Tartu Ülikooli arvutiteaduse instituut

Urmo Raus about his exhibition

In the Delta Study building, you can admire the new painting exhibition "Paternoster Square", where the artist Urmo Raus presents his works. The exhibition in Delta is a premiere and the first presentation of the artist's new creations, which the author brings to the public for the first time. The author also exhibits his series of paintings, which were created in recent years: a selection of paintings of the Capri series (2021-2022) and the Liivi series (2022-2023).

Read more about the author's reflections on how the exhibition's title emerged. You can also find Urmo Raus's introduction to the Capri series and the Liivi series here.

Paternoster Square

I was recently sitting on a pink deck chair in the autumn sunshine in the small square of Paternoster Square next to Saint-Paul's Cathedral in London. This square square comes from the former name of Paternoster Row, a street of booksellers and publishers in London. The road was destroyed in the Luftwaffe air raids on London in 1940, where an estimated 5 million books were destroyed. Just half a year after the destruction of Paternoster Row, it is estimated that half of the city of Tartu was also destroyed in the battles of the summer of 1941. A lot of cultural heritage and entire city blocks were destroyed. The buildings on the bank of the Emajõgi, where the Delta house is now located, were also destroyed. Paternoster Square is now a center for investment banks and stock exchange firms. In the poetry of a name of the place at the heart of the modern business world, a memory has been preserved, reminding us that to be human, we need - both spiritual and intellectual sides to balance.

The art exhibitions of the University of Tartu's Delta Building are part of the Estonian art tradition, where several important art events of the second half of the last century took place under the roof of research institutions. Art and science complement each other in human fantasies. They inspire each other. In my paintings, I have interpreted and tried to decipher the spirit of the place. Delta House is like the Paternoster Square of the ghost town of Tartu. The exhibition exhibits my creations of recent years: Capri Series (2021-2022) and Liivi series (2022-2023).

A few years ago, I bought a French-language book, "History of Livonia", published in Utrecht in 1669. At the end of the book were the author's closing words, written in Hague one August evening more than three hundred years ago. I was sitting at my desk in Hague, and it was a dark August evening. I remembered the sandy beaches of Livonia and the carpets of pine needles with blueberry fluff, like some general archetype of Livonia, which is in the deeper layers of my memory. Then, I had the idea to convey this archetype by painting.

Capri series

Capri has figuratively been compared to a sphinx, and its relief-like landscape truly is reminiscent of this fantastical beast. The legends associated with this tiny Tyrrhenian island are deeply rooted in history books. Opening these pages is like descending from Anacapris cliff along the Phoenician stairs to the turquoise sea surface below. For hundreds of years, these seemingly endless stairs were the only pathway that connected Capri, which contained the harbour permitting access to the mainland, to the nearly inaccessible Anacapri village located on a steep cliff plateau. Everything that was needed for daily life was brought up the meandering stairs and what was brought down was everything that Anacapri had to offer to the rest of the world.

The Phoenician stairs descend straight from the side of Axel Munthes Villa San Michele. A red-speckled granite sphinx can be found keeping watch over the horizon on the terrace edge, as though it were guarding the city of Thebes in Sophocless tragedy, Oidipus. Unlike Oidipus, Munthes sphinx is from Egypt and is more of a benevolent guardian. With its lions body, bird wings and human face, the statue organically forms part of Munthes excellent staging of stonesfrom different eras that decorate Villa San Michele. Many of Axel Munthes stoneshold very symbolic meanings and it seems as though the doctor did not select them coincidentally. For example, knowing that Munthe used hypnosis as a form of treatment, it is fitting for the antique dream goddess Hypnose to stand above Munthes bed in his bedroom.

The relationship between the sphinx, which in Ancient Greek translates to the strangler, and Capri has historically been more than just symbolic. The connection has its origin in the Roman empire, which is when Capri became a retreat for a long period of time. Many dissidents who had lost the rulers favour were banished to Capri, where they would often meet their ends at the hands of assassins. One of the most famous of these was emperor Marcus Aureliusgrandly deluded son, Commodus. In 182 AD, Commodusolder sister, Empress Lucilla, organised a failed conspiracy that sought to remove her brother from power. Commodus banished Lucilla to Capri, where he later had her murdered. A similar event occurred on the island but this time with Commodusbanished wife, Crisipina. Much like in an Ancient Greek amphitheatre, life in Capri served as a fitting backdrop for these tragedies. Ancient Greek amphitheatres were typically built into nature that left beautiful views on the mountains or the sea open to be the stages backdrop. Plays were delivered to the audience and to the gods alike, who ruled over the human world as well as over the forces of nature.

Although the first Roman emperor, Augustus, had already built his seaside villa in Capri, the island only became the true centre of the world under the rule of his son-in-law, Emperor Tiberius. Fearing conspiracies planned against him, Tiberius moved to the island and lived there from 26 AD to 37 AD, forming the island into a kind of fortress. He had twelve villas built there, the most famous of which was a villa dedicated to Jupiter, Jovis. The nearly 40-meter-tall palace with 8 stories stood on an inaccessible rock that rose from the sea surface. In light of both architecture and engineering, Jupiters villa was a big accomplishment. As no water could reach the villa 300 meters high up on its tall vertical cliff, large reservoirs were constructed to capture rainwater. After being filtered, the rainwater supplied the Roman baths, fountains and gardens surrounding the palace with water. In the construction work, volcanic rock and a mixture of mortar were used. The lighthouse that was located on the villas highest point communicated with the Miseno military harbour through light signals, and hereby with the entire Roman empire.

Tiberiuspresence on the rocky island continues to be felt today and the remnants of buildings from his time are noticeable in many places. The most mysterious location on the island, the Blue Grotto, was also used during Tiberiustime. Its exact function remains unknown but it is speculated that the Blue Grotto might have served as the emperors private swimming spot or perhaps as a Mithras cult cave.

A significant event that marked Tiberiustime on Capri that changed world history and continues to influence it today was the crucifixion of Jesus Christ in Judea in 33 AD. Pontius Pilate ordered Jesuscrucifixion and was a Judea prefect whom Tiberius had appointed. Through a chain of command, Tiberius, the empires ruler, was aware of the events happening in Judea as well as Pontius Pilates activities there. Knowing Jesus' life story from the gospel more or less from birth to death, it is possible to imagine the parallel world in which Tiberius lived in Capri where he playedwith under-age boys in his Roman baths, whilst Jesus proclaimed his truth of love to Judeas common people. Either way, Tiberius did not foresee that our outlook on the passage of time would change based on Jesusbirth and that his proclamations would give rise to the religion that ultimately compromised the Roman empire. Least of all, Tiberius could not have foreseen that one of Jesusfollowers would become an all-mighty Roman emperor.

According to the gospel of Matthew, Jesus met Tiberius at least once. More specifically, he saw his profile on a Roman coin which a group of Pharisees showed him in a ploy to insidiously ask him whether or not they should pay taxes to the emperor. In response, Jesus asked whose name and picture was on the coin. Receiving his answer, Jesus replied that they should give the emperor to the emperor and give God his own coin. The Roman coin that the Pharisees displayed to Jesus contained an image of Tiberius with the text, Emperor Tiberius Augustus, godly Augustusson.

After Jesuscrucifixion, Tiberius lived for another four years. Following his death, a new emperor entered the picture, called Caligula. He was Tiberius' stepson who had been raised in the Capri court. It is speculated that in his final days, Caligula violently accelerated Tiberiusdeath so as to rise to power quicker and to seek vengeance for the suffering Tiberius had inflicted on Caligulas family. As a response to Caligulas father, Germanicus, having become too popular a commander amongst the people, Tiberius ordered Germanicus to be cornered and killed on the infamous poison path.Throughout history, Caligulas tyrannical reign has been the source of plenty of inspiration for films and novels ranging across all kinds of genres. Directly before the end of World War II in 1944, one of the most famous of these got released - the French author Albert Camusplay Caligula, which brought a past tyrants inner world into the present.

Stalin ruled the Soviet empire in a similar manner to Caligula, as he even kept spies on the far-away Capri in order to keep an eye on one of the most important Soviet authors, Maxim Gorky, who was hiding there. However, unlike Commodus, Stalin did not pay an assassin because he needed Gorky brought to him alive in the hopes that he could get a biography written about him. Despite previous praises he had written in the West about gulags and Stalins politics, Gorky was shocked by the actual reality of the proletariatrule after he was finally coaxed into coming to Russia in 1932. As a result, he left the tyrants wish unfulfilled. Much like Lucilla in Capri, Gorky died under confusing circumstances inside the golden cage of house arrest. However, unlike Lucilla, the backdrop of Gorkys death was not the beautiful deep blue horizon of the Tyrrhenian sea but was instead a grey Soviet Russia buried in mud and suffocating in smoke.

In Capri, a few decades prior to Gorkys death, Gorky played chess with Lenin and other well-known Russian revolutionaries. For a few months in 1909, Gorkys established Capri school operated as the top school for propaganda for the Working Class. The upcoming world communist revolution was planned under the name of Gorkys school in Capri, which yielded terrible results felt by half of Europe and many subsequent generations. Gorkys school in Capri took place just a few years after one the most powerful men of this time period stayed in Capri - the German steel manufacturer, Friedrich Alfred Krupp.

Krupp had a harbour, Marina Piccola, and a modern mansion built in Capri. Maxim Gorky stayed in that same villa which had been converted into a hotel, and that hotel terrace is where he and Lenin played chess. Krupp owned two luxurious yachts that were kept in Capris harbours, one of which was called Puritan. However, Krupp himself was far from being a puritan. In 1902, a Naples newsletter, Il Matinos, published an article about how Krupp, the well-known steel manufacturer, had been organising orgies in Capri with groups of young boys, and how his lover was a local 18-year barber. As a result of this scandalous news, similar articles emerged in German newspapers. Krupps spouse, Margarethe von Endele, received compromising photos of her husbands activities in Capri, who then went on to complain to a family friend of theirs, Kaiser Wilhelm II.  

The Kaiser understood that the development of Germanys war industry was at stake. In the hopes of suppressing the scandal surrounding Krupp, Wilhelm II chose to send Krupps wife to a mental institution. However, this did not succeed in muffling talk of this scandal and instead, it gathered steam. Finally, Krupp, having returned to Germany in the meantime, committed suicide.

Some claim that Friedrich Alfred Krupps tragic story served as a source of inspiration for Thomas Manns Death in Venicewhich was published several years following Krupps death. Krupps legacy in Capri can even be felt today in several ways. Almost symbolically, a paved footpath that connects Capri and Anacapri is named Via Krupp, which creeps along dangerous bends along steep cliffs.

A similar story to that of Krupp in Capri is that of the French novelist and poet, Jacques dAdelswärd-Fersen. Through his fathers side, he was the descendant of the Swedish diplomat and count, Axel de Fersen. Axel de Fersen, who also had some Estonian roots, is foremost known for his attempt to rescue Marie Antoinette from the claws of revolutionaries during the French Revolution. Although his rescue attempt failed, the count and Marie Antoinettes long-lasting romantic relations have been preserved in their passionate letter exchanges, which are regarded as some of the most beautiful love letters ever written.

Jacques dAdelswärd-Fersen also possessed literary talent. Alongside poetry, he published the first international homosexual newsletter in France, Academus. Amongst others, one of its featured authors was the neighbouringRussian revolutionary from Capri, Maxim Gorky. In France, Jacques found himself facing accusations of pedophila. Fearing criminal charges, he escaped the scandal by fleeing to exile in Capri. In Capri, Jacques had the gorgeous Villa Lysis built. It is no coincidence that Villa Lysis stands next to the ruins of Tyberiusvilla, Villa Jovis. Differing little from Krupp, Jacques found a faun, a 15-year-old newspaper vendor, Nino Cesarini, straight off of Rome Street. Jacques dAdelswärd-Fersen brought back lotus fruit, an opioid, from his travels to Asia, which he used in his orgies. Using this in his orgies brought Capri back to Tyberiustimes. D'Adelswärd-Fersen's life ended in Capri in 1923, when he committed suicide by drinking a cocktail mixed with champagne and opioids. The literary legacy that he left behind forms part of Capris legends today.

Both Krupp and dAdelswärd-Fersen lived in an era where homosexuality was illegal in Europe. For this reason, Oscar Wilde was sentenced to two years of imprisonment in 1895. Upon his release, he left his homeland for Naples, Italy. In Naples, Oscar Wilde and his partner, Alfred Douglas, planned an expedition to Capri to lay flowers on Tyberiusgrave. Wilde and Douglas stopped at one of Capris most famous hotels, the Grand Hotel Quisisana, but having recognised Oscar Wilde through the disguise of his false name, the hotel manager denied them their stay. The men were told to leave Capri immediately and were even denied their breakfast service.

Coincidentally, Douglas and Wilde bumped into Axel Munthe, who apologised on behalf of the islands people for their unjust treatment of the writers and kindly invited them to stay with him. Douglas and Wilde ended up staying in Capri for several days, enjoying Munthes hospitality in Villa San Michele.  Doctor Axel Munthe, whose Phoenician stairs we began our descent from at the start of this story, had a completely different fate to the former two men.

Munthe was a world citizen who was multilingual; he could easily navigate his way around the upper society in both Paris as well as Rome; he felt at home in the Swedish royal court and in working-class slums, and he healed poor patients and over-charged the rich so as to bring his vision of Villa San Michele to life. Many of Munthes medical methods were ahead of their time. In fighting illnesses, he considered the willpower of his patients and harmony between body and mind to be of great importance in his treatments. Munthe was also a big animal lover and was one of the first to start advocating for animal rights. As an animal rights advocate, Munthe was against all forms of hunting and even turned to Mussolini to establish a hunting ban in Capri. Munthe had many friends and conversationalists who shared his views on animal rights, the closest of which was the Baltic-German scientist Jakob von Uexküll, who was born in Läänemaa Keblaste and had studied zoology at the University of Tartu. Von Uexküll also had a villa in Capri and was buried on the island.

One of Axel Munthes long-term friends, wards and lovers was the Swedish Queen Victoria. Queen Victoria seasonally lived in Capri for decades and shared values with the doctor. Together they walked, played music, and spent time with animals and art. With Queen Victorias financial support, Munthe bought Barbarossa hill in Capri which he turned into a bird sanctuary. Unfortunately, unlike Axel de Fersen and Marie Antoinettes letters, no letter exchanges between Axel Munthe and Queen Victoria have survived. However, this story of friendship or romance was definitely one of Capris most romantic stories.

Having descended down the Phoenician stairs and having almost arrived at the sea surface, we could place an orange and black Ancient Greek vase on the bottom step, which would contrast beautifully with the turquoise-blue sea. The vase would depict Odysseus tied to a ship mast encircled by sirens as though by a flock of birds. This was one of the favourite motifs of Ancient Greek ceramics for Odyssey-themed pieces.

According to legend, Odysseus arrived at Capris cliffs with his companions where he encountered lotus-eaters. Lotus flowers were an intoxicating, narcotic substance, and upon their ingestion, they would make one forget their home sickness. Therefore, Odysseus had to use force to get his companions to leave the island and continue their search for their way home to Ithaka. He let himself be tied to a ship mast and stuffed his ears with beeswax plugs to prevent himself from being driven insane by the hypnotising songs sung by the encircling sirens and mermaids, which had driven him and his fellow sailors mad.

Homers mermaids made an appearance in Danish authors Hans Christian Andersens fairytale, The Little Mermaid. He visited Capri in 1835 and wrote his famous tale on the Little Mermaid a few years following his trip.

The discoveryof Italy and the start of the trend of Northern Europeans travelling to Italy can be attributed to Johann Wolfgang von Goethes travels to Italy between 1786 and 1788. These formed the premise for the report on his travels, Italienische Reise, which was published in 1816. Goethes travel journal held symbolic significance and after its publication, Italy had a fixed place in the travel itinerary of every educated person. Naples became a popular destination and through it, Capri was soon discovered. A significant German population grew on the island and by the end of the 19th century, a small German Lutheran church had even been established. Capri began to fascinate artists too and visiting the island became an unmissable destination on their Italian quests.

In 19th-century Europe, people began discovering traditional Japanese and Chinese painting styles, the likes of which had never been seen before in Western European visual art.

In Eastern art, artistic composition builds a schematic journey. The artwork itself is a meditation or journey, which our eyes can travel across as though over a dream-like landscape. All that is depicted is symbolic and is based on natural elements. Behind its two dimensions, one can anticipate a different world whose depth the artist does not even attempt to imitate with precise perspective. When people are depicted in these nature paintings, they are small and are almost always travelling somewhere.

Since the Renaissance, Western-European art has been on a relatively one-way path of development. The fact that a big shift took place in the middle of the 19th century is directly connected to the discovery of new civilisations and their immediate influence. Actually, other civilisations made their way to Europe through Parisian art exhibitions. In order to see face masks from Africa and Oceania or Japanese and Chinese ink paintings, impoverished European artists did not necessarily need to travel to these far away places. In fact, this was a privilege few could indulge in at the time. All that was needed was to voyage to Paris, which could even be done on foot. However, if one wanted to see magnificent landscapes with ones own eyes and if more resources were available for travel, then one would go to Europes furthest corner; Italy; to the foot of Mount Vesuvius, and to Capri.

Whilst sitting on the terrace of Axel Munthes Anacapri Villa, I realised that Capris vertical cliffs; Mount Vesuviussilhouette on the horizon, and the iridescent water element between the sky and sea were very similar to traditional Eastern paintings. All of the most important elements were present; the holy mountain of Fuji; the rising vertical cliffs with some pines growing from their sides; the water, and the special, deeply tinted fusion between the sky and sea. As for myself, I am but a traveller between those cliffs.

Liivi series

Sand is probably one of the few natural minerals that has given a name to a people, a language, and even an entire country. The beautiful white sand of Courland and Livonia stretches all the way to Pärnu County. Around the border of this county is where Livonia ended for centuries, and Estonia began from there.

I have my own personal relationship with Livonians and Livonia. My grandfather on my mother's side came from the areas of present-day Latvia and was probably a Livonian by origin. He spoke Latvian as fluently as Estonian, and in his thoughts, he was always more on the other side of the Latvian-Estonian administrative border. He probably never visited Tallinn and Northern Estonia during his life. For him, Riga was the capital, and Livonia was what attracted him. He often disappeared there in the mornings along the dusty gravel roads with his mopeds, and when he came home in the evening, he had a bucketful of blackberries or other gifts of the forest with him.

In a sense, I must have inherited this geographical self-definition from my grandfather because Tallinn leaves me completely indifferent to this day. I spent all my childhood summers in Jäärja, on the edge of the endless forests and swamps of the Estonian-Latvian border areas. The beaches of Livonia, from Häädemeeste to Saulkrasti, were the beaches of my childhood dreams. These beaches exude a warmth that is not found in the beaches of Northern Estonia, and they still make me feel safe with the soft needle rugs under their beach pines. Once in my life, I have literally sought this safety there.

In 1987, when I received an invitation to appear in a Soviet army camp, of course, I did not appear there. Instead, I went to Saulkrasti Beach with a tent and my high school sweetheart; I stayed there for two weeks until the army recruitment period ended. I then appeared tanned and sheepish at the military commissariat in Viljandi, where I calmly accepted the verbal thrashing I got subjected to.

Running away to the forests of Latvia was my first instinct, which I probably got from my grandfather Karlis Lusis, in Estonian Karl Luus, who also hid from the Stalinist repressions in the forests of Latvia. From that time of living in the forest, he had retained a great knowledge of nature and also a respect for nature. My grandfather's relationship with nature has also influenced me.

A few years ago, I bought a French book, "History of Livonia," published in Utrecht in 1669. At the end of the book was the author's epilogue, written in The Hague one August evening more than three hundred years ago. I was also sitting at my desk in The Hague, and it was a tender August evening. I remembered all the sandy beaches of Livonia and carpets of pine needles with blueberry tussocks, a kind of general archetype of Livonia, which is hidden in the deeper layers of my memory. Already then, I had the idea to convey this archetype by painting.