Last week I visited an exhibition of one of my favourite Estonian artists, Nikolai Triik. I almost started clapping my hands when I saw how the exhibition was fashioned. It was rather surprising to see wallpaper on one of the walls. Other walls were painted dark turquise, lime, yellow and burgundy. It all perfectly fitted with the colour scheme used by the artist.
The first thing I saw was a portrait of Konrad Mägi, another Estonian artist (I enjoy looking at his paintings every time I go to KUMU). I happily poked a finger in the portrait and hoping to convey my delight explained to my friend what was so good about this portrait: “Just look at the contrast between the person and the background, and at the colours used! Did you notice that his face is drawn in detail, although the artist didn’t give much attention to anything else?” The portrait reminded me of The Fifer by Edouard Manet: well, maybe not of the painting itself, but of its clear silhouette and minority of the background.
Nikolay Triik’s technique seems to me very lively and sincere; there’s nothing boring or scrupulous. Pastel and tempera that he started using under the influence of Roerich’s paintings gave Nikolay Triik’s pictures a peculiar kind of magic. I avoid using the word “decorativeness” on purpose: in my opinion it means „meaningless beauty“. Triik’s artworks are certainly not the case, although in all the art books specialists say how decorative his paintings are.
There were also charcoal portraits. Here the lack of colours helps us to see what an expressive artist was Nikolay Triik. I was imagining artsist’s fingers pressing the charcoal into the paper in order to add some character to the face of his model. Next to the charcoal drawings there hung watercolours that were drawn, on the contrary, in a rather light way. At the same time those watercolours didn’t lose the saturated palette or expression characteristic of the artist.
My friend asked me why some pictures seemed unfinished. I could only answer that there are no rules in expressionism. Slightly incomplete pictures always have certain charm. Haven’t you noticed that?