press release

The subjective universe of paintings of Paul Kondas (1900–1985) allows us to count him among the most interesting Estonian naive artists. The non-professional approach and the resulting spontaneous manner of depiction, often described as sincere childishness, rank as the most essential criteria for defining naive art. The works of Kondas are often cheerful indeed but not childish. Even the strawberry eaters with transparent faces, seem to be just sweet-toothed and thrilled at the first glance, but a closer inspection reveals a devilish glare in their eyes.

The paintings of Kondas, like is often the case with the naive artists, feature an eagerly narrative approach. Although containing weird characters and unusual links, his pictures are very easily approachable. One can find amusing postures and comic appearances on the paintings of Kondas. In a number of canvases he has just unleashed the sinful folks to frolic, but there are others that reveal serious political beliefs. While generally Kondas liked to date the completion of his paintings, the latter are not dated or signed, just in case.

Paul Kondas was a man of numerous interests. A schoolteacher by profession, he wrote, staged and designed plays for children, played several instruments and conducted the school orchestra. He wrote poetry, made photos, planted parks, built a bridge and was a devoted hunter and a fisherman. He took up painting on a serious scale after retirement, in the silence of solitary bachelorhood. The peculiar fantasy world of his works found acknowledgement. Kondas is included in the World Encyclopedia of Naive Art published in 1984 in London.

The turn of the 19th and 20th century is considered to be the period of birth of naive art. Modernists were the first ones to acknowledge naive art that helped them to discard artistic dogmas through its simplicity and ingeniousness. The impacts of naive art can be traced throughout the artistic history of the 20th century, while naive art itself is not included among the styles of art. As a rule, it is borne in isolation and fails to educate any followers or schools.

Kondas painted his works in the period from 1956 to 1981, being not influenced by the development of professional art. During his lifetime, no personal exhibitions were arranged in Viljandi but after the artist's death the museum of his hometown bought all the paintings that he left. The noteworthiness of Kondas is also witnessed by the fact that the Centre of Naive and Outsider Art founded in 2003 Viljandi was named after him. The exhibition reached the Art Museum of Estonia thanks to the kind permission and support of the Kondas Centre and Viljandi Museum. Thank you!

Curator of the exhibition: Kädi Talvoja Designer: Villu Plink

Strawberry Eaters. Naive Paintings of Paul Kondas
Kurator: Kädi Talvoja