An exhibition dedicated to Estonian artist Kaljo Põllu opens in Japan

An exhibition of graphic art by the Estonian artist, Kaljo Põllu, opened on 15 November at the Okuni Shrine in Japan.

The display, arranged jointly by the Art Museum of Estonia, the Okuni Shrine, the city of Saku and the Saku Municipal Museum of Modern Art in Japan, “gives a revealing glimpse of the ancient world of the Estonians’ ancestors, as well as the country’s legends, beliefs and relations with nature”, the organisers said in a statement.

Kaljo Põllu (1934–2010) is widely regarded as one of the most outstanding Estonian artists. In his works, he reflected the beliefs and ancient myths of the Finno-Ugric and Nordic peoples.

“As an art lecturer and a leader of scientific expeditions to investigate Estonian and Finno-Ugric national heritage, he deeply influenced the Estonian art scene,” the organisers said. “Using the suggestive mezzotint technique, the artist, with his strong characteristic style, created voluminous series of graphic sheets: ancient dwellers, Kali people, heaven and earth, Estonian landscapes and enlightenment.”

Mythological tales

A selection of works from this series forms the central part of the exhibition. In his art, Põllu told stories about his ancestors’ beliefs and legends, relations between gods and people, the creation of the world, mythical totem animals and natural powers.

The Okuni Shrine, which was founded in the sixth century, is considered one of the pillars of the Japanese national identity. The shrine plays an important role in preserving national heritage, including traditional art, several classical performance arts and unique rituals.

Põllu’s exhibition, a part of the international programme to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Republic of Estonian, is open from 15 November 2018 to 17 February 2019 at the Okuni Shrine. The same exhibition will then be held at the Saku Municipal Museum of Modern Art from 8 March to 14 April 2019.

The exhibition is accompanied by a richly illustrated catalogue in Japanese and in English.

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Cover: Kaljo Põllu – Sun Boat. Ancient Dwellers series, 1974 (photo by Aldo Luud). Images courtesy of the Art Museum of Estonia.

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About the author: Silver Tambur

Silver Tambur is the cofounder and Editor-in-Chief of Estonian World. He has previously studied journalism at the University of Tartu, and Politics & Society at the Birkbeck College, University of London. Silver has been the editor at the Estonian Public Broadcasting’s news service in English, as well as contributing for the Business Sense magazine in the UK, Deutsche Welle and Radio New Zealand. You can also follow him on Twitter. You can write to Silver at silver@estonianworld.com.