Exhibition: Mihkel Ilus “Give up, and leave all behind”

Mihkel Ilus’s exhibition “Give up, and leave all behind” explores the longing for spring and the desire to remove the cover from a car or a motorcycle, press the clutch and accelerate full throttle into the distance.

The exhibition opening will take place at Artrovert gallery (Turu plats 3, Nõmme) on April 6th at 18:30.

In his series of paintings, the artist draws parallels between art and cars, highlighting the universal truths and the pursuit of the ideal that exist in both worlds. As an example, he mentions his studio neighbor Märt, who sculpts his old Saab like a sculptor working on a sculpture: “He can sand down the entire car and putty it again just to bring out a one-centimeter protrusion from a pothole.”

The roots of the series can be traced back to Haapsalu in 2016, where Ilus presented a painting created for a semicircular shape as part of Liisa Kaljula’s curated exhibition “Suur maalritöö” (Great Painter’s Work). At that time, the painting was inspired by Kaarel Kurismaa’s works. The same artwork moved from studio to studio with the artist, evolving in its purpose over time; the artwork later became a target for an air rifle. Years passed until Ilus’s friend Mura suggested exhibiting his works in a vintage car shop, and the abstract artwork created for the semicircular shape perfectly suited as the starting point for the series.

In the exhibition, Mihkel Ilus breaks the myth of being a painter who only uses white color, incorporating rich color palettes into his works. The series is bursting with colors, evoking the same sensory delight as the first blooming crocuses after a long winter. The artist has used automotive paint in his paintings, including shades such as Ferrari red, Moskvich brown, and BMW silver. As he jokingly added, “These artworks are like failed painting jobs; every time I try to do bodywork, it turns out like landscape painting.”

Mihkel Ilus (b. 1987) is an Estonian painter and installation artist who intertwines performing arts with the relationship between the white cube and the black box in his works. His artistic practice is characterized by a constant desire to create and break rules and manipulate the medium. Behind seemingly simple execution lies a thoughtful and thorough conceptualization. His preferred materials include construction materials such as plasterboard and wood, and various shades of white serve as his color palette. Mihkel Ilus holds a bachelor’s degree in painting from the University of Tartu and a master’s degree in Fine Arts from the Estonian Academy of Arts. He has been a guest lecturer, master, and faculty member at the Estonian Academy of Arts since 2011.

Last autumn, he presented an immersive performance installation titled “T2” in collaboration with Marten Esko at Kanuti Gildi SAAL. He has recently held solo exhibitions at the Tartu Art House (2019), Hobusepea Gallery (2018), and Hardanger Art Centre in Norway (2018).