Merike Estna was born in 1980 in Estonia and lives and works in Tallinn, Estonia. They graduated from the Estonian Academy of Arts in 2005 and Goldsmiths College, University of London, in 2009. They attended the Rupert residency in Vilnius, Lithuania in 2017, among other residency programmes. Their work has been presented in several solo and group exhibitions around Europe, the United Kingdom, the United States and Latin America. They were awarded the Konrad Mäe prize, Estonia 2014 and have been teaching at the Estonian Art Academy since 2014 and at Tartu Art School since 2016.
Merike Estna is one of the most prominent artists in the younger generation of Baltic painters working today. Challenging the boundaries of painting as a medium and the ways to look at painting or experience it, Estna’s work frequently expands beyond the limitations of the canvas and into environmental installations that colonise places, spaces and even bodies.
Performativity is an ever present feature of their practice and frequently converges with the painting. Estna’s paintings take over and wrap themselves around every single surface in the room while others travel outdoors, to settings where the artist is camouflaged in their own and playing hostess while brewing illuminated, smoky cocktails. In Estna’s practice painting converges with crafts and can be discerned by the particular technique applied as well as the motifs depicted. Layers of paint create convincing textures that imitate the materiality of a marble surface, and vivid, bright colors rise from the depths of the painting as if they were carved out of stone, yet in a manner that has a closer correlation to digital aesthetics. There’s a distinguishable combination of elements or samples that become recurring characteristics of her work. Elements of the body and wavy lines go in hand with painter’s tools and housekeeping items like mops, brooms, and cleaning supplies, suggesting an opposition to the masculinity of painting and art and the femininity of crafts.
Estna’s paintings are clearly made to be experienced in tactile ways. Whether there’s a tapestry, a wearable piece like a robe or footwear that one can literally feel on their skin (and easily confuse with fashion clothing), or a floor you step onto when entering a space, it’s presence is often an unexpected intervention but one that you’re invited to take part in.