Interviewing a man with an Elephant house is not your average end-of-the-year story

If you don’t know if you like arc or cupola you might have missed a big time. He just opened his second exhibition at Tallinn this year – now more known as a painter and overall even more known as an architect Vilen Künnapu (born in 1948) has made long-term impacts on minds and hearts over the world. His work in the architectural field includes from the end of the Soviet era kolhoz projects up to city planning and modern-day shopping malls to Nordic Europe’s skyscrapers. But details make the essence and the best practice is always a house, even if it comes a while with a blue elephant surrounded by pine trees.

Maris: Thank you for inviting us to your exhibition. What do you think, is it usually possible to see an overlap of ideologies and aesthetics after opening the show? When paintings are in the spotlight and we don’t hide them anymore?

Vilen: If the paintings are situated on the walls of the gallery as a whole, it’s Le jour et la Nuit. They come to life more powerfully. Each exhibition has different energetics. Here in Kadriorg Plaza, they are going to work with a mandala-shaped atrium, which is also a mighty vertical indeed.

Maris: How would you describe a story of a view maybe with a window, tower or arc surrounding pine trees or cypresses?

Vilen: Some motifs from Santorini or elsewhere provide the initial impetus. During the work, however, the magic of the painting itself emerges. The cypress or the moon then starts to tell its story, and I, as an artist, am only an okie-dokie delivery man.

Maris: Looking back to the decades, what are the most favourite ones for you and tell us a bit about what made it look so fun back then?

Vilen: The ’60s and ’70s were my formative years. Very fun, enjoyable and high in energy. This energy cloud must have been over the entire planet. The ’90s and ’00s were the years of my rebirth.

Maris: What are your home city’s most Socratic styles and abilities to provoke you during the last 20 years and are there small steps and ways to make changes?

Vilen: Probably, I don’t know much about Socrates. Tallinn is my favourite city and it changes all the time. In the last 20-30 years, the love triangle including Old Town, Port and City has come to life! I must also say that over the years I fully follow the fortune of the houses I have designed.

Maris: As we made a little slow curb here, are you more into mornings or evenings? Can you describe the daily routine before getting paint on a brush?

Vilen: I am an evening person. I wake up late, watch movies for a long time at night, and read or gawk just like that. From two o’clock in the afternoon, I can give lectures, guide students and paint. I sketch houses at any time, even during the night.

Maris: When visiting and travelling. Do you also notice what other people have in their indoors and how they fit into this?

Vilen: I like modern interiors with preferably modern people. But sometimes also decadent old-fashioned interiors with absolutely funny people. When I travel, I’m good at choosing hotels based on their bonny interiors. For example, New York art-deco is enchanting.

Maris: Materials that people usually really like, have mostly wonderfully pleasant surfaces or are harmless for health. When you choose materials for sculpture, painting or for conversations with other people – are there tips or reservoirs you would like to bring out for taking notes?

Vilen: I am a completely form-based person. The materials are middling. Form and geometry determine energetics. Has been said. That it is given from somewhere where there are no materials – only ideas. However, I have a habit of liking stone and sweet concrete.

Maris: Can you tell us about where you grew up and how much creativity was part of your childhood?

Vilen: My childhood home was in Kadriorg and there was a warm and loving atmosphere. Father was a good draftsman and mother loved music and always read a lot. They both influenced me big time. I happened to be making their dreams come true.

Maris: What do people say to you when they look at your work nowadays?

Vilen: They say that they feel warm and their mood improves. Some get rid of a headache or a cold. They say different things, but they always talk. Pictures excite them.

Maris: How has your dedication to architecture at large shaped your outlook on life? What are the life lessons you can share with others?

Vilen: My life has been spent in terms that have epicentre in the middle of architecture. And I can’t separate architecture from the involvement of art. Painting has often come first, followed by architecture, design, et cetera.

Maris: Tell us about your favourite furniture. What makes it so good?

Vilen: I like all kinds of sofas. My best ideas are born while lingering over them. Large dining tables are also Grand. Ours has an oak panel and a glass table slides out from under it so that the whole house can take a neat seat.

Maris: Once again. Thank you for this end of year’s interview, sounds like once Andy Warhol’s magazine name, this interview has been an incredible journey.

Vilen: Thank you, InterView was for years my table magazine.