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Insider's view · Europe · estonia · Tallinn

Insider View: painter Kristi Kongi

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Insider View: painter Kristi Kongi

Kristi Kongi is like a charge of colour among the younger generation of Estonian artists. While the artist spent her first years of studies in Finland and Tartu which is the second largest city in Estonia, now, back in Tallinn, she is at the epicentre of the cultural and social life of the Estonian capital.

Kristi Kongi is an active contributor to group exhibitions; in her most recent solo show at Tallinn's Draakoni Gallery (18 Pikk, www.eaa.ee/draakon/dindex.htm) she discovered the ultimate colour intensity in the most mundane of objects.
Speaking of the gallery, the artist says: 'The Draakoni Gallery is a contemporary art gallery focusing on the very latest developments in the Estonian art scene or 'art right now'; it housed both my exhibition which ran under the title of Transformer and August Künnapuu's one-man show. The gallery is also known to become the venue for exhibitions by very young artists.' Kristi adds that the nearby Hobusepea Gallery which can be found just around the corner from the Draakoni Gallery (2 Hobusepea, www.eaa.ee/hobusepea/english/enindex1.htm), also operates with a similar bias. The two galleries should be on your must-see list if you are interested in the contemporary art processes in Estonia; however, to visit the actual place where art is conceived and created, you will have to visit the Telliskivi Loomelinnak centre for artists' studios, culture and entertainment set in the artistic Kalamaja neighbourhood of Tallinn. Once you're there, do not even think of leaving without sampling probably the best cooking in Tallinn at the F-Hoone restaurant housed in Block F of what used to be the Kalinin Electronics Factory (60A Telliskivi). 'When I first set foot inside F-Hoone, my immediate thought was: What a perfect place for a studio - the spaciousness of the hall, the high ceiling and lighting, everything was just right!' exclaims Kristi Kongi. As an excellent place for a light meal or a cup of coffee in French-inspired ambience, the artist recommends the nearby Boheem (18 Kopli, www.boheem.ee). Like F-Hoone, Boheem attracts 'artists, musicians, Estonian filmmakers and other creative souls who have found their home around the creative vein of Kalamaja.'

As a destination for those interested in a more thorough exploration of the Tallinn alternative culture routes, Kristi Kongi cites the Culture Factory Polymer multidisciplinary culture centre (22 Madara, www.kultuuritehas.ee). The Contemporary Art Museum of Estonia is home to Estonian contemporary art, a place originally founded 'by the local artists who squatted in the city's old boiler house', and the nearby Kultuurikatel, the reconstruction of which 'has been eagerly anticipated by everybody for quite some time now'. (27a/35 Põhja pst, ekkm-came.blogspot.com; kultuurikatel.blogspot.com). 'A place that impressed my foreign acquaintances and also offers an insight into the Tallinn culture life is Patarei (6-124 Kihnu, www.patarei.org/eng)' - a converted seafront prison complex.

Those keen to explore the Estonian applied design scene, perhaps putting a thing or two into their shopping basket, might find a visit to NAiiV (Pikk 33, naiiv.eu) - 'a little store with a wonderful ambience' - well worth their while; NAiiV is a design knitwear boutique owned by Liina Viira, set on the most popular tourist route in the Old Town. While the design echoes elements of the traditional Estonian costumes, the unique NAiiV knits are creative, sometimes quite sensuous, modern and light-years away from the traditional idea of a knitted sweater, cardigan, hat or trousers.

To learn more about the contemporary trends of authentic Estonian design in a wider context, you should visit nu nordik (8 Vabaduse Väljak). While the store is quite modestly sized, you will find a selection of clothes, accessories and interior design objects here.

'As a book lover, I often visit the Raamatukoi (1 Harju, www.raamatukoi.ee) second-hand bookstore which also carries some real rarities - mostly in Estonian although you could find a gem or two among the Russian, German and English titles as well. It's a very cosy place that lends itself well to unhurried trips through the bookshelves.'

The new Must Puudel cafe (20 Müürivahe) has evolved into the favourite Old Town haunt for Tallinn's creative crowd: 'For me, a huge coffee aficionado, it is the perfect place to settle down comfortably, enjoy a drink, read a book or catch up with acquaintances. At almost any time here, you are very likely to bump into someone from the theatre, art or fashion circles, hanging out or just dropping by for a moment.' Incidentally, the cafe walls feature the colour-packed paintings by Kristi Kongi.

A watering hole boasting some history is Von Krahli Aed (8 Rataskaevu,
www.vonkrahl.ee), one of Tallinn's oldest restaurants, opened shortly after the new National Awakening, simultaneously with the first privately-owned Estonian theatre company since the country's second independence - the legendary Von Krahli Teater housed in the adjoining building: 'I don't think the restaurant's decor has been changed once since the opening day - just like it has lost nothing of the local patrons' loyalty.' Noku Klubi (5 Pikk), on the other hand, stays loyal to its own crowd: it is a members-only place so to get in you need either a special admission card or some very well-connected acquaintances in Tallinn.

 


For the interview with the artist, visit www.arterritory.com.

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