Estonia was a country I’d never really heard much about until a few years ago. Growing up in Australia you’d only ever hear of the Soviet Union. The countries that had been forcibly incorporated into it were like out of focus pictures from the past. You couldn’t really get a handle on who they were or what was unique about them. Until 1991 that is when Estonia reclaimed its independence. From that time on they’ve been moving onwards and upwards and outwards to the world.
Reflective of that is the huge amount of books that are published there. It seems everyone takes a shot at writing. And the bookshops are fantastic. Being a painter of course I’m interested in art books which I find difficult to resist. This time we bought a recently released book called ‘Global Estonia- 150 urban settings in art’ by Aavo Kokk and Andres Eilart. (It’s a pair to ‘Brushstroke Estonia’ published in 2011 which we also forked out for.)
Both these books are absolutely beautiful to look at and to read. Basically it’s a collection of paintings depicting 150 cities all around the world painted by Estonians who’ve either migrated through choice or by necessity. Each painting is accompanied with that particular painters history along with more general historical facts.
There’s six paintings depicting Australian cities and I was interested to discover these Australian painters had an Estonian background. Harri Pudersell paints Sydney, Helen Playford -Perth, Anni Luur-Fox -Adelaide, Leeni Aavik -Brisbane, Thomas Andersen – Hobart and one painting depicting the Westgate Bridge in Melbourne by the doctor, writer and artist Mai Maddisson. I’m from Melbourne so of course I thought I’d showcase this painting.
As a two year old Mai Maddisson had left Europe with her mother after the Second World War and arrived in Australia in 1949. The Westgate Bridge played a significant role in her life as at one end of the bridge is the school she went to after first arriving. At the other was the hospital she worked at as an intern doctor. The bridge is significant to anyone living in Melbourne in the 60’s and 70’s as it collapsed in 1970 while it was being built and 35 men died. But her painting is overwhelmingly positive capturing the brilliant light and energy of it’s locale.
The book serves as a vehicle for the Estonian people to remember and connect with each other all over the world and a reminder for everyone else of the joy and power of art.
‘Everything you can imagine is real.’ Picasso