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Coloured Songs

Uno Roosvalt. Curators Liina Siib and Kaido Ole

It is a great joy for curators when the artists with whom they have organised exhibitions remember them with a kind word and sense of satisfaction. A mutual friendship and trust was born of the collaboration between Kaido Ole, Liina Siib and Uno Roosvalt when they organised an exhibition at the Bank of Estonia Gallery in 2011, which years later motivated the artist to turn to the onetime organisers of his exhibition. Great benefits are reaped from cross-generational collaboration by the many contemporary art institutions including the Tallinn Art Hall. The viewers, whose sharp gazes notice a fresh approach in the presentation and accompanying texts of the exhibition, along with surprising viewpoints and interesting interpretations, also benefit. Uno Roosvalt (1941) studied painting at the Tartu Art School between 1956 and 1962, and at the Estonian State Art Institute between 1963 and 1969. From 1970 to 1995, he was a member of the Estonian Academy of Arts faculty, during the last ten years as the director of the Department of Painting.

When thinking about Uno Roosvalt’s work, my mind is filled with thoughts of the model art academy from the last century as it was still represented during the 1960s – when he was studying. The genres and depiction mechanisms of that time create a sure sense of recognition even today: simply said, something that has been done for generations – working en plein air and in the studio, sketching, selfportraits and self-analysis as interim self-reviews, being an artist as a way of life. Even when Uno Roosvalt has painted or drawn unknown people or places, he has domesticated the exotic with his typical palette and techniques. His humanism does not include anything abstract or inexpressible; it is a concrete and visible love of life, people and animals. He does not turn his back to others. Liina Siib


Who is Uno Roosvalt for me? The eternal second, like Paul Keres, forgive me the comparison, if it should offend anyone. Never at the very top, but always serene with an inner dignity and excellent in his best works.

I have thought of Uno when I reflect on the artist and God. In art, as well as life, it often happens that we compete with each other, even trip each other up, or worry about secular recognition and success. The artist who believes God is probably freed of this kind of decathlon. Perhaps one of Uno’s strengths is that he has always had a personal “super critic”, who had been able to adequately assess him and therefore he has not needed to develop the required x-factor for succeeding in earthly (art) life. But what’s especially good in all this is that the artist’s piety is not apparent in his works. No obvious symbols or signs in the foreground; no classical plots, simply a striving for absolute balance and simplicity. Uno does not propagandise, he just paints or draws as well and as correctly as he can. Quite ordinary things and ordinary life.

The name of the exhibition is Coloured Songs. I don’t know or believe that Uno is much of a singer; at least, I have never heard him sing nor can I really imagine it. However, since doing excellent work – both as deeply and highly as one’s courage and abilities allow – always means outdoing oneself to certain degree, I think it is a good title.

Actually, the exhibition is quite a proper retrospective, as much as a small space allows. From artist´s newest works to the nude drawings of his student days. Just as I have never heard Uno sing, so too I have never seen any of his drawings of nudes. Well, you can’t truly say that you know or are familiar with anyone. Kaido Ole