Ülo Sooster

Born: 1924, Ühtri (Estonia)
Died: 1970, Moscow

Estonian painter, graphic artist. Born in the village of Ühtri on the island of Hiiumaa in Estonia (1924). Studied at Tartu Institute of Art (1945–48). Arrested in Tallinn with a group of fellow students, whose discussions of a planned trip to France were interpreted as an attempt to hijack a plane (28 December 1948). Sentenced to ten years imprisonment in corrective labour camps (14 July 1950). Served his sentence in Dolinka of Karlag (until 1956). Released and rehabilitated (1956). Moved to Moscow (1957). One of the key figures of the unofficial art of Moscow and a member of the metaphysical movement. Developed his own individual style based on the “automatic writing” of the Surrealists and improvisations with dots (following the example of Jackson Pollock). Incorporated motifs from traditional Estonian epics, including eggs, junipers and fish (second half of the 1950s). Leader of a group of Surrealist artists (1959–60). Met such members of the Sretensky Boulevard Group as Ilya Kabakov. Won an award at the Internationale Buchkunst-Ausstellung in Leipzig (1959). Worked for the Knowledge Publishing House (from 1959). Incurred the wrath of Nikita Khrushchev at the infamous Manège exhibition celebrating the thirtieth anniversary of the Moscow branch of the Union of Artists (1962). Died in Moscow (1970). Contributed to exhibitions in Russia (from 1958) and abroad (from 1965), including the Manège show (1962) and a posthumous one-man show at the Kovcheg Gallery in Moscow (1990).

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