These women are like stones that have some weight and much resilience. They are affected by time and the current only if these move them emotionally. They are not large boulders, but palm-sized at best; mostly patterned, and sparkling when taken from the water. Obstructing or redirecting the current with their physicality is out of the question – they are too fragile. Also unthinkable is being randomly rolled here and there by the flowing water. For this, they hold too much weight. Every now and then someone – perhaps Ingrid Allik – picks them up and stores them away together with other finds that speak to her. Sometimes, led by impulse, Allik picks up her own reflection which, becoming conscious of itself, quietly joins its owner and disappears from her collection. Allik is the youngest of the three artists, and the most flexible. Although she loves stones, she herself is more like a constantly moving wave that embraces everything from time to time. She is then akin to the soft fog-like atmosphere evident in both Pallo-Vaik’s and Neidre’s pictures, in their dense lines which melt sharp tips into a gentle unified whole. Allik is a binding element, a unifying flow bringing the three of them together. She connects them delicately as if by a tail slap of a fish or a seashell rolling on its other side. Neidre, Pallo-Vaik and Allik love little things that unveil the grand gestures of nature.
Tiiu Pallo-Vaik is an artist working in both watercolour and oil painting, who has always emphasised the importance of light in her works. Since 2015, a crackle-like pattern of lines has appeared in her paintings, which mutes the light and covers it with a grey mist-like veil. It seems that only now she has incorporated in her works the deep and nuanced grey of her long-time painting professor, Johannes Võerahansu – the silvery tone which still doesn’t possess the coldness of metal. True, it does not reveal anything, but rather protects and veils – with a hand-drawn line, not the colour.
As an ‘old school’ artist who does not like to talk much about her work, Pallo-Vaik has emphasised in the few interviews she has given the importance of warmth, silence, peace and integrity and stressed her need to achieve these in her work. The line pattern covering her images seems to strive for it, with hints and whispers, gently, as characteristic of the artist.
In her previous portraits and still-lifes, the articulation of Tiiu Pallo-Vaik’s paintings has been clear, clean, sometimes even naively simple and traditional. By becoming more abstract, she has made the clear-cut heaviness of oil painting dissolve into the lightness and liquidity of watercolour, barely allowing to recognise what is depicted. The laborious pattern of lines covering the surface of her paintings is reminiscent of Naima Neidre’s etchings and drawings, which makes Vappu Thurlow’s quote about Neidre’s work also well suited to describe Pallo-Vaik’s current works: “Naima Neidre’s hand movement is spontaneous and endless, like the sounds of nature and its silence. The titles of her pictures speak of nuances, depth and flying. Perhaps the goal here is to achieve silence that reaches us like a safety rope from the infinite outer space.” (Sirp, 12 October 2001)
In turn, Mai Levin’s description of Tiiu Pallo-Vaik’s works is also suitable for describing Naima Neidre’s print art: “It is like a whisper that prompts you to listen, even when you cannot make out the words in this muted vibrating flow of sounds. There is a centuries-old tradition in the way Tiiu Pallo-Vaik processes her painting surfaces; yet her direct and deliberate ambiguity of the expression, its dispersion in the material is completely characteristic of our time.” (Virumaa Teataja, 8 April 2019)
Naima Neidre is a passionate beekeeper in her everyday life, and her artwork too seems to have a thin coating of sweet honey. The fact that her deeper foundation is solid like rock only becomes evident with age, once the flow of time has washed away the honey. In this exhibition, the former printmaker who was known for her delicate treatment of line during the Golden Age of Estonian print art, displays her watercolours. The artist’s resilient and straightforward nature unrolls here in gorgeous vibrant images. The subtle journey of etching and drawing, which lead the image into veiled poetics, has been replaced by watercolours characterised clearly defined colours. Neidre too does not like to talk about her work; she cannot and does not wish to explain her pictures, but she constantly creates new images with pleasure and joy. “Making a picture is easier for me than illustrating,” Naima Neidre said on ETV’s show Entering the Picture in 1986. “It is like looking at a landscape, spotting a path and starting to walk along it.”
Besides print art and watercolours, Naima Neidre has illustrated numerous books, with the rustic, often realist illustrations for children’s books by Hando Runnel and the highly sensitive free improvisation accompanying Dylan Thomas’ poetry as two extreme examples. She has also illustrated a collection of Estonian haikus, which could bring her closer to Ingrid Allik’s aesthetics influenced by Japanese philosophy.
Ingrid Allik arrived in the art field when the Golden Age in Estonian art had already ended. If anything could be considered golden in the exhibition scene she entered, then perhaps it could be the gradual blending of different media and free and applied arts. She likes to emphasise that her awareness of the infinity of the life cycle, the importance of being open and the ability to see the links between seemingly different things has come to her through the lessons in ikebana and Raku ceramics.
Most likely, however, she has been blessed with the gift of imagination and fusing things since childhood. This has also helped her in her work as a long-time beloved professor at the Academy of Arts, where, unlike her successful students, she does not build her own works on grander effects; instead, she dedicates herself to the quiet refinement of the vitality of things and different phenomena.
Small and brave is stone,
carrying the weight of things
bigger than itself
(Vapper väike on
kivi, mis kannab turjal
says one of haikus by Allik, evoking an impressive poetic image.
More than Neidre or Pallo-Vaik, Allik is used to working with colleagues and students in her daily life. Although she consistently suggests that she is far from reaching the wonders of nature and that the artist’s attempt to make her works useful is doomed to failure, she is a sensitive artist and a highly valued exhibition partner. She understands the inevitable changes of nature and man as well as the contradictions in living as a whole, resounding with these. Allik’s solo exhibition SEKRET/CEKPET/Omalooline PEITUS will be open at the Estonian Museum of Applied Art and Design until 20 September 2020.
If you ask Allik, Pallo-Vaik and Neidre if beauty and happiness indeed exist, I believe all three would say yes. If we add to this attitude their efficiency and the professionalism which does not allow them to announce their work to be truly finished just because this helps avoid the trap of unambiguous reading, we will capture the supporting pillar of the exhibition: life-affirming poetic imagery.