Ana Cardoso (b.1978) and Merike Estna (b.1980) are both painters who have come together at two different geographic and temporal points to explore the medium of painting, traditional crafts and a woman’s place in the art world.
The first series of this exhibition The Seed Can Be Initialized Randomly took place in Porto, Portugal in 2016 where the two artists explored traditional Portuguese tiles as a medium for painting. The second installment of the exhibition (Tallinn 2017) further explores what is often considered a craft material or folk art – with the artists working on paintings reinterpreted as traditionally crafted rugs.
The artists push against the notion of paintings as precious objects, and take a feminist approach to the hierarchy between crafts and applied arts versus fine arts. Women’s creative works have traditionally been less valued than the works of men. Painting was considered a masculine field, and crafts were considered women’s work. Crafts and handiwork were a task that women could work on between their other domestic duties. This is signified in the works by the hands (handicraft) and the cleansing element of domestic tools such as mops and brooms. Their works probe the boundaries what makes paintings legitimate and acceptable, and if feminine aspects and forms of creative expression are yet accepted in fine arts.
Ana Cardoso works in abstract painting and utilizes anthropometric structures, interwoven with images and materials, which enable multi-dimensional readings. Merike Estna’s work samples symbols like a DJ samples music, with reoccurring elements such as: David’s foot, Emojis, sign language hands, brush strokes as ready made and the liquid to solid form of rocks in marble and replica stone. Estna’s works function as a screen showing the many layers of history on the canvas through holes on the top layer of the painting. Parts of the background of the paintings peek through from the top layers – the exposed foundations denote memory, wanderlust and a romanticism of the canvas.
Ana Cardoso and Merike Estna are linked not just by their boundary pushing paintings – but also in the performative process and time-based aspects of their works. Conceptually their artworks echo contemporary social concerns with nods to the digital, the nostalgic and a romantic reverence for parts of human existence that are mutating, melting and slipping away.