Nelly Drell



"Estonian Celebrities"
14.December 2013 - 31.December 2014
Tallinna 6, Kuressaare, Saaremaa



About Nelly Drell's "Estonian Celebrities"

 

Nelly Drell, still a young painter in the early stages of her career, is unlike the typical stereotype of the young contemporary artist as a rebel, cultivating conceptual "protest art". Instead, her works come across as those of a respected academic. This phenomenon can easily be explained. Nelly Drell's artist identity is namely based on training in classical painting and traditional drawing, essentially on academic study, which she received at the New York Academy of Art, the bastion of conventional good taste and criteria of beauty. This kind of training is quite unique among Estonian artists. In addition to having received such schooling, Drell seems to be naturally drawn to themes which young artists generally do not enjoy or dare to tackle. These are monumental portraits, a historically engaged genre of art, as well as nudes inspired by antique mythology and figural composition as historic painting, based on realistic motifs. In fact, Drell received her first widespread critical acclaim when she painted the contemporary dramatic work "Estonian Boys in Iraq". Although it depicted anonymous heroes, this work did its share to influence the creation of the "Estonian Celebrities" series, which presents a gallery of the past decade's most well-known Estonians in the world, starting with the presidents of the newly independent Republic of Estonia, or in other words the highest ranks of the political world, and culminating with the most renowned and respected cultural figures: cultural heroes, athletes and pop stars. All of these figures, including Nobel Literature award candidate Jaan Kross, one of today's most famous composers Arvo Pärt, Olympic champion Gerd Kanter, as well as the victorious Eurovision Song Contest duo Tanel Padar/Dave Benton, have helped in developing a positive Estonian image. I would also like to emphasise that the portraits are not painted from live models but from photographs; this allows the artist to display her technical prowess while simultaneously maintaining a distance with the subject, in addition to adding a certain degree of irony, as is the case with photos that have been overly edited in Photoshop. This is the effect Drell wishes to achieve.

This exhibition is simultaneously a tribute to Estonia's leading figures of the 21st century, as well as a reminder to the international audience, that great figures can hail from small places. If Estonia had its own National Portrait Gallery similar to the one in London, that is where one would find Nelly Drell's works.

 

Harry Liivrand

Art critic



"President of the Republic of Estonia Lennart Meri and Mrs. Helle Meri"

2009
oil
canvas
150x195cm
"Writer Jaan Kross"

2009
oil
canvas
90x115cm
"Composer Erkki-Sven Tüür"

2009
oil
canvas
90x115cm
"Composer Arvo Pärt"

2009
oil
canvas
90x115cm
"Olympic Champion Andrus Veerpalu"

2009
oil
canvas
75x100cm
"Olympic champion Gerd Kanter"

2008
oil
canvas
180x208cm
frameless
"Estonian boys in Iraq"

2005
oil
canvas
148x185cm


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