Malle Leis. Võrumaa. Story of One Print

Curator: Tiiu Talvistu

Starting from 09.01.2015 a new exhibition titled Võrumaa. Story of One Print is open in Tartu Art Museum’s Art Atelier which is an interestin addition to Malle Leis’ grand exhibition Yellow Summer. 

Võrumaa. Story of One Print focuses on the unique screenprinting method invented by artist Malle Leis and her husband Villu Jõgeva. The heydays of screenprinting, otherwise known as serigraphy, are tied to the 1960’s during which the Pop Art movement  chose it as the number one techinque to use in their artistic endeavours.  Andy Warhol’s screenprints depicted objects from everyday life and well-known public figures with what and whom the western world is by now bored to tears with. The stencils used in screenprinting transformed the resulting artworks impersonal and the uniquity of the artwork was lost. In serial production the only thing to vary were color combinations but the images stayed the same.

Screenprinting reached Estonia in the beginning of the 1970’s and Malle Leis became one of the most distinctive users of this technique. Leis, who was formerly known solely as a painter, was forced towards screenprinting by the reclusion of the Soviety society in which she had no possibility to be a part of the international art scene with her paintings. The absence of outside information forced Leis and her husband Villu Jõgeva to invent their own methods for creating screenprints. Thanks to the aforementioned Malle Leis’ individuality, manual virtuosity, and media specifity inherent to painting was preserved in their methods.  A native variant of the aesthetics of western Pop Art was born in which flowers and landscapes of Võrumaa became the subject matter. After all, isn’t the landscape of South-Estonia as exploited in our domestic context as is the Campbell’s soup can by Warhol? The motives used in the Võrumaa series were rich in color, attracted a diverse audience, and were in great demand on the art market. The sentimentally retrospective undertone of the prints seemingly alluded to a lost paradise creating a connection with the lost “Time of Estonia”. The artist’s touch was preserved while printing because Malle Leis händ-painted every detail on the silk which Villu printed and this was done about 10-12 seances in a row.

The exhibition is accompanied by Malle Leis. Võrumaa IX (1980), a film by Peeter Urbla which tells the story of one print from start to finish while at the same time depicting the everyday life of a modern family.
Alongside Malle Leis’ exhibitions the museum offers education programs directed towards different age-groups. For high school students the museum offers an illustrative lecture which focuses on Estonian Pop Art – the aforementioned lecture suits as an interesting addition to the section of Pop Art as taught in general art history courses. Younger children can apply different techniques of Pop Art in practical workshops. Additional information about our education programs is available on our museum’s homepage or by sending an e-mail to the following address: kristel@tartmus.ee.