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Werewolf and stageing (2006-07-01)

Werewolf and stageing 2006-07-01
Maarit Murka: Werewolf and Staging

Assessment of Master’s Thesis

Maarit Murka’s exhibition “The truth is out there” in Tallinn Vaal-gallery in autumn 2005 was an outstanding event in the young artist’s career. The artist who has previously flirted with photo-realism performed large-scale room staging, in which the paintings had their role alongside other attractions. The artificial forest created in the gallery with the help of tree leaves and branches together with the paintings processing horror movie cadres created an integral environment, which managed to create ideas both in spectators and critics.

What is the meaning of horror in Estonian culture? Evidently quite insignificant. Horror appears above all in fairy-tales; in arch-type stories namely the forest is the place, where different supernatural occurrences take place, you can meet mythical creatures and fairy-tale characters.

Murka approaches her environment, from one side, creating in a typical manner, staging the environment of occurrence of horrors, which at the same time as certain irony is constructed namely in art gallery, the room, where in comparison with nature there act completely different rules. (The same exhibition may be imagined as conducted in the forest, in such case it would mean already something different). From the other side, she adds ambivalence placing into the gallery also the paintings, which are partly semi-abstract, partly almost hyper-realistic, but referring (here I lean on the opinion of movie specialists, not being any expert in the movie sphere) to concrete cadres of concrete horror movies. These paintings, particularly the more abstract, are outwardly “beautiful”, but at the same time somehow disturbing, operating as part of the atmosphere of indeterminacy and emphasized feeling of danger prevailing in the gallery. They are fragmentary. Horror is not spoken of directly, rather hinted at it. Like in case of the wolf, who should not be called by the name for avoiding the misfortunes.

Whether Murka’s game with horror hints is somehow related to werewolf-myth?

The pictures with more realistic horror scenes rather refer to the camp nature of the horror movie, alienation from reality, something that corresponds to certain set of rules. Such approach is deeply ironic, but at the same time he spectator does not forget that horror may be the experience evoking catharsis.

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Maarit Murka’s position as hyper-realist is clearly different from the heyday of this way of painting in Estonian art in 1970s-1980s. She seems aware of the meaning of this imported way at that time; Murka’s present-day creative works, from my point of view, communicate more with mass culture, TV and media world. These oftentimes (self-)portrait works are partly like video stills, black-and-white accidental cadres, moment descriptions, whereas they are technically even better if one compares them with the first examples of this method from the student days in Estonian Academy of Arts.

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Like in the forest staging in Vaal , Murka also utilizes in other works alongside the paintings the means of room staging and in such way expands her field of activities. The paintings are just one part of the total idea, significant and primary, but still just a part. Part of conceptual whole, part of the game, into which the artist draws the spectator. This game includes e.g. experimenting with the paintings at unusual heights or under uncustomary angles, elements creating additional meanings, like for instance the weakening heart graph on the wall and foot traces on the floor, which are related to the work “Kill Your Darlings”, in addition to the painting again atypically exhibited under the ceiling. Some murder story of more glamorous type? B-category movie? Murka tries to tell us the stories, which would be ambivalent and at the same time related to some secret, aesthetic performance, but not decorative; the stories, the like of which we have seemingly already seen or read, but such opinion may change upon the familiarization with the stories. Undoubtedly, these works sometimes demand from the spectator some preliminary knowledge, but as the second alternative you may just follow the game.

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I think that Maarit Murka deserves the Master’s degree with the grade “Good”. Being actively involved in the Estonian art life during the recent years, she has managed to show herself as thinking and skilful artist, who does not confine herself to the things expected from the painter according to conventional opinion, but tries to expand her field of activities, think conceptually and create larger systems, in which both her neo-hyper-realistic paintings and more complicated room stagings have their place.

Tõnu Kaalep

Tallinn, July 2006