Umwelt. 12+1Estonian Glass Artists
Umwelt is defined as the world as it is experienced by a particular organism, based on the differentiations made by that organism. Each different species has a different Umwelt, which depends on the different discriminative ability of the species, as well as its various individual experiences.
The concept of Umwelt was introduced into the German language by Jakob von Uexküll. In German the word also means environment, so a distinction is made when speaking about Umwelt: indicating that one is dealing with a subjective environment or alluding to Uexküll.
At the exhibition called Umwelt, which marks the 80th anniversary of professional Estonian glass art, black-and-white photos of a selection of the graduation projects created by the students of glass art at the Estonian Academy of Arts / State Art Institute of the Estonian S.S.R. / Tallinn Art University are on display. Since our goal is to examine the influences and changes affecting the individual’s journey from the classroom to life as an artist, new, and often only recently created works are also on exhibit.
The question we are asking is whether the works from the past have preserved their value and significance in the artists’ lives, or if a total change has occurred and a connection no longer exists between the artists’ current work and the projects they created as students.
The earliest graduation project in the exhibition is Maie Mikof’s set of drinking glasses of blown glass from 1967. Sets of grand tableware were a favourite theme among the graduation projects of the 1960s and 1970s.
Objects suitable for monumental architecture were also designed, for example Peeter Rudaš’s wall, comprised of plate glass and concrete (Wave, 1970), for the Hotel Viru, and Rait Prääts’s decorative wall (1975), comprised of geometric shapes and made of mould-blown smoked glass, which was installed in the Tallinn Service House (destroyed).
The beginning of professional Estonian glass art dates back to the moment when Maks Roosma, the creator and developer of glass art as a speciality at the State Industrial Art School, received a gold medal for his engraved works at the 1937 International Exposition in Paris. The glass art speciality – initially called “glass decorative work” – which was established at the school in the 1936–1937 academic year is also celebrating its anniversary.
In the 1980s, a school of Estonian glass art developed, which had a strong geometric bent. The most important representatives of this style are Ivo Lill and Eve Koha. Until the early 1990s, cold-working techniques, including glass engraving, predominated in the works coming out of the glass art department.
The 1990s saw the arrival of new technologies. The greatest stimulus for these new directions was provided by a glass fusing oven acquired for the glass art department in 1994. The “oven techniques”, the most popular techniques along with hot-working in glass art around the world, allowed the artists to better develop their own techniques and create their own style.
Tiina Sarapu’s MA project 3 × 3 ×, which was completed in 1996 and is comprised of large fused and slumped sculptural forms, is the first MA project to be defended in the field of glass art in Estonia.
Eeva Käsper’s MA project, which was completed in 2003, is related to the development and techniques of mosaic glass. The artist developed an original sand mosaic technique that uses sand between the layers of glass to create mosaic sections.
One of the distinctive features of Estonian glass art is pâte de verre (i.e. “glass paste”). This fusing effect, which is fragile, and can be extremely thin, sculptural or sugar-like depending on the size of the grains of cullet, is used by so many of our glass artists that one can definitely speak of the development of a new school of glass art developing in the second half of the 1990s. Mare Saar’s first works in this technique date back to 1995.
Stained glass windows for the Catholic church in Tallinn were Kai Kiudsoo-Värv’s MA project in 2005, when the designs and samples were produced. And now the stained glass windows in the unusual pâte-de-verre technique have been installed.
Maret Sarapu’s MA project, which she defended in 2005, is a striking glass installation that plays with light and shadow and is called To Dare Or Not To Dare. Mulgi Collar. The combination of pâte de verre and a blowing technique in Sarapu’s newest works graphically demonstrate the contrary properties of glass – transparency vs. opacity, strength vs. fragility, and colour vs. colourlessness.
Kristiina Uslar’s sculptures made of cullet balance between the possible and impossible. Their multi-layered nature sends a message of invisible and visible worlds and situations, having been inspired, while the MA project Data Turbine III (2007) was being completed, by the diarètes of the historical masterworks of glass art.
The younger generation is represented by Andra Jõgis, with her MA project Seven Years of Unhappy Love I–III (2014), and Kristiina Oppi, with her work called Chair (2017). Oppi will be defending her MA project at the Estonian Academy of Arts on 9 June 2017. Jõgis’s works play with the belief that breaking a mirror will bring seven years of unhappy love. The seven years she has spent studying at the Estonian Academy of Arts are the temporal sign of this love.
Glass as a design material, a means of expression for artists, and our everyday companion in all kinds of environments and technical solutions is almost indispensable. Glass does occur in nature, and glass produced by humans has been known since the third millennium B.C. The methods for working glass, as one of the oldest artificial materials – blowing, mould-fusing, engraving and polishing – are generally the same in the 21st century as they were several millennia ago. However, new industrial and computer-aided processes are now being added. The mystery that always surrounded the production of glass has not disappeared. With this exhibition, we hope to bring viewers closer to glass art, make it more understandable and unveil new interesting discoveries.
The artists and their graduation years: Maie Mikof (1967), Peeter Rudas (1970), Rait Prääts (1975), Mare Saare (1979), Eve Koha (1981), Ivo Lill (1985), Kai Kiudsoo-Värv (1995, MA 1996), Tiina Sarapu (1995, MA 1996), Eeva Käsper (1998, MA 2003), Maret Sarapu (2002, MA 2005), Kristiina Uslar (2003, MA 2007), Andra Jõgis (2011, MA 2014) and Kristiina Oppi (2012, MA 2017)
Exhibition curator: prof Mare Saare (Eesti Kunstiakadeemia / Estonian Academy of Arts)
Exhibition design: Mari Kurismaa
Graphic design: Külli Kaats
Eve Koha. Inside View Moment. 2015. Estonian Applied Art and Design Museum