Estonian painter and illustrator Liisa Kruusmägi, whose latest solo exhibition opened on April 28 in Tallinn, shares her worldview and insights into her work with Estonian World.
If you live in Tallinn, the Estonian capital, chances are that at some point you have come across the vibrant paintings of Liisa Kruusmägi.
Kruusmägi’s work focuses primarily on people at different times and their environment. His mastery of color and detail as well as humor draws the viewer into the work, evoking relatable emotions and feelings.
Born in Tallinn in 1988, Kruusmägi received a bachelor’s degree in painting from the Estonian Academy of Arts in 2011 before obtaining a master’s degree in drawing in 2013. She participated in an exchange program with the Rhode Island School of Design and participated in residency programs. at the James Black Gallery in Vancouver, at AIRY and Yosuga in Japan, at the Kitokia Grafika risography studio in Lithuania, at the Cassis art residency in France, at the Silva Linarte painting symposium in Latvia and at the Residéncia São João in Brazil.
His solo exhibitions have taken place in Portugal, Sweden, Canada, Japan, USA, Lithuania, Latvia, Germany, Finland, Brazil and Estonia. Kruusmägi has also participated in group exhibitions in London, Berlin, Slovakia, Italy and Russia, as well as the comic strip festival in Brussels and elsewhere. Kruusmägi has been a member of the Union of Estonian Artists since 2013.
Her solo exhibition, “Balearic Liisa,” at Stella Soomlais Studio in Telliskivi Creative City in Tallinn, opened on April 28. Estonian World caught up with Liisa to find out more.
Liisa, your art includes paintings, drawings and illustrations. How would you describe your work and what is your art about?
My art is essentially about my life. Lately, I thought my drawings were a bit like a diary – about my thoughts or things that happened. My art is a combination of my dreams, my thoughts and my life. I mix them and this “my world” is the result.
Was there someone or something that initially inspired you?
Sometimes there are many things that inspire, it can be almost anything. But above all almost all my travels, good art, brilliant people with their thoughts.
Your work focuses on illustration – mostly of people in different, very dynamic and colorful times and environments. Is this your quest for meaning? Is it you and the world around you?
Yes, it is especially people and human nature that interest me the most. Because we are all so different and will never fully understand anyone else. Each of us lives in a totally different world and life – and it’s so beautiful. I love listening to how people are fascinated by something they’re doing and it’s so nice to see people dancing, swimming or laughing. And like our eyes, our skin, our hair are beautiful.
I usually draw and paint situations that I like – for example, parties with lots of people or just daydreaming on a couch. Usually I don’t paint certain people or myself, just human beings in general. But I can identify with them.
More recently, your paintings seem to be inspired more and more by nature and its intense colors. Your 14 meter long painting full of amazing colors and corals and fish at the ‘Corals Colours’ exhibition in Tallinn really feels like part of a nature series by David Attenborough. I also followed the YouTube channel where you and Taavi Tulev (Estonian artist and musician) film Estonian nature, without added music – just high quality nature sound. It’s almost magical! What experience and thoughts do you hope visitors will take away from viewing your paintings and illustrations?
The exhibition “Corals Colours” is a collaboration with Maarja Mäemets (Estonian glass artist and photographer) and is inspired by the diversity of the television series of the natural historian David Attenborough as well as the personal experience of the artists. Since corals are so colorful, we decided this could be our subject. I wanted to play with this room – as it’s such a small gallery, I wanted to create an underwater feel to it.
How do you see yourself evolving as an artist? Would you say that each of your works is a search for who you are as an artist?
Yes, of course – my style, my techniques, my subjects are constantly changing, just as my life and the life around me are also changing.
How about bringing art to more public spaces – out of galleries and museums?
A gallery or museum is a place to show art – like theaters are a place for a play. It is not necessary to change it.
How to get people to see art in galleries depends on a promotion: ads, posts or even when someone shares an exhibition visit on Instagram, which has mostly worked for me lately. Instagram isn’t the place to host an exhibition – it’s about creating interest, so people want to see it.
Do you think the interest in more classical paintings is dying out now that poetics is being supplanted by photography and technology?
Definitely not. We have so many possibilities to make art and it’s really good that artists use all mediums. Nothing will disappear.
Is art the mirror of society?
I think that it is possible. Maybe we don’t see it at the time but after a while when we look back – for example, at the art we’re doing now – there will probably be a lot of reflections of our society. current. But there are probably artists who disagree and believe that their art would not be suitable for a particular time or place.
Why do we need artists?
My friend told me recently: art makes us more empathetic. People need to be taken out of materialistic, everyday life – a little, at least. And art helps us do that – to think about other thoughts, to think about life itself.
Does the audience matter to you?
Of course, I like to have comments. It’s rare here in Estonia, but when it does, it’s very pure and touching. It also keeps me going – I feel like I’m needed.
What is your personal philosophy? And how is this reflected in your work?
I’m not sure I really have one! Maybe just go with the flow? My life is like that. I rarely plan anything and usually don’t know what’s going to happen in the months or years to come, so maybe that’s reflected in my work. Like how to enjoy life just by being in the moment, or just doing something you really enjoy!
As an artist, you have visited many beautiful places – Is there a place that particularly inspired you?
Yes, there are places that have changed my life and me at times. From Stockholm, where I had my first exhibition with my friends. Then when I studied under the Erasmus program in Lisbon, where I felt I had grown up and found what I loved most in life.
The biggest change came when I had my exchange studies in Rhode Island, USA, and went to a friend’s house in New York. I felt so free and started painting very differently from what I had done before. In fact, I didn’t want to come back [to Estonia] at all!
In Chicago, being with the community of cool artists there.
In Mexico, seeing those huge cactus fields and ancient Aztec and Mayan art is amazing! I’m really happy to have had all this in my life.
What do you enjoy most about your job as an artist?
I think it’s freedom. That I can do what I really like, that I can do it when I want, that I can travel, that I meet lots of interesting people.
What is your new exhibition, “Liisa from the Balearics” in regards to?
It’s all about knowing how to fit large works of art into a small space! I will have seven paintings and some wall drawings.
“Balearic Liisa” runs until May 13 at Stella Soomlais Studio, 62 Telliskivi Street in Tallinn.