From Monday, 3 May Jaanus Samma’s solo exhibition “Pattern” will be open in the monumental gallery of the Tartu Art House. It was created last spring during the artist’s residency in the Art House and his artistic research in the Estonian National Museum.
Examples of the 19th century Estonian women’s coifs (tanu) from the collections of the ENM are exhibited side-by-side with drawings and embroidery inspired by them. Samma continues his research into the covert dating culture and fetishes of the gay community begun in his earlier works. This time the focus is on men’s underwear that have been provocatively juxtaposed with folk flower embroidery.
As a headwear, tanu indicated marriage and Estonian peasant women had to wear it daily as a status symbol. During the wedding ritual the newly married woman was hit against the head or face with a tanu with the words: “Forget you dreams and remember the man!” Tanu with is beautiful embroidery was a sign of a woman who was taken and was meant to remind the wearer at every moment her position in the union.
From afar, Jaanus Samma’s elegant drawings showing wreaths of flower ornaments would suit both the office of an authoritarian president as well as a Stalinist palace of culture. On closer inspection, however, it becomes clear that they are not genuine nationalist kitsch. The jockstraps bearing perfect handmade embroidery have not been made at a folk clothing workshop at ENM, but pose provocative and painful questions.
What happens when the sacred folk patterns copied from the tanu adorn men’s underwear? Will the heterosexual matrix of power dissolve? Who gets hit over the head with the underwear now? What meanings can be found in Estonian national ornament if it is presented in a queered up context?
Jaanus Samma (b 1982) has studied printmaking and fine arts at the Etonian Academy of Arts. In 2015, he represented Estonia at the Venice Biennale with the project “NSFW. A Chairman’s Tale”. In 2013, Samma won both the grand prix and the audience award at the Köler Prize and in 2016 was awarded the Kristjan Raud Art Prize. Although in 2018 Samma had a solo exhibition as part of the “Artists in Collections” series in the Juhan Liiv Museum not far from Tartu, this is his first solo exhibition in the town. www.jaanussamma.eu
The exhibition will remain open until 23 May. During this time, the Tartu Art House is open every day 12–18.
The exhibition text is written by Andreas Kalkun.
The artist thanks: Agnes Aljas, Ülle Jäe, Reet Piiri, Liina-Mai Püüa, Virve Valtmann-Valdson, Kadri Vissel, Mari Volens, Cultural Endowment of Estonia, Estonian National Museum and Tartu Art House.