Enn Erisalu, White Sweep, 1991, mixed media on canvas. Gift of Ron Aloni, 2022; Enn Erisalu, Trompe L’oeil, 1993, mixed media on canvas. Gift of Ron Aloni, 2022
Highly influenced by Conceptual art movements and peers working in other disciplines including text, sound art, and other media, Enn Erisalu approached painted abstraction with Deconstructivist methodologies. Erisalu’s gestural methods included rapid washes of paint, layered with actions of swiping, dripping, and blotting the painted grounds, to build up saturations of colour. For example, when including text as a subject of the painting, Erisalu at times would break down textual symbols into repeating letter forms, which created optical patterns and transformed language into cryptic codes. Erisalu employed op-art techniques to visually stimulate the eye, or to create illusory optical effects for the viewer, utilizing perception as a thematic concern of investigation. White Sweep is an example of this method of language breakdown, wherein the viewer must abandon conventional formats of reading from left right, and consider the entirety of the composition as a whole, to read the phrase in its entirety. In Trompe L’oeil, the typographic line of the letterforms kern at the top to create an illusion of the letters bending backwards and to the right. As Christopher Brayshaw writes of these works, Erisalu “found a middle ground that eschewed the radical utopianism of the early monochromists, while simultaneously avoiding the tongue-in-cheek cynicism characterizing much late 20th century painting.”
Enn Erisalu (1943–2005) was born in Estonia and immigrated to Canada in 1951. He studied art in Florence, Italy; London, England; the University of Oregon and the Art Centre of Design in Los Angeles. Erisalu settled in Vancouver in 1969. He exhibited in Vancouver, Toronto, Seattle, and New York and collected in Europe, the United States, and Canada.