Malle Leis. Yellow Summer

Curator: Tiiu Talvistu

The exhibition of the works of Malle Leis “Yellow Summer”, which opens on Thursday, 27th of November at 5 p.m at Raekoja plats 18, is Tartu Art Museum’s greatest event of the year.

Malle Leis, the grand old lady of Estonian art, appeared on the Estonian art landscape in the 1960s. Leis renounced the pictorial space of illusory air and light characteristic of the earlier Estonian art and built a personal art space using clear local tones and flat surfaces characteristic of pop art.

Leis started her art studies in 1958 at the Art School of Tartu and graduated in 1968 from the Estonian (State) Art Institute as a scenery artist. As a member of the creative association ANK ’64 organized upon the initiative of Tõnis Vint Leis belonged to the generation of artists characterized by an idealistic and searching spirit. The works of Leis from the 1960s use abstractionism and collage, both very characteristic of the period; there are also recognizable objects from real life – flowers, ants, butterflies, and rainbows.

At the beginning of the 1970s people appeared in the paintings of Leis. In these characters of frozen attitude and closed appearance later critics have found existential anxiety characteristic of the time. However, one of the most popular paintings of Malle Leis  “Red Horses” still feeding the myth of Leis as an eternal flower child has also been painted at the time.

In 1978 “Portrait of Actress Kersti Kreismann” was painted, followed by portraits of other known artists and cultural figures: Irja Kändler, Mari Saat, Boris Bernstein, Evi Pihlak, Raul Meel, and others.

But it was big colourful flowers taken out of their context that became the brand of the artist. Flowers and plants have always been present in the work of Malle Leis in oil paintings, watercolours, or silkscreen paintings; they lead their own very vital life, in places even more vital than people.

The exhibition is accompanied by a book illustrated richly with the works of Malle Leis and containing articles by Katrin Kivimaa and Bojana Pejić, a letter interview with Malle Leis from Tiiu Talvistu,  and excerpts from Villu Jõgeva’s the Story of  Silkscreen printing, etc.  The book has been compiled by Tiiu Talvistu, translated into English by Kersti Unt, edited by Richard Adang and Kristi Metste and designed by Tiit Jürna.

The educational programme of the exhibition introduces Estonian pop art to the older schoolchildren and offers workshops of creating flowery pictures for younger schoolchildren. More information www.tartmus.ee or kristel@tartmus.ee.

The works presented at the exhibition come from the art museums of Estonia, Tartu, and Viinistu, from Narva Museum; from private collections and Malle Leis. The exhibition has been designed by Tiit Jürna. We are grateful to the Estonian Cultural Endowment for support.