Here is a small introduction to the artists group called Kursi Koolkond.

The artist group originally created in 1988 by 4 young men -Peeter Allik, Ilmar Kruusamäe, Priit Pangsepp and Albert Gulk in Estonian town named Tartu is now 36 years later the oldest continuously active group in Estonia.

At least one or two local and international highy professional art exhibitions are organized every year.

The Estonian name Kursi Koolkond refers to the small village of Kursi in central Estonia, with which all founding members had some sort of connection.

As in any band that has been active for a long time, several members have passed through the Kursi Koolkond.  Marko Mäetamm, Reiu Tüür, Imat Suumann and  Külli Suitso have joined the group later. 

I was invited to join by Ilmar Kruusamäe in 2001, when after graduating from university I had already presented a couple of personal painting exhibitions and proved that I belonged among the progressive artists of Tartu and the whole of Estonia. Of course, I was very flattered by the invitation, as the group included artists who were the absolute top performers of Estonian modern art.

It has been the custom of the Kursi Koolkond to invite 1 or two guest painters to participate in its exhibitions.

By now, Marko Mäetamm has left the “band” and also Peeter Allik, who died in 2020.

The following is an excerpt from an article written by estonian art critic Ants Juske ”Kursi is far, Tallinn is even further”:

”Kursi Koolkond artists group arose titling itself for public irony as provincial art. Art Criticism was hooked and for a long time the Kursians were considered to be some kind of nasty fools. The opposition to the established “official” art was also heated by the Kursi style annual almanacs with their parodying and sometimes waspy tone.

By now a lot of water has streamed into the sea and biennale artists, laureates of state art prizes, chairmen, heads, superintendants of Estonian art institutions have sprouted from the Kursi Koolkond. It is interesting that in spite of invisible fusion with the “big” art, the band is still together, as clear confrontation with the “official” art has become somewhat misty. According to the well known opinion of Herbert Read, art groupings stay together approximately for 4 to 5 years. The Kursians have broken all the records. One of the reasons may be that in this case we cannot talk about this school in an ordinary sense. Can anyone explain me what do the hyper-realistic portraits by Ilmar Kruusamäe have in common with Albert Gulk’s surrealistic drawings, the conceptualism of Marko Mäetamm and the grotesqueness of Peeter Allik … etc.

There are of course reasons, the most elemental is in my opinion as the independent, playful and sharp mentality of the Kursi artists. They all have been swimming upstream through every kind of mainstream in Estonian art. You can recognize their works from a distance. The Kursi Koolkond is a school of big personalities.”

For my part

I can only add that the survival of such artists cultivating different painting styles as a group for so long cannot be called only a miracle. Behind this coexistence is largely one man named Ilmar Kruusamäe, who bears the biggest burden of organizing large exhibitions and resolving the inevitable tensions of personalities within the group.

I myself am infinitely grateful to Ilmar and the all Kursi artists and very proud that I have been able to perform with and befriend such remarkable personalities. I definitely owe at least 20% of my artistic career to Kursi Koolkond. Hopefully this experience will continue for a long time.

Priit Pajos 2024

Albert Gulk

Ilmar Kruusamäe

Priit Pangsepp

Külli Suitso

Imat Suumann

Peeter Allik

Reiu Tüür

In 2005, the gand old man of Estonian cinema Rein Raamat made a documentary film about Kursi Koolkond, which you can watch by clicking here: