Norwegian Landscape (Forest Landscape)
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Norwegian Landscape (Forest Landscape)

1908–1910Oil, paper on canvas31 × 23.5 cmArt Museum of Estonia

The beginning of Konrad Mägi’s creative career is characterized by a certain conception of time that becomes altered, its own opposite, in later periods. Namely, we can see that both in Norway and on Saaremaa, Mägi tries to capture a specific moment. This preoccupation comes from his desire to somehow document a moment that emotionally appealed to him or excited him. Thus, many of his early Norwegian miniatures do not contain anything that could be called spectacular; they are in fact visually dull, limp, relatively inexpressive. Be they ever so visually spare, we can sense that effect has been relegated to the benefit of something else, which could be called an attempt to find a possibility for the sacral through depiction of profane time.

The perception of sacral time is mainly described as an experience happening outside the flow of linear time. For example, we are used to thinking that when we enter a church and sit in the pews, the hubbub of the day abates, or time stands still. Did Mägi perceive the same kind of stillness when he was in the midst of nature? We do not know, but with the act of painting he does extract one specific moment from linear time. At that moment, there is nothing noteworthy besides the moment itself. Nothing happens on the painting, no story unfolds or finds denouement; in some sense it is completely haphazard and thus an extremely profane moment, which nothing ennobles – besides the fact that as a completely ordinary “moment in time”, it becomes a symbol of “time” more generally.