Maarit Murka- CURIOSITY AND INDULGENCE by Andri Ksenofontov (2011-07-15)

Maarit Murka- CURIOSITY AND INDULGENCE by Andri Ksenofontov 2011-07-15

There is no point in looking for the sources of Maarit Murka’s art in the sophisticated roots of occidental civilisation, for she arrived at the latter from a little place in the country. Country people do not necessarily notice the influence of nature on personal development; they take it for granted. City people, on the other hand, are so far removed from nature that they are unable to appreciate its influence. Nature inspires us to look, listen, taste and smell; the city is all talk. Murka has an entire series in which she switched off or heightened her senses in a different way for each painting. She painted in the dark, with her ears plugged, with her nose pegged, with her tongue instead of a brush. Or numbed her senses with alcohol. This art experiment was the only thing in her life that induced her to drink, to experiment with natural filters. Through what kind of cultural filters then did Murka’s works find their way into metropolitan art galleries? On the list of rural culture components, along with agriculture, we might mention a local libarary, a gramophone, state broadcasting, alcoholism, or a cup of hot tea. In the Estonian climate the village day starts under the blanket, progresses to rubber boots and then ends with the blanket again. It is a question of balance – between the zones of comfort and discomfort on the one hand and between curiosity and routine on the other. Similar balances, or imbalances, also rule the aesthetic world and information consumption.

Temporal and geographic distance from the hot spots of civilization grants a certain historical innocence that excuses touching on social taboos. Once, Murka transgressed by painting a Hitler moustache on a portrait of her grandmother and “KUNST MACHT FREI” above a concentration camp museum gate. She likes the film “Lost in Translation”. I do not want to suggest that this film is in some way taboo. I think that the borders of taboos may be shifted in their translation from one culture to another, like other lines between the zones of comfort and discomfort, because curiosity has a tendency to shift the routine lines of restrictions. Much gets lost in translation between the languages of images and verbal languages, and this complicates the job of the art critic. There are also losses in translation from one language of images to another. Murka paints monochrome black-and-white pictures. Does the world turn into a black-and-white TV when we remove the colour? Estonians do not generally dub foreign-language programmes; they prefer subtitles. This changes the perception of a film and opens up unanticipated ways of enjoying it. When an American or a Russian watches a film, they can experiment with the sound off, nose pegged, wearing rubber boots, or wrapped up in a blanket with a cup of hot tea – just as Murka loved to do as a child. Estonians have one more option: to remove the subtitles; in so doing they open their eyes to what had previously escaped attention. This is what is taught in the Tallinn film school where Murka (a graduate of Tallinn Art Academy) studies script writing. She chose this subject because she felt then that she was not nery good with words and, anyway, you have to be able to do a job after having learnt art. This painter, who stands out in contemporary Estonian art with a traditionally careful technique in oil painting and who belongs to the company of video artists as well, sees film stills and even subtitles as objects for painting. Some day an art teacher will start a lesson by saying: “Children, today we’re going to draw a TV.” That would be an unbearable violation of a cultural taboo. But children of the screen age want to.

Andri Ksenofontov