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Ülle Marks and Jüri Kass

This exhibition of drawings called Vüüming denotes initiation and dedication. Be it the initiation into the skill and nature of drawing or being a man/woman.

The generation of designers and architects who arrived in Estonian art during the late 1960s shook the relationship between professionalism and innovativeness, introducing outsiders amongst those who approached the art world through a single art medium. The newcomers associated with their surroundings as a collective body, a living environment, which included an awareness of style and trend creation, as well as the will and ability to change the urban space and quality of life. By the late 1970s and early 1980s – a time when Jüri Kass (s. 1956) had already entered art and design graphics – Andres Tolts, Jüri Okas, Ando Keskküla, Leo Lapin, Villu Järmut, Ülo Emmus, Silver Vahtre and many others had already established themselves in the fine arts. Some predominantly, others as a sideline. Even today Jüri Kass has one foot in design and the other in art.


Ülle Marks (b.1963) completed a traditional in-depth programme in one medium – graphic arts. At the end of the 1980s, when her works started appearing in exhibitions, Estonian graphic art as a trademark was already waiting for her with: a) a large number of emotionally supersensitive and labour-intensive female artists whose skills were Ülleunsurpassable; b) Estonian art scene in general was undergoing great changes. Ülle Marks brought with her a powerfully generalised and focused image and an expressively traced line, which culminated in Grand Prix awards at the 1992 Tallinn Print Triennial and Intergrafia’94 World Award Winners Gallery in Katowice, Poland.


When Ülle and Jüri joined forces at the end of the decade, a strong tandem was born, which was active in both: in the graphic art and design landscape. “A few years ago, in collaboration with Jüri Kass, Ülle Marks, who garnered the most prizes in graphics during the 1990s, made a change in direction and started using digital photos. Marks and Kass command the situation splendidly, by demonstrating an effective symbiosis of graphic art and photography,” Eha Komissarov wrote in 2000.


Black-and-white asceticism and the expressiveness of the human body – whether zoomed in or out, in close-ups or movement seen from a distance – captivated them both and still do. Time and again they return to difficult and meaningful messages, searching for simplicity and purity in the world order. “The rediscovered old seems new,” (Kreg A-Kristring about Jüri Kass’s paintings at the Sammas Gallery, 2001) and “Based on international experience, there is a fatiguing amount of mixing on the technical side of the global graphic picture. The high-quality command of classical graphic techniques is quite an elitist phenomenon,” (interview with Jüri Kass by Urve Eslas in the Postimees newspaper, 2007).


This exhibition of drawings called Vüüming denotes initiation and dedication. Be it the initiation into the skill and nature of drawing or being a man/woman – Jüri’s monumental resolute guards, who surround Ülle’s transparent figures brimming with vulnerable hesitation, are filled with a longing for order and values and the readiness to defend them.