Contemporary art with a Soviet tinge

  • 2007-12-12
  • By Andris Vilnis Renss

COMMIE KIDDIES: Innocent images of playgrounds are all some contemporary artists remember of the Soviet era.

TALLINN - Although the Soviet occupation of the Baltics ended well over a decade ago, it's clear that there are still remnants of that past depicted in the work of the region's contemporary artists.
That's the central theme of an exhibition entitled "Continuous Past 's Signs of the Soviet Era in Recent Estonian Art" now on display at the KUMU in Tallinn. It represents artwork by contemporary Estonian artists who have through their art expressed some connection to these earlier memories.
More often than not, their pieces are not political; rather they express a personal connection to the period. The art is of a more intimate nature.

Most, though not all, of the art I saw at the exhibition left me with a kind of comical impression. It was like viewing the past through the eyes of a child. Children are the most honest and undisturbed beings and thus the art itself left me with a sort of innocent impression.
For instance, the children in one of the paintings look like little monkeys swinging from the jungle gym of the Soviet suburb where they live.
In one of the other works, bananas are the main focal point. In a regime that didn't promise much of anything else, at least its citizens could be won over by beautifully curved, yellow bananas.
Yet other images in the exhibition were more haunting in nature. The humor I found in them was of a darker sort; it expressed the realities and hardships that were faced and how the human mind seeks  humor in even the most tragic of situations.
 Although the exhibition itself covers only one small portion of the museum, it is still worth seeking out. It may seem like there is not much to see at first, but then you realize 's as is the case with most art 's that there is more than what initially meets the eye. I ended up spending more time than I thought I would trying to understand the art from the perspective of somebody who grew up in the West.

Contemporary Past
Through March 30
Kumu Art Museum, 4th floor
Weizenbergi 34 / Valge 1
Open Wed - Sun,
11 a.m. - 6 p.m.