In December and January I-20 will present an exhibition of two artists whose work has been influenced by the expanse of landscape and Northern light of the Baltic Sea area, which inspired these solo shows for Timur Novikov and Jaan Toomik. Novikov was an instrumental leader in the cultural shift and openness that occurred in St. Petersburg, Russia, in the 1980s, whereas Toomik is an example of an exceptional artist who has emerged out of post-Soviet culture in one of the Baltic republics, Estonia.

Timur Novikov usually works in the medium of fabric collage, often starting by sewing together two contrasting rectangles. The seam creates a horizontal line that centers the work. The artist says: “I spent a lot of time on the shores of various seas, in open country. I had drawn horizontal landscapes and landscapes divided by a horizontal line since I was a small child.” In these works, Novikov stencils, paints or pastes various signs: a ship, a tree, a sun. By placing the images there, he defines the horizontal line as a sea, a forest, or as space. Says Novikov, “My works are simple. They are not overloaded with information. I want my viewer to relax, to feel rested. My wish to please my viewer leads me again and again to the landscape, and above all the seascape. I measure every painting I work on against the space above my bed.”

His recent series, Russian Saints, incorporates photo-based images portraying 19th Century Russian saints and holy martyrs, a reflection of the complex history of the Eastern Orthodox Church and its transformation in the aftermath of Soviet communism. Five of the holy martyrs shown were executed in 1918, including Nicholas II and Alexandra.

A video work by Jaan Toomik will be shown in the East Room: Father and Son. In this 1998 work – accompanied by a choral sung by his ten-year old son – the artist appears as a naked man gliding across the Baltic Sea on skates.

Timur Novikov was born in St. Petersburg, Russia, in 1958. In 1983 he founded the New Artists group of Leningrad, which included Afrika (Sergei Bugaev), the filmmaker Evgeny Ufet and the composer Sergei Kuryokhin. He worked as a concert designer for the group Kino; and was art director for Sergei Solovjev’s landmark 1987 film, ASSA. In 1993 he opened the New Academy, which promotes St. Petersburg’s classical aesthetic in the contemporary arts. He is co-publisher of Kabinet, a philosophical journal of science and the arts.

Novikov has had one-person exhibitions at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; the Kunsthalle Dusseldorf; the Museum Moderner Kunst, Vienna; the Kunstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin; and the Tate Gallery, Liverpool. In the U.S., his shows have included Russian Resurgence: Recent Works by Timur Novikov, curated by Louis Grachos, at the Center for the Fine Arts in Miami and the Frederick R. Weisman Art Foundation in Los Angeles; A Few Fey Things, curated by Bill Arning, at White Columns, New York; and a site-specific installation for the St. Petersburg Festival at New York’s World Financial Center in 1997. Timur Novikov: A Retrospective, will open in December at the State Russian Museum in St. Petersburg.

Jaan Toomik was born in 1961 in Tartu, Estonia. He was educated at the Estonian Academy of Arts, and lives and works in Tallinn. In 1998, Toomik had solo shows at the Art Museum of Estonia and Art Pace: A Foundation for Contemporary Art, in San Antonio, Texas. He has participated in many international group exhibitions, including the 1994 Sao Paulo Biennial; the 1997 Venice Bienalle; Truce for the Second Site Santa Fe Biennale, curated by Francesco Bonami; Letter and Event at Apex Art, New York, curated by Maria Lind; ARS 95 at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Helsinki; Manifesta 1 European Biennial of Modern Art, Rotterdam Art Hall; and Personal Time: Art of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuenia, 1945-1996, at the Center for Contemporary Art, Warsaw, Poland.

An illustrated catalogue (No.8), with essays by Andrew Solomon and Hanno Soans, will accompany this exhibition.

This exhibition has received support from the Soros Centre for Contemporary Arts, Estonia (SCCA, Estonia), the Ministry of Culture of the Estonian Republic, and the Cultural Endowment of Estonia.