A Pause for Thought: A Review of “Blonde and a White Cat” by Margus Lokk
James Baxenfield 20/02/2013
Margus Lokk “Blondiin ja valge kass / Blonde and a White Cat” Tartu Kunstimaja Monumentaalgaleriis February 13 - March 9, 2014
There are images that conjure up memories. Scenes played out before that we think familiar only to ourselves; particular words and colours that we reserve only for a certain person. Later I used a photograph of one of the paintings – “blondiinjalilla” (“Blonde and Purple”) – as wallpaper on my smart phone.
The posters for the exhibition were like the event’s description: without any information other than the name of the artist, the title, date, time, venue and a somewhat haunting photograph of a white cat. To be honest, I had no idea it was an exhibition of paintings.
Arriving at the gallery after I’d given my final lecture of the week, I was about an hour late for the opening. According to the guestbook I’d missed a swell of people. Lucky, I thought. Like the exhibition of five large canvases, the space itself was small and modest. On the other hand,the “champagne”was all but gone.
A few days earlier, shortly before giving my first lecture of the week, I’d bumped into Margus Lokk outside a vinoteek. He’s one of a handful of artists I know from around Tartu. He seemed rather happy– carrying two bottles of wine – and after exchanging a few everyday pleasantries he said he had an exhibition opening later in the week. His phone started ringing, I said I’d drop by and we went our separate ways.
Now, at the end of the week – my working week at least – standing in the middle of Margus’ exhibition I realised I didn’t know him that well after all. I’d always met him at other artists’ studios. It hadn’t occurred to me that I’d never seen any of his works before. Not even that, I had no idea what his speciality medium was!
“Pencils”, I heard a couple of other people at the exhibition say, “I don’t know why he didn’t use them for this?” At the time I had no means of comparison. I’ve since had chance to peruse a number of these works, in which he does have excellent control; resulting in truly exquisite depictions. Nevertheless, the paintings I was looking at there and then – reminiscent of a departure from pop art – are no less visually arresting, particularly one of them.
“It was begun thirty minutes before it was due to be hung!” spread a rumour.
If that was the case, I thought, then it’s hardly a criticism. I’d be happy if I could produce something that good in thirty days! Knowing what little I do of Margus’ personality I’m inclined to think that this rumour originated from him; a sort of attempt at modesty. Nevertheless, I took in the painting, which in all honesty – as I later told Margus – I would have bought there and then, if I had the means about me.
I asked Margus what the idea behind the exhibition was. He told mea story so very familiar to me, not because I’d heard it before, but rather because I’d lived it. In truth I already knew; elements of the paintings betray the sentiments. The style and medium serve the purpose of providing a lack of detail: a means of self-preservation for memories that would otherwise be rendered true to life. How else could something beautiful be created from experiences so real? It’s a story that many men (if not most) will know.