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Kruuk honors Estonian heritage through painting

Since moving to Charleston in 2020, artist Riivo Kruuk has wasted no time in making a name for himself — his most recent pop up exhibition, held last month at his North Charleston studio space, Studio Union, completely sold out. That’s due partly to the fact that Kruuk has been putting his art all over town through his awesome mural paintings, and in part due to his totally unique subject matter. 

“Being an artist or becoming one, it’s about being almost delusional and totally resilient,” Kruuk said in an interview at his studio. “Being an artist isn’t about being safe, and it’s not guaranteed. It’s about making stuff that other people haven’t seen yet, bringing stuff into the world and finding ways to connect.”

His biggest mural to date is a 65 foot tall painting on a building in Romania, though you can find a few in Charleston too: at Odd Duck in Park Circle, for example, as well as on the side of White Gallery in Mount Pleasant, the gallery which will host his upcoming solo show Tradition, opening March 23.  

Combining old and new

The paintings and drawings in Tradition are inspired by Kruuk’s Estonian heritage and the country’s vibrant youth culture, he said. That duality of old and new is driven home by Kruuk’s smart combination of luscious oil painting, grounded in realism, and spray painted moments that feel more improvisational and rebellious in comparison. 

The choice to work with two distinctly different materials points to a duality that exists in Kruuk’s identity.