Siim Preiman

Curator's foreword

There is a big, beautiful seashell in my mother’s jewellery drawer, which I was sometimes allowed to hold when I was a child. If you listen carefully, you can hear the distant roar of the ocean, my mother said. I still remember the cool touch of the smooth edge of the seashell against my warm ear as I sat there, holding my breath and listening to the whispering of waves.

At the exhibition The Sea is You, Diāna Tamane will display a series of watercolours based on meditation and breathwork, completed over the past two years. Primarily known for her photographic works so far, Tamane has drawn material from life itself before too, relying on family relationships and home archive material to create her works. This exhibition could be seen as a natural continuation or even deepening of the same interest: attention has shifted from the relationships surrounding the artist to her relationship with herself. The treatment of these works as largely introspective is also supported by Diāna’s desire to move towards a more body-based creation that wouldn’t drain energy, but rather give it.

Tamane exhibited her first watercolours in the spring of 2021 at the group exhibition Letters from a Foreign Mind at the Contemporary Art Museum of Estonia. The years since have been exceptionally fruitful for her. Last year she had three solo exhibitions in Estonia alone, not to mention dozens of other performances, both at home and abroad. In the light of these productive years, I sense a certain decisiveness in this exhibition, perhaps even a mild radicalism. What can we read from the fact that the artist, who has a perfect command of her medium, has decided to put those skills aside and volunteer to start over, even become a beginner?

On the one hand, amateurishness is an important tool in the arsenal of many artists today. It is indeed often the chosen topic that dictates the materials and methods suitable for handling it. On these occasions, technical amateurishness is balanced by the instinct of an experienced artist. The handwriting, which is gradually becoming more and more confident, can be seen as a kind of diary of the creative process or a document of artistic research. I also think of the Tibetan phrase ye tang che, which means “totally tired out”. According to Buddhist teachings, this state, when we are truly fed up, can become the beginning of the new beginning. But in order for this to be possible, you have to give up hope – the hope that it is possible, and necessary, to be better.

It seems to me that one of the central dilemmas in art is the conflict between material and creative values. In order to be competitive or successful, an artist often needs to adopt working principles that are closer to production than creation. I do not want to over-romanticise the making of art, but I still claim that it is impossible to force processes that are not completely rational. In addition to themselves, artists also depend on the material, the process, other people and creators, but also health, well-being and inspiration. How to deal with the realisation that your calling, the driving force of your life, has become so exhausting and stressful that a threatening flame of burnout is looming on the horizon? 

It seems that Diāna Tamane has recognised this dangerous moment and decided that she has had enough, taken time off and started making art again from scratch: one breath and one brush stroke at a time.