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Nikolai Balabin’s artistic work is material-based in nature. The character of the work is created in dialogue with the material. He connects different materials, pieces, which together create a new whole – character, picture, landscape, stage of life. He creates poetic images by materializing his dreams, thoughts, impressions and memories. 

Balabin believes that jet is one of the most inspiring materials in jewellery-making. “My work with jet consists of breaking and assembling. After splitting a big piece of jet into many pieces, I start looking for shapes that start talking about themselves. I listen to them attentively and start a dialogue with them. They suggest to me their stories, to which I may add my own interpretations. One of the fascinating characteristics of jet is that when it splits, it forms unique shapes and textures. Sanding creates black, silky and warm matte surfaces. When working with jet, its structure often defines the character of the work. I utilize the natural block surface of jet and combine other materials with it.” 

Today jet is a rare material in jewelry art. It is petrified coniferous wood from the Jurassic period. It is one of the most ancient gemstones – the tomb finds of the first simple jet objects date from the 15-14th centuries BC. 

Nikolai Balabin is a certified architect, having graduated from the St. Petersburg Institute for Painting, Sculpture and Architecture (1991). He later graduated from the College of Crafts and Design in Lappeenranta, Finland, with a specialisation in jewellery-making and stonework design (1996). Since 2000 he has organised 22 solo exhibitions in the Nordic and Baltic countries and Russia and since 1996, participated in 186 group exhibitions in Europe. Balabin has worked as a curator and received several awards. His work can be found in public collections such as the collection of The State Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg, Collection of Finnish State Art Commission, and private collections worldwide.

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The annual EXHIBITION-SALE 2020 invites visitors to interact with a cross-section of local jewellery art from the past year.

The exhibition converges pieces from over 30 jewellery artists, made in and hence influenced by the meandering ways of the (un)believable and freakish year 2020. The artworks of the annual exhibition are on sale for the whole duration of the exhibition.

The drive of the exhibition is to explore how the force majeure of 2020 has influenced the everyday life and creative processes of the participating artists. The past year has been full of anxiety and worry about the unknown but has given the opportunity to find solace in being in the present. Resting on the imposed need for solitude, stillness holds space for the emergence of inspiration and clears time for facing yourself and to give the introspection a palpable form.

Jewellery artist Liisbeth Kirss: “This year’s restrictions made me take a break during which I could peacefully think or not think about my art. I feel it was very necessary and it couldn’t have happened in any other way.”

At the same time there are artists who were forced to prioritize the pressing financial matters of everyday life before their creative endeavours due to the coronavirus. “I lost my studio recently, because it was in the building of a restaurant in the Old Town and the restaurant went bankrupt. Hence, the pandemic has a quite direct influence on my creative work”, says artist Anni Kagovere. However, in the words of artist Claudia Lepik, the pandemic hasn’t changed the rhythm of her work so far, and the quotidian journeys she makes are as modest as before.

A-Gallery is the representative gallery of local art jewellery as well as a place for meeting artworks from over a hundred different authors. Encompassing different generations, schools, forms and ideas, A-Gallery tells the story of Estonian art jewellery. Each piece is handmade, unique and represents the aesthetics and concept of the artist.

Participating artists:

Krista Laos, Ive-Maria Köögard, Tarvo Porroson, Ülle Mesikäpp, Anne Roolaht, Tea Vellerind, Ihan Toomik, Anni Kagovere, Kertu Vellerind, Mari Relo-Šaulys, Adolfas Šaulys, Urve Küttner, Liisbeth Kirss, Ulvi Haagensen, Ülle Voosalu, Tamara Sergijenko, Claudia Lepik, Ivar Kaasik, Ane Raunam, Kadi Kübarsepp, Ülle Kõuts, Keesi Kapsta, Katrin Veegen, Raili Vinn, Merike Balod, Margit Paulin, Aino Kapsta, Kristi Paap, Kätrin Beljaev, Erle Nemvalts, Melitina Balabin, Nikolai Balabin, Marita Lumi, Ene Valter, Viktorija Lillemets, Rita-Livia Erikson, Sille Luiga, Kristiina Laurits.