’s award for researching and introducing the works of Konrad Mägi, an Estonian artist from early 20th century in 2017.

Participating since 1997, this is the 14th time Estonia is exhibiting at the Venice Biennale. The Estonian Centre for Contemporary Art is the official representative of the Estonian exposition and the pavilion is financed by Estonian Ministry of Culture.

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