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Without light, there would be no colours

Mary-Ann Talvistu (4/2021)

Mary-Ann Talvistu looks at the paintings of Huupi (Evelin Zolotko).

Huupi's (Evelin Zolotko's) recent solo exhibition "Palace of the Day" took place both in the Pallas Gallery in Tartu (6.–27. VIII 2021) as well as in the Solaris Gallery in Tallinn (9. IX–10. X 2021). Both exhibitions featured paintings from the same series, although the displays were very different.

In 2016, Huupi received the city of Tartu's most important art award, the Ado Vabbe Prize, for her exhibition "Plat Principal", which was centred around a humorous story about a housewife's carnal desires. The show "Endspiel" (2017) at the Tartu Art House, in the former penthouse apartment of the artist Andrus Kasemaa (1941–2016), was created specifically for that space and provided an expressive environment for the exhibited paintings, while also amplifying the atmosphere of the past. In 2018, as part of Voronja Gallery's exhibition series "Sources", Huupi had an exhibition in the attic of her childhood home, the Tamme farm in Raadama village, Põlvamaa county, where she displayed her collection of knitwear entitled "Elli", inspired by traditional peasant life and the traditional Japanese aesthetic of wabi-sabi. The exhibition was dedicated to her parents. But perhaps there is no need to go back in time in order to get a sense of the uniqueness of "Palace of the Day" within the context of Huupi's practice.

An unpredictable artist

When it comes to Huupi, every new exhibition project is full of surprises as her artistic style is quite unpredictable. This time is no different: as a result of a year of work and preparation, a series of paintings was born, consisting of colour and architecture, light and shadow. The works are titled with timestamps, which refer to light in time and space and symbolise the movement of light. Empty architectural views have been washed over by a southern heatwave, evoking the sound of crickets and making the viewer involuntarily squint their eyes.

Interestingly, it is the sharp shadows between the buildings that bring life to the paintings. This is where the gaze strays to look for any signs of life, as we all know that only shadows can relieve the scorching sun. I am reminded of Francis Alÿs' video work "Zócalo, 22 May 1999", shot in Mexico City's central square and portraying a day around a giant flagpole, where its narrow and constantly moving shadow offers passers-by a temporary relief.

In addition to light, colour is another key element in Huupi's work. From one painting to the next, the colour palette changes only very subtly, presenting pastel tones throughout, but at the same time, among the broken colours, there is often at least one contrasting surface that guides the gaze. When it comes to the rhythm and playfulness of colour, the exhibition at the Pallas Gallery in Tartu was especially impressive, as the images expanded out of the surface of the painting together with their colours and onto the gallery walls and columns. What's more, additional light gushed into the space through the large windows.

All this gave the impression of looking at a "picture within a picture", and so the viewer became an agent, moving around within the created space, trying mentally to absorb these extraordinary views. The lack of a clearly defined horizon in Huupi's works also adds a lot. The viewer's gaze seems to find itself in a maze, colliding with colourful walls and, finally, letting itself be guided by light and shadow.




Oil on canvas,
150 x 250 cm
Exhibition view at
Pallas Gallery
Maris Tomba



Inspiration from Mexico

Huupi's treatment of colour reveals her source of inspiration in creating this series – the Mexican architect Luis Barragán (1902–1988), whose few completed buildings in Mexico are undoubtedly architectural gems. The design of his own home has been widely recognised and the building currently functions as the architect's house museum. In architecture, Barragán valued the creation of atmosphere, to which both interior design and landscape architecture also contribute.

Huupi has said that her works would be well suited to open interiors, where certain design elements could extend the colours and images in the paintings into the surrounding space. The artist has also played with the idea of bringing pieces of nature into her architectural views, although, in the current series, the colour green has been deliberately avoided.

Barragán's understanding of designing artificial environments is also shared by the colour theorist Friedrich Ernst von Garnier, whose colour designs for massive buildings aim to make them more pleasant and their inevitable presence less offensive to the eye. Similar interior solutions have been cleverly designed by the interior designer Malene Bach, whose recent project at the Avasara Academy in Pune focused on painting the ceilings with natural tones and thus making the concrete building come alive. Our surroundings play an important role in creating a mood. Huupi's works have a wonderful atmosphere and that makes her painting very attractive, inevitably evoking the desire to inhabit them.1

The design of the Tartu exhibition described above found its polar opposite in the Tallinn show, where the background of the paintings was mainly neutral white, accented by a few deep-black walls. Huupi's paintings worked perfectly with both designs. While the Tartu exhibition in its totality fully captured the viewer, the Tallinn show emphasised the autonomy of the paintings, allowing the viewer to project themselves into the sun-drenched picture.

Given the scale of this series, it could be supposed that this is the first step in a new creative direction for the artist, but, considering her previous work, it is also clear that Huupi's next moves can never be predicted.



1 Huupi also works as an interior designer, creating interiors that often boldly and playfully employ colour.


Mary-Ann Talvistu is a culture-loving coder, who, in addition to her day job, mediates, teaches and curates art.

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