Impressions of Tartu / / Maja Breife & Hans-Peter Schütt

”Fall into place”

Maja Breife and Hans-Peter Schütt

To be honest this has been quite a trip in many ways and a certain key point of it all was a wall in Tartu waiting for us, painted black on our wish.

To begin with we applied for this residency with a completely different project that emerged from the fact that the Estonian flag was first created in Tartu and in 2018 Estonia celebrates 100 years, not as a free nation, but it´s birth as a independent country in 1918.

The beginning – taping

Instead of our original project we were offered to paint a mural outside the Estonian Print and Paper Museum, offer which we accepted. The difficult part was to create a sketch prior to our residency period. Difficult because we wanted to be inspired by the town and the museum. We did travel through Tartu two years ago but the museum was new to us. So we thought about the basic operations related to these two museums and put together a sketch. Upon arrival our idea did make sense and also had unexpected connections to that what the museum turned out to be. Life has it’s way to fall into place.

Taping is done!

And what a place this Estonian Print an Paper museum is. Not at all what we imagined it to be. It’s as it were alive – being filled with creatures, characters, little treasures and opportunities. If you have not been there, we recommend you to visit and if you are thinking about a residency somewhere this is truly a place to create!

So, back to the wall. One of us had done a lot of murals and one very little. One was very familiar with spraypaints and the other one not so much. Also different approaches of creating images were evident. There is a charm in that as there is a challenge. Communication is needed and understanding. It all worked out well and collaboration was smooth and productive. Considering that the work is outdoors we also have to thank the weather showing mercy at us.

The only reminiscence from our original project was to use the colors of he Estonian flag. Black as the Estonian soil and a symbol of past oppression. Blue as the sky, seas, lakes and loyalty. White as snow and virtue. In addition to that we added a warm palette of yellow, orange and gold.

Detail of the mural

Mural almost finished

We started from black, masked the outlines with tape. Second round was making the background with the colors of our warm palette. Third we worked in the foreground with various blue colors and white, bit like a big coloring book. Shapes and patterns were stenciled. All the work was done by hand and that creates lines bit less straight and slightly more alive. Also the final coloring was spontaneous. Finally the tape was removed to reveal what this all looked like. It is the same surprise when you get the print out of whatever printer you are using. You never really know the final result until you hold it in your hand, just that with a wall it is quite a fuss to make another try…. For this occasion we had invited everybody working in the museum to help with the removal of the taper. There was bit of rain that day (though our trip otherwise was mostly sunny) but the wall was born anew. Quite a moment as well as quite a performance.

Despite our goal which was to make this mural, it was also much more than that. Additionally we both played around in the museum creating art and such on the side. Also we got to learn more about the town (we were given a great tour, aitäh!) which we made our home for some weeks. It creates a certain something to spend some time away from your everyday life. Eyes have a lot of new impressions to take in and colors seem more bright. Tartu is a very charming town, especially the worn but colorful wooden houses with beautiful carved details clashed against massive Soviet era concrete. Big hills in the middle of town where streets wiggle in between like stone worms. Street art popping up almost everywhere. Cobblestones making us sound like a riot when hurling over them on our bikes. Huge trees in the middle of town. Street names composed of short and adorably quirky words. Not to forget that paying a visit to the next door supermarket is already a little adventure. Also we did manage a real adventure out of town on our rented Chinese bikes to see some countryside life. Getting a hole drilled into the wall of our Tartu home was also exciting and new experience.

The hole drilled into the wall of our Tartu home

There was also many very memorable encounters; all the wonderful people at the museum, acquainted Finnish artist delegation from Vantaa, our musician neighbors from Russia, the man with the scythe, the man with a thousand folds of paper in his hands, a number of cats, an octopus crying happy tears, illuminated spiders, surprising heavy metal uncle, that very very dangerous angry man who claimed ownership of a public street and that very very gentle man who cheered our painting project from time to time and had his own life homeless on the street. Many problems, artistic ones included, are very obsolete compared to some. Be kind and walk lightly with your fellow beings. Everywhere. 

Did we get enough of this town? Can you get enough… There always seems to be this new interesting place to discover and get enchanted about. In fairytales they say all good things come in three so a third trip to Tartu is definitely there in the back of our minds <3.

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