Maarit Murka (1981) is a painter working in printmaking, installation and video. Her work is characterised by use of narrative, film-like seriality, and extreme technical detail.
Murka is considered one of the most skilled photorealist painters who, having mastered this painting technique – and manipulating it, for example, in her series “0.34” (2009) –, has moved on to other means of expression, like spatial installations, use of different media and life situations. For example, during a research trip to the Helmand province in Afghanistan, she documented the daily life of Estonian soldiers and contemporary tactical war strategies, resulting in an ephemeral spray painting, a series of photographs and paintings (2013–2014). Her interest in military themes is also evident in series such as “Short Art Film” (2009) and “Targets” (2011), where Murka depicts a game of positions and wordless communication. In the exhibition “Contact” (2014) Murka interpreted political contacts that are expressed in militaristic form. Exhibiting black and white flags of NATO member states, she was referring to the organisation’s principles based on rules and clearly stated activities, where differences between members have been levelled out. Dripping cans of various coloured paint hung from the ceiling hint that a perfect system could never exist.
Murka’s work often conveys a film-like seriality, best visible in her 16-piece series of paintings, exhibited together with video and installation at the show “Hairpower” (2010). The paintings depict a still from the 1928 French film “The passion of Joan of Arc”, where the heroine’s hair is cut prior to her execution. This scene shows the humiliation of a person, but Murka adds other symbolic meanings to the hair, making it simultaneously repulsive and attractive.
For the show “Objects in Mirror Are Closer than They Appear” (2013) Murka painted an anonymous and taped-up object from every side, and with the positioning of the paintings, created an illusion reminiscent of a display case. The relation between reality and painting was also in focus in “Sisus” (2015), where Murka was working in deconstructing painting. In her eyes already the surface of a painting is a site of numerous compromises, enough to enhance its nuances. The process of painting becoming a painting is dependent on quotidian and earthly conditions, often by chance: what is the material, how many times the surface has been coated, etc. The series of multi-surfaced paintings “Minus” (In me) takes the viewer right inside the work, as the surface is reflective and the painted plexiglass multi-layered.
Murka’s solo exhibitions are mostly installations, like the last one, “Escape room nr 1” (2019). The exhibition focused on social processes, induced by urbanisation and a retreating nature. Murka depicted ways of constructing old and forgotten traditions in the future, when people no longer have personal experience with these customs.
Maarit Murka graduated from the painting department in the Estonian Academy of Arts (BA, 2014) and Academy of Fine Arts in Helsinki (MA, 2006) and screenwriting in the Baltic Film and Media School (not graduated). She is a member of the Estonian Artists Association and Estonian Painters Association and she has been exhibiting since 2001. She has been awarded the St Petersburg I Baltic Biennale Prize (2008) and Vaal Gallery’s Art Prize (2005). Her works are in Tartu Art Museum and those of private collectors in Estonia, Latvia, Finland, Sweden, France, Hungary, Italy, Russia and Denmark.