It's dark all the time – Greetings from Tallinn!

Article  /  ArtistsBehind the Scenes
Published: 18.12.2014
It's dark all the time – Greetings from Tallinn!.
Kadri Mälk
Edited by:
Claire McArdle
Edited at:
Ulvi Haagensen Vive la Latvia!, painted steel.
. Photo: Marc Morel
.  .
Ulvi Haagensen Vive la Latvia!, painted steel.
Photo: Marc Morel

© By the author. Read Copyright.

What do they say about us on the other side of the world? And what do you know about them? Kadri Mälk reflects on the exhibition “Words and Works from a World Away” – a project that unites the northern and southern hemispheres through the work of jewellery and object artists from Australia & Estonia.
Essay by Kadri Mälk
First published in the exhibition catalogue Words and Works from a World Away
McArdle, Melbourne 2013

“It's dark all the time” – greetings from Tallinn! This quote by Mark is illuminating.
This is why I have the pleasure of taking up Claire McArdle’s proposal and offering this contribution to the Australian-Estonian exhibition Words & Works from a World Away.
The first jewellers from Melbourne to cross our threshold in Tallinn were Professor Robert Baines and Mari Funaki. That was 2001 and Nocturnus, a night-time gathering of jewellers on Muhu Island, was about to begin. This was the schuster-nicole-schuster-nicole-beginning-2016-2016 of my close connection with Robert. He came back to Tallinn in 2004 as a guest lecturer and I conducted an interview with him, which appeared in the cultural newspaper Sirp. We spoke of the historical and hysterical incorrectness in Robert’s work. Among other important things he said that an artist is after all a dubious character. This ambivalent attitude was very familiar. I understood that I had a closer connection with this artist from the other side of the world, than I did with some Estonian artists. Deformation professionelle?
Over the years many students from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology have come to study in Tallinn and a number of our students have enjoyed studying in Australia. This exhibition is one of the outcomes of this exchange, for which we thank Claire McArdle and Ulvi Haagensen, the Australian and Estonian curators of the exhibition.
One of the smallest, yet most eloquent pieces in the exhibition by an Estonian is the work by the young jeweller Annika Kedelauk. Mites of darkness are finely engraved tiny dark-coloured ebonite creatures, whose napes or bellies cast a hopeful brownish sheen. They are withdrawn cocoon-like creatures, but what concealed eyes they have! Look at the eyes! The quiet, all seeing eyes that glow in the dark – are diamonds! Kedelauk shows us the smallest creatures, but they are the largest and most articulate.

Kaire Rannik’s large brooch titled No Beavers clatters when worn – the parts clank and rattle. Maybe it reminds us Estonians of our ancient magical jewellery, where the sound produced by the jewellery provided a protective magic. The largest work is by Ulvi Haagensen – a pseudo-patriotic flag flying in the wind. With a touch of irony the illusionary cry Vive la Latvia suggests that from afar, we as the Baltic States, are all seen as one.

Katarina Kotselainen’s stone jewellery titled Spirit of Stone or Nobody can take the pressure for ever looks at the tension within and around us  – it doesn’t take much to knock out a chip. Fragility is very human.

Katarina Kotselainen 
Brooch: Spirit of Stone or Nobody can take the pressure forever
Cacholong, silver, steel.
Photo: Marc Morel

Nils Hint presents us with a throat-cutting neckpiece made of scissors titled Better than your neighbour. Appropriately for a blacksmith it is forged from iron, but its rough exterior is deceptive.
These works cast a look at the artist’s own subjective and inevitable experience. A dislocated defective outsider’s position is an interesting phenomenon. In a sense, it is an avoidance of depth. It is an arbitrary image that is deceptive. However, there might be strongly distilled content hidden behind it. Look at what Australians have said about Estonia,
“It's in Europe, it's near Russia, it's cold there. They have deer, those things with antlers”. - Emma
“It's really cold and its capital is Tallinn.” – Kirsty
“Estonia is a country far away that borders on Finland?“ – Karl
“it’s got castles AND the Internet, which makes it awesome.” –Tristan
“Beautiful and magical.” – Alice
The quote might be merely a fragment, but it could also be part of a great narrative. It can break down or transform, and then reveal a human element or a local perspective, insight or perceptive vision.
For the viewer who is familiar with art that speaks socially, politically and existentially, the question arises – does this kind of art have the ability to bring the fragmented human experience into focus? Decide for yourself! In any case, being aware of differences and potential is enriching. I wish the exhibition success!

About the author

Kadri Mälk is a renowned jewellery artist living and working in Tallinn, Estonia. Since 1996 she is the professor of the jewellery department at the Estonian Academy of Arts. Kadri Mälk is a member of the artist group õhuLoss and her work has been largely influential in the developments of Estonian art jewellery.


Exhibition catalogue Words and Works from a World Away
IBSN 978-0-646-90637-9
McArdle, Melbourne 2013

WWWA opening at the Museum of Applied Art & Design in Tallinn, Estonia 2014.
. Photo: Claire McArdle
.  .
WWWA opening at the Museum of Applied Art & Design in Tallinn, Estonia 2014.
Photo: Claire McArdle

© By the author. Read Copyright.