Kaido Ole (1963) is one of the most well known contemporary Estonian painters, active in art since 1989, and a long time teacher at the Estonian Academy of Arts. Ole often models for his own paintings but also creates peculiar characters, recurring in various series and compositions. Ole’s work is characterised by humour and self-irony and a critical sense of the absurd, stemming from his identity as an Estonian, an Eastern European, artist, and citizen.
Kaido Ole’s solo exhibition “Basic” (2001) has been said to be one of the most notable Estonian solo shows of all times by the art historian Anders Härm. The leitmotif of the show was an anonymous subject, a basic human figure bubblehead, used to denote different hierarchies of power.
Also part of Ole’s work is the project John Smith, a pseudonym he worked under together with Marko Mäetamm between 2001 and 2006. In 2003 they represented Estonia at the 50th Venice Biennale with “Marko und Kaido”, a work blending autobiography and fantasy. In this compilation of paintings and installations the authors tell the story of a German gene researcher who came to the Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic in the 1960s. Through the eyes of this character the artists present a self-ironic view on the dreams and aspirations of a small country in Eastern Europe.
In his solo exhibition “Handsome Hero and Plenty of Still Lifes” (2012) in the Great Hall of Kumu Art Museum, Ole exhibited paintings with the recurring motif of a wheel balancing on abstract combinations of material, forms and surfaces, which can be interpreted as a witty comment on balance in the contemporary world. In the show “Freaks” (2014) Ole developed his trademark anonymous stick figures into all kinds of Dadaist characters, turning his previously carefully constructed mythologies upside down.
In his solo exhibition at Tallinn Art Hall “Nogank Hoparniis” (2016), Ole exhibited paintings of abstract figures and mixed media assemblages. The title of the exhibition carries no particular meaning and does not provide any clear hints to the works. Although mostly new works were exhibited, plenty of references to Ole’s previous work were present. The large scale painting installation “Eesti lõpp” (End of Estonia) and “Eesti algus” (Beginning of Estonia) featured a sound installation by Tarmo Johannes.
In 2019 the most extensive exhibition of Ole’s work outside Estonia took place at the Latvian National Museum of Art, titled “Dance at the Lonely Hearts Club”. In addition to his previous work, Ole presented a series of new works under the single title “Kõik koos” (All Together, 2009). Ole created a staged composition of himself together with famous artists David Hockney and Pablo Picasso, but also figures from the work of Estonian artists, such as Jaan Toomik and Andres Tolts.
Kaido Ole studied painting and design in the Estonian Academy of Arts (graduated 1992). He has worked as a teacher and professor in the Estonian Academy of Arts (1993–2010). Ole has presented his solo exhibitions at Venice Biennale (together with Marko Mäetamm, 2006), Kumu Art Museum (2012), Tallinn Art Hall (2016/2017) and the Latvian National Museum of Art’s ARSENĀLS exhibition hall in Riga (2019). He has taken part in numerous group shows, such as the XXVI Ljubljana Biennial of Graphic Arts (2005), the IV Beijing International Art Biennale (2010), exhibitions “100 Painters of Tomorrow” at One Art Space in New York (2014) and the Ludwig Museum in Budapest (2018). His works belong to the collections of the European Parliament (Belgium), Angerlehner Museum (Austria), Latvian National Museum of Art, Art Museum of Estonia, Tartu Art Museum and Contemporary Art Museum, Estonia. He has been awarded the Kristjan Raud Prize (1998), the Annual Prize of Estonian Cultural Endowment (1999, 2005), Konrad Mägi Prize (2012) and the Third Class Order of the White Star (2014). From 2016 to 2018 Kaido Ole was the recipient of the national artists’ wage.