About Jaan Elken in media

Articles and media (selection)

  • [In Estonian] Aleksander Metsamärt: Jaan Elkeni pandeemianäitus [Jaan Elkens pandemic exhibition], Postimees, 24.03.2022
  • [In Estonian] Harry Liivrandi kunstisoovitused: Tiit Pääsuke, Christian Ackermann ja Jaan Elken
  • [In Estonian] Haus galeriis avati eksootiliste tühermaade näitus „Koha mälu III“
  • [In Estonian] Juta Kivimäe: Rahulik, ent mõjuv alustus,  [quiet but impactful start], 14.06.2019
  • Jaan Elkeni näitus “Lendab üle” pakub vana head maastikumaali uues kastmes [Jaan Elkens exhibition “Flying over” shows a reconceptualisation of landscape painting], 21.11. 2017, ERR 
  • Ants Juske. Jaan Elkeni dialoog iseendaga [Jaan Elken´s dialogue with himself]. kunst.ee 3, 2014, pp. 66–68.
    Can we talk about Elken style? This would be a simplified approach. Yes, in an exhibition his blue-grey-white palette with the addition of some black (all this calls for the eye of an experienced psychoanalyst) is immediately recognisable. Yet in terms of content, he has made more than a fair share of of these U-turns. As he also said himself, by cutting up and remixing his work, Elken as a „stylistic nomad“ has, to an extent, personally produced „palimpsests that transcends periods“, almost as if assuming the role of time that flows. (p. 67).
  • Riin Kübarsepp. Võõrandusmeeleoludega hüperreaalsus [Hyperreality in alienation]. Postimees 20, June 2014, p.15.
  • Eero Kangor. Elkeni tegelikkus ja tagasivaatelisus [Elkens reality and retrospective]. Sirp 4, July 2014, p.10.
    [own translation] Have Elkens paintings decoupled from reality as it is understood in the common sense? In his paintings you can view the visual overload caused by fragmentation, interaction and globalisation of reality, text and slogan noise. Elkens paintings portray an urban reality with the lyrical rap of tablet-mania and headphone culture. Instead of “hanging out”, skateboarding and graffiti he has chosen a white canvas with proper frames, pulled on a tracksuit, listened to music from his youth – that means, he has remained a painter.” (p. 10) 
  • Erkki Juhandi. Kunsti pühitsus [Sanctification of art]. Sirp 16, August 2013, pp.16–17.
  • Riin Kübarsepp. Elken teab mis on Malecón [Elken knows what Malecón is]. Postimees 12, July 2013, p. 12
    [own translation] I am not sure if one can talk about a post-painting new wave of abstraction, or something entirely different with Elkens paintings. His work always shows a certain confrontation – ‘scenic’ vs ‘linear’, ‘baroque’ vs ‘Renaissance’. This is of course in quotation marks, as his work does not lack in text. (…) In all case, Estonians who have not yet walked on Malecón do not need to watch CNN, as reality has been delivered to their doorstep through art” (p.12)
  • Tanel Veenre. Jaan Elken: milleks meile jalgpall? [Why do we need football? (interview with Jaan Elken)]. Eesti Päevaleht 10, January 2013, p. 14.
  • Jürgen Rooste. Jaan Elken: Häbenesin oma Siberi päritolu. [I was ashamed for my background from Sibir (interview with Jaan Elken)]. Maaleht10, January 2013, p. 23.
  • Eero Kangor. Kas ainult „ekspressiivne“, „morbiidne“ ja „dekoratiivne“? [Only “expressive”, “morbid” and “decorative”?]. Sirp 9, November 2012, p. 15.
  • Riin Kübarsepp. Maalikunst võtab sõna. [Painting speaks up]. Postimees 8, November 2012, p. 15.
  • Rauno Thomas Moss. Visuaalsemiootiline vaade Jaan Elkeni teosele „Poeem madratsile, nr 1” [Visual semiotic approach to Jaan Elken’s Poem for mattress, no 1]. kunst.ee 3 – 4, 2010, pp. 65–68.
    While referring to Charles Sanders Peirce, one can say that this expressive painting surpasses the conventional. The artist has made a qualitative leap by changing all metaphors that remake of mattress could potentially symbolize in the current context of the art world. Therefore, I find that internel art processes are more important. Playing with alienations is important – and the game is honest and interesting.(p. 68)
  • Juta Kivimäe. Jaan Elkeni helged veed [Jaan Elken’s bright water].  Sirp 24, September 2010, p. 12.
  • Andri Ksenofontov. Halli lahutamine [Splitting grey]. Sirp 30, July 2010, p. 11.
  • Mari Kartau. Elken valab isikliku kehamälu maalidesse ja ei valeta [Elken pours his personal body memory into paintings and doesn’t lie].  Postimees 3, November 2009, p. 15.
  • Teet Veispak. Elkeni tinglik reaalsus [Elken’s conditional reality].  Postimees 26, June 2009, p. 13.
  • Ants Juske. Jaan Elkeni muutumised [Changes of Jaan Elken]. Eesti  Päevaleht 11, April 2009, p. 6.
  • Rauno Thomas Moss. Kogudes mõtteid kogutud teostest [Collecting  thoughts on collected works]. Sirp 27, March 2009, p. 16.
    [own translation] What can be found in Elkens paintings, is what can only be found in painting and music – both of these media are translated within through existing experiences. When Elken claims his work is not abstract, I agree. It is not, as any matter is illusory, in direct connection to our intellectual world. One is dependent on the other. The question then is whether we are able and willing to view our internal ugliness. Our torn self? The artist does not do anything to the viewer that the viewer already does not have within, i.e. painting cannot be unintelligible when we are not unintelligible. This is not a question of style, whether we can recognize the form of something on the painting or whether view an abstract composition. In this manner, Elken asks about the viewers about the  very existence of their being. 
  • Riin Kübarsepp. Poeet Jaan Elken uurib pintsli abil madratsite saladusi [Poet Jaan Elken investigates the secrets of mattresses with a paint brush]. Postimees 17, December 2008, p. 16.
    [own translation] Elken still prefers graffiti in his paintings. As a transpop artist enjoying the interaction of word and painting he still desires to write with the brush. “This kind of painter is often a poet, and words are always used for meaning” Eha Komissarov said in a rather prophetic manner about Elken in the 1990s. 
  • Ragne Nukk. Jaan Elkeni poeemid madratsile [Jaan Elken’s poems for a mattress]. Äripäev / Puhkepäev 12-14, December 2008, p. 10.
  • Eesti kunstnikud 3 / Artists of Estonia 3. Ants Juske. Jaan Elken. Slaidimaalist abstraktsionismi kaudu isiklike märgisüsteemideni. [From slide painting through Abstractionism to personal sign systems]. Kaasaja Kunsti Eesti Keskus, 2007, pp. 197–205.
    In the 1990s, his familiar blue-white abstract pictures were supplemented by graffiti-like texts. Elken himself described his choices as the secretive emergence of the textual level into his work — the graffiti in Elken´s paintings resembles Soviet scribblings on toilet walls, bus shelters and park benches. His texts increasingly contained copywriter witticisms from modern advertisments.(p.199.).
  • Juta Kivimäe. Maalikunst ei vahenda vaid narratiivset propagandat [Painting doesn’t only mediate narrative propaganda (interview with Jaan Elken)]. Sirp 9, November 2007, p. 14.
  • Riin Kübarsepp. Elatud majade glamuurist ehk kusmaal on Elken [Glamour of lived-in houses or how far has Elken gone]. Postimees 30, October 2007, p. 19.
  • Ants Juske. Jaan Elken ja Korsakovi sündroom [Jaan Elken and Korsakov’s syndrome]. Eesti Päevaleht 27, September 2007, p. 17.
  • Tõnu Kaalep. Kirjutav raadio. Jaan Elkeni pidurdamatu rünnak [Writing  radio. Jaan Elken’s relentless attack]. Vikerkaar 4 – 5, 2005, pp. 76–78.
  • Leonhard Lapin. Kirjutatud on [For thus it is written]. kunst.ee 2, 2005, pp. 26–31.
    When peering into affiliation of colour and form, and structure of the soul of Elken´s painitngs, as an artist, focusing attention on isolated letters, words of phrases, I imagine teams of critics tracing with a magnifying glass every readable letter on the surface of his painting. As a matter of fact, this artist has created a new, independent world. The painted texts are reminiscent, stylistically of the calligrams of the Far-East: a word, phrase or poem in which the handwriting or font used form part of the focus, a subtle mix drawing and writing – the black ink painting, an essential Aragon of painters of action painting. (p. 31.).
  • Heie Treier. Muinasjutt nõukogude ajast [The fairy tale about the Soviet time]. kunst.ee 2, 2005, pp. 32–43.
  • Reet Mark. Alateadvuslike hirmude kättemaks [The revenge of unconscious fears]. Sirp 11, November 2005, p. 15.
  • Andri Ksenofontov. Kunstielamus [Art experience]. Sirp 13, May 2005, p. 13.
  • Ants Juske. Vanaduse ja närtsimise teema Elkeni moodi [Ageing and decline according to Elken]. Eesti Ekspress / Areen 12, May 2005, p. 13.
  • Rainer Vilumaa. Jaan Elkeni panoptikum galeriis Viviann Napp [Jaan Elken’s panopticum at Viviann Napp Gallery]. Eesti Päevaleht 4, May 2005, p. 18.
  • Kas ja kuidas kirjutada asju kunstiks? (Jan Kausi ja Jaan Elkeni vestlus) [Whether and how to write things into art? (Jan Kaus and Jaan Elken in conversation)]. Sirp 01, April 2005, p. 8.
  • Harry Liivrand. Elkeniga tekstist [With Elken about text]. Eesti Ekspress  / Areen 24, March 2005, p. 13.
  • Anu Allas. Presidendi vastuvõtt [Presidental reception]. Eesti Ekspress / Areen 24, March 2005, pp. 12 – 13.
  • Ants Juske. Elkeni väljapeetud pihtimused [Elken’s dignified confessions]. Postimees 14, March 2005, p. 15.
  • Johannes Saar. Teetanus ja kunstipisik maalides [Tetanus and art bacteria in paintings]. Eesti Päevaleht 14, March 2005, p. 14.
  • Heie Treier. Alandus ja ülendus [Contrite and exalted]. kunst.ee 3, 2004, p. 35.
  • Mia Grönstrand. Nähdä kauneutta siellä, missä muut eivät sitä näe [To see beauty there, where others don’t see]. Uusimaa 25, August 2004, p. 7.
  • Kadi Talvoja. Kes muinasjutte ei usu, on kaotanud lapsemeelsuse [He who doesn’t believe in fairytales has lost his childlikeness]. Sirp 2, July 2004, p. 18.
  • Juta Kivimägi. Jaan Elken vaatab tagasi [Jaan Elken looks back]. Postimees 30, June 2004, p. 15.
  • Harry Liivrand. Venevastane Elken, new ageAnnus [Anti-russian Elken, new age Annus]. Eesti Ekapress / Areen 22, June 2004, p. 11.
  • Andri Ksenofontov. Punase Elkeni tulek [The coming of red Elken]. Eesti Päevaleht / Tallinn, no 26, 28, October 2003, p. 4
  • Eha Komissarov. “On the Estonian Paintings of the 1990s”, Nosy Nineties, Problems, Themes and Meanings in Estonian Art on 1990s, 2001, pp. 87–102.
    Elken is a rare artistic personality who has been inspired by such things as samples of urine and blood. Who takes ugly scenes as his subject matter. His interventions into the surrounding reality, his environmental contsern, his emphasis of ugliness, etc. link him to art innovation, at least in his paintings we can discern the direct transfer of new artistic strategies. If there was anyone in the 1990s traditional painting context who thought of expanding the boundaries of painting it was Elken. (p.101.).
  • Eha Komissarov. From the foreword for the Quiz Game exhibition at the Vaal Gallery, 2001)
    Elken’s positions regarding memory are fundamental and the product of a long process of self-exploration…it is not possible to erase anything from one’s memory. In this case, memory is figuratively equivalent to a shelf or a database, where one needs only to stick one’s hand in a compartment to grasp the entire file in hand. An incident from the past with its accompanying feelings, odours, fears and other such sensations. Elken has very skilfully accounted for.the fact that the perception of time within us changes constantly. The role of the public is not at all to merely enjoy old jam. Collage-like paintings represent various fixed moments and the past and present overlap as equal parties.— Elken calls his manner of narrating discovered in recent years “waste-free technology”. Waste refers to the artist’s old paintings that start to appear strange alongside Elken’s newer techniques. Different parts of pictures are put together and Elken compares this stage to film-like parallel editing. Here reference is apparently being made to the film-like frame from the subconscious where flashes in the contemporary language of painting and graffiti are projected onto what has taken place in the past.
  • Harry Liivrand. Elkeni linnalik mütopoeetika [Elken’s urban mythologypoetic imagery]. kunst.ee 4, 2001, pp. 28 – 29.
    — The result could in this case remain rather eclectic and generic if Elken, in addition to working out a specific, intuitive language of painting, did not connect the story line (if one can speak of a story line at all in Elken’s works) to the local everyday mythology and to colours and symbols that are directly associated as signs of the communist past in social consciousness internationally. To this day, the detested soviet era and its obscene anarchistic symptoms that still remain in today’s urban space serve as the basis for Elken’s mythology.— Although Elken still poeticises metropolitan loneliness, his new urban space is now a billboard for aggressive verbal messages. The danger of figurative overloading and in summary a certain hermeneutic emptiness always stalks poly-stylistic paintings that are filled with as many semiotic meanings as possible, especially if the themes of the works tend to repeat (let us not forget that Elken’s paintings also work as rhetorical verbal texts). Elken, however, almost always knows how to turn negatively marked eclectics into message bearers with a positive meaning, leading the viewer to believe that the salvation of the art of painting in the multimedia age lies in the cumulative effect of the abstraction of realistic themes, the tremendous emotional force of colour, and powerful imagery – regardless of how old-fashioned this may sound. (p. 29.).
  • Anders Härm. Kaotatud (hüper?)reaalsus: Elkenist antropoloogi pilguga [Lost / hyper reality (?): concerning Elken from an anthropologist’s point of view]. kunst.ee 1, 2001, pp. 12–14.
    —Looking from the present techno-Tallinn back to Elken´s urban lyrics of the late 1970s and 1980s, his paintings serve (in as least a hyper-realistic and nostalgic manner as possible9 as dark reminders of a lost reality. When the Estonian National Museum or Museum of Occupationopens a retro-room of the 1980s and Wunderkammer, then the art museums could surely deposit their ’Elkens’ there. The prohibition signs painted by Elken (together with gazirovka machines, productions of reklaamfilm, movies and mirror balls, the yellow ’Ikarus’ bus (made in Hungary), ’Georg Ots’ ferry and Kopli hotel) would create a perfekt picture of the said absurd Deade of Soviet urban and mass-culture, its attributes and aesthetics, desires and passions. Almost certain nobody has painted the urban atmosphere of Athose times more passionately and more consistently than Elken. (p. 14.).
  • Ants Juske. Jaan Elkeni mälu sõnas ja pildis [Jaan Elken’s memory in text and pictures]. Postimees 1, November 2001, p. 19.
  • Johannes Saar. Maalitud mõtted mahavaikitud minevikust [Painted thoughts about a hushed-up past]. Eesti Päevaleht. 31, October 2001, p. 16.
  • Heie Treier. Mehe vaatenurk [Man’s point of view]. Eesti Ekspress / Areen 16, October 2000, p. 10.
  • Kiwa. Nõukogude Zen Hyperreaalsus [Soviet Zen Hypereality]. Postimees 6, October 2000, p. 15.
  • Kadi Talvoja. Elkeni kompromissid [Elken’s compromises]. Sirp 3, October 2000, p. 12
  • Ants Juske. Presidendist hüperrealist. Jaan Elkeni postsotsrealism [President as hyper-realist. Jaan Elken as post-socialist realist]. Eesti Päevaleht 3, October 2000, pp. 13, 21.
  • Juta Kivimäe. Keha keemiast – post festum. [About body chemistry -post festum]. Postimees 25, April 2000, p. 14.
  • Jan Kaus. Keha puudumine [Absence of the body]. Sirp 20, April 2000, p. 9.
  • Mari Sobolev. Lahkamistulemused publikule teatavaks [Autopsy results announced to the public]. Sõnumileht 7, April 2000, p. 12.
  • Tiit Tuumalu. Rohkem kunsti. Intervjuu Jaan Elkeniga [More art. Interview with Jaan Elken]. Arter 27, November 1999, pp. 16 – 17.
  • Juta Kivimäe. Jaan Elkeni teated tegelikkusest [Jaan Elken’s messages  from reality]. Vikerkaar 1 – 2, 1998, pp. 55–57.
  • Kiwa. Banaalsuse dekadentlik võlu [Decadent appeal of banality]. Sõnumileht 22, May 1998, p. 19.
  •  Kaire Nurk. Elkeni dialoog enesega Ameerika valguses [Elken’s dialogue with himself in the light of America]. Postimees 22, May 1998, p. 16.
  • Rainer Vilumaa. Elken otsaga Ameerikast tagasi [Elken back from America]. Eesti Ekspress / Areen 22, May 1998, p. 16.
  • Eha Komissarov. Elkeni Ametroopia Vaalas. (Uudised) [Elken’s Ametropia at Vaal Gallery / news]. Sirp. 8, May 1998, p. 5.
  • Ants Juske. Maalikunsti uus trend süveneb [New trend in painting deepens]. Eesti Päevaleht 7, May 1998, p. 8.
  • Reet Varblane. Maalikunst ja tegelikkus [Painting and reality]. Sirp 14, November 1997, p. 9.
  • Harry Liivrand. Kaunitar ja koletis [Beauty and the beast]. Eesti Päevaleht. 6, November 1997, p. 7.
  • Johannes Saar. Teateid tegelikkusest [Messages from reality]. Postimees 31, October 1997, p. 19.
  • Agur Kruusing. Tegelikult Jaan Elken [Actually Jaan Elken]. Lääne Elu 12, August 1997, p. 4.
  • Rainer Vilumaa. Teistmoodi tegija [A different kind a maker]. Sõnumileht 11, July 1997, p. 14.
    —You might believe that artist, who previously produced hyperrealist urban visions has now started to tread a more abstract path. But this is just sleight of hand – the change in reality merely reveals a change in focus. The areas of colour on the paintings are nothing more than the crumbling plaster and peeling paint on a wall with official advertising all jumbled up with posters and unofficial and illegal information in the form of graffiti and scribblings. And since he uses spray paint for his graffiti then this can be nothing else but realism. (p. 14.).
  • Juta Kivimäe. Jaan Elkeni teistmoodi tegelikkus [Jaan Elken’s other reality]. Eesti Päevaleht 1, July 1997, p. 8.
  • Katrin Kivimaa. All you need is … Kultuurileht 19, April 1996, p. 6.
  • Kreg A-Kristring. Jaan Elken – kontra või… [Jaan Elken – contra or…]. Kultuurileht 10, November 1995, p. 9.
  • Harry Liivrand. Murdeealine Elken [Teenage Elken]. Eesti Ekspress / Areen 10, November 1995, p. 7.
  • Jaak Olep. Õhtupoolik Jaan Elkeniga [An afternoon with Jaan Elken. Interview]. Eesti Aeg 2, June 1993, pp. 18–19.
  • Ants Juske. Jaan Elken enne ja nüüd [Jaan Elken then and now]. Sirp 16, October 1992, p. 22.
  • Evi Pihlak. Muutuv ja muutumatu Jaan Elken [Changing and unchanging Jaan Elken]. Reede 20, April 1990, p. 9.
    The former hyper-concrete motifs have been replaced by spontaneously dynamic compositions mostly with abstract structure. If you linger among the paintings for a bit longer, an artist’s face starts to appear, revealing a resemblance to the earlier one. A new direction is evident, but the artist has not completely rejected the essence of his former work either. First of all, we recognise the element of Elken in the colour scheme. His favourite colour has always been blue, from blackish depths to whitish-grey nuances. Yellowish contrast tones make the generall colour-scale livelier. The combinations have become more sensitive and varied as compared to earlier times. Familiar aspects include the long, energetic brushstrokes running the length of canvas like intersecting furrows. (p. 9.).
  • Mart Kalm. Valgelt jäised pildid [White frozen pictures]. Noorte Hääl 12, December 1985, p. 2.
    — The City is for him deserted, in sombre coolness. There is no-one in the ports and on the ships, only splash of white icy foam and the horrible shroeks of sea-gulls. (p. 2.).
  • Evi Pihlak. Igapäevane linn [Everyday town]. Kodumaa 11, December 1985, pp. 1, 4.
  • Jaak Olep. Keskkonnahuvi [Environmental interests]. Noorte Hääl 22, August 1982, p. 2.
  • Jaak Olep. Kunstisalongis [In the art salon]. Sirp ja Vasar 23, May 1980, p. 8.
  • Jaak Olep. Jaan Elkeni kiindumus [Jaan Elken’s devotion].  Noorus no. 10, 1980, pp. 14–16.


Jaan Elken’s another reality. Director Rein Raamat, scenarist Linda Elken. 30 min, RaamatFilm, 2000