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Mihkel Ilus. Negotiations / Facade Works

Curator: Siim Preiman

From 15 March, the exhibition “Negotiations / Facade Works” by Mihkel Ilus, which brings together the creative themes of an artist that has been seeking the elementary essence of painting for several years, and sheds light on issues yet to be resolved, will be open at Tartu Art House. The exhibition is curated by Siim Preiman.


The exhibition will open on 14 March at 5pm and will remain open until 7 April.


Mihkel Ilus has been working in a uniformly monochromatic pictorial language since his 2017 exhibition “Stick It In Your Wall” at Hobusepea Gallery. Resisting a conventional manner of depiction, Ilus separates the classical tools of the painter from each other and creates independent objects using oil paint, timber painting frames and primed canvas. In addition to the physical composition of the painting, Ilus has also questioned its surrounding conceptual rules or etiquette. Could a bucket made of primed canvas placed on the gallery floor be called a painting? And what if it was filled with sawdust? What about gallery walls that are left empty to accommodate the effect of the painting? Are walls also part of the painting?


The questions of form and material have evolved for Ilus into a unique set, which this time he uses to approach several themes, including physical burdens, stories from the Bible, and of course, the inevitable surface quality of painting. Since his visual language is rather cryptic by nature, the exhibition also includes riddles and instructions referring to the artist’s “painting recipe” and the various components of the exhibition more generally.

With Ilus, it is also important to pay special attention to the division of creative tasks between artist and machine. A cold conceptualist and emotional expressionist are alive in the artist at the same time. Several of the works have received a final touch from a machine, be it a laser beam or a hydraulic press. Therefore, we can sense a strange contradiction in the works, where machines have been used to make large expressive movements, while the artist has reserved for himself the refining gestures of decoration.


The exhibition at the Tartu Art House is somewhat like a homecoming for Mihkel Ilus, who studied in the Painting Department at the University of Tartu. The display includes 3-D and 2-D works, personalised paintings and decorated rooms, where objects that build on the internal tensions in the materials used are confronted with one another. The exhibition is accompanied by a booklet with a curator’s text.


Mihkel Ilus (1987) is a visual artist living and working in Tallinn, who works in the extended field of painting. He often tackles large scale installations, approaching them with the logic of a painter. Having studied painting at the University of Tartu and the Estonian Academy of Arts, a substantial part of his practice involves combining contemporary exhibition culture with performance art. Among his recent solo exhibitions are: “How Else Can I Put It” (curated by Siim Preiman) at the Hordaland Kunstsenter in Bergen (2018), “Caprices: Pre-amp” (with Henri Hütt) at the Architecture and Design Gallery (2017), “Stick It In Your Wall” at Hobusepea Gallery (2017) and “Dead End” (with Marten Esko) at the Art Hall Gallery (2016).


The exhibition was made in cooperation between Tallinn Art Hall and Tartu Artists’ Union.