Olev Subbi

Olev Subbi (recurring themes)

Man From Kolga Coast, 1965

Woman by the Tents, 1971

Valma Beach, 1970

Autumn in Valma, 1972

Landscape Near Elva, 1975


In this first collection of paintings we find canvases produced by Subbi from the mid 60s to the early 70s, representing the beginning of his career. We see a sharp development in his style, colour palette and subject matter, which consistently references the traditional lifestyle of agrarian Estonian society in the 1930s. Each canvas shows at least one subject in landscape, and all of them have something in common – although they might be agrarian workers, they are at rest. In Man from Kolga Coast a man in fishing boots strolls away with his dog from the lake pictured behind him; the day is over. In Autumn in Valma the autumn harvest is being collected, but the woman has time to pause and tie up her hair, taking a breath and looking across the landscape. In Valma Beach a group of friends enjoys a picnic by the lake. All of these characters actively enjoy the short but brilliant Estonian summer or the harvest it reaps at the end.

The small painting Landscape Near Elva, is a path into Subbi’s memories that offer a clue to understanding his philosophy. Elva is a town in Tartu County close to where he spent his summers as a child. It is close to Lake Võrtsjärv, which can be seen in the background of other paintings in this room. Many of Subbi’s early works are a direct reference to his childhood memories. In this painting there are no people. Instead, there is a road sign the design of which would have been symbolic for its clear reference to pre-Soviet times to viewers of this painting in the 1970s. 

Olev Subbi (recurring themes)