Curator's foreword

The sixth solo exhibition of Urmas Pedanik (b. 1949) includes 14 new paintings. Pedanik held his first solo show in 1981, but his next one didn’t take place until 2010. The artist now seems to be trying to make up for lost time in art, and the last decade has been five times more fruitful in terms of his solo exhibitions than the previous thirty years.

A quarter of a century of silence has meant skipping several rungs on the ladder of time. When Urmas Pedanik held a solo exhibition at the Tallinn City Gallery in 2010, he alternated his early urban views with new works inspired by computer motherboards. That was followed by solo exhibitions at Hobusepea Gallery (2011), Draakoni Gallery (2018) and Haapsalu City Gallery (2019). Nine years is quite a long time to restore confidence in the beauty of electronics and to see what can be done with it on canvas. Time that manifested itself in the pictures of Pedanik’s success story in the second half of the 1970s is now as it was then unfolding with the help of very specific hardware in the field of communication and information technology. These are things that the artist himself often calls ‘trinkets’ and the nature of which remains quite vague to him. But not the aesthetics. Both of these – technology and, especially, beauty – have acquired a new meaning as the subjects of today’s global, ethical debate.

Pedanik is not the only one making his pictorial themes three-dimensional. Many younger artists do the same, except he sticks to the canvas, playing with angles and perspective, focusing on the front and side views, and sharpening and diffusing his images with airbrush, so that we can see strange, ghostly urban views looming in his magnified images of computer motherboards. These landscapes fit very well with the 2012 installation “Suburbs of Fear” by Karel Koplimets (b. 1986), who is almost forty years younger than Pedanik.

Taking pictures, then processing the photographs on a computer, combining and fusing them into a complete composition, printing them onto canvas and using an airbrush to add colour is a long repetitive process, and one in which work on the computer plays an important part. However, as Pedanik is after all a painter, the uniqueness of his work still lies in his choice of object or motif and in the traditional yet confusing technique of “oil on canvas”, which has now been supplemented by “photography”.

Therefore, the question about where Urmas Pedanik’s work is currently placed is well-founded. In “Transitions” he seems to be directly headed to the moor and the sea, to the mountains and a village road. Quite literally so, because nature is returning to his pictures, and this time “for real”. Dragged out from its pragmatically functioning environment, the entire technical arsenal known from his previous works joins forces and turns into a menacing army. Pushing Through the Reed, Restricted Greenery, Suffocating Horizon, External Forces – these titles that contribute to the creation of meaning could not be more accurate. Having determined the angle for observing what is happening on the battlefield, Pedanik evaluates the power relations from afar and high above, even from under water and through a microscope, if necessary. He determines the natural and the artificial as the most important poles. For a long time to come we will have to live with the imbalance of these two.

For ten years, Urmas Pedanik has squinted his eyes after coming out into the daylight, trying to remember – and then he finally made sense of it. Made sense of the time, not himself. Because this is what our current world looks like. The changed times have also caused a change in the themes and motifs of the artist’s works. Technically advanced means indeed allow for more striking combinations, but … still provide essentially the same impersonal result of photorealism. When content and form, a hot subject and its cold presentation unite, there is a risk that the latter will evaporate. Unless the artist abandons the conflict, refraining from confronting or combining things. In the painting Waterfall, where the beauty of the foaming cascade is self-sufficient and enchanting, the image creates a complete and powerfully idyllic impression. “I have wanted to paint it for a long time!” Pedanik says. Waterfall can be read in a completely different key compared to the confrontation of technology and landscape. Looking at it, it seems that Urmas Pedanik has chosen a side. And time and the avant-garde have nothing to say about it.

Please note that the following list of work descriptions is limited and only based on what is depicted on the image. The intrigue guiding these descriptions comes from the way the images are assembled, their scattering and concentration, and the level of their recognisability. There is a very strong impression that the artist keeps from interfering and that the picture in its entirety is born from a self-organising chaos.