NOAR Nordic and Baltic contemporary art platform

"Night Mare/Nightmare" that was attended to open in gallery Staapli 3, is almost a retrospective of Meru, where an artist, after facing herself, tackles the topics from a decade ago in another angle. How does the artist see herself now? What are the bad habits and fear she carries now? The paintings from "Night Mare/Nightmare" carry the thirst for life as well as the power of it and consider what it takes to be a human, a woman and an artist at challenging times.

The exhibition emphasises on the internal tensions regarding being an artist and a woman. Artist questions if being an artist is faking? What if you do not have to pretend? The inspiration for this exhibition is routed from Austrian artist and spiritual leader Franz West, who’s installations and experimental use of the material has influenced Meru to look at things differently.

The earlier artworks by Meru tried to charm the viewer through wild beauty and brightness, the newest paintings have forceful colours letting no one tame the character of the art. Again we will meet the horse-figure, that has carried a positive and esthetical value so far, but this time it directs to asphyxia that led to despair and running away.

In the last two years, Meru has lived in Windsor, near London. To find out more about her planned exhibition we asked her to share her thoughts about being an artist and about the world in general. The photos and gallery views will help to capture bits and pieces of the exhibition.  

Meru at her studio

How did you choose to have the exhibition at Staapli 3 gallery?

Actually, the gallery chose me. I met the owner Mark Gask in London as he was reading an article about me in Estonian World and he suggested that I could present my art at his gallery in Scotland. It was in June 2016 – Staapli gallery was non-existent at that time. But they were fine to show also my more experimental works, that were produced on the reused canvases and surely that added same eclectic atmosphere to the exhibition.

The curator, Katrin, is very interesting personal and the exhibition has turned into a process of itself due to postponing. Every gallery that holds and exhibitions add something to the artist and the creation, curators a have a big role and discussing the ideas and plans about the show is crucial.

How long did you prepare for the exhibition?

Already in October we made plans for the exhibition and the deadline for the artworks was in March, so I could send them all off to Estonia by April. Now I have the extra time to review all of those.

Is it difficult for artists to find the venues to show their artworks?

Of course, it is difficult to “get in”, if you plan everything on the wrong moment. I do not do any strategic planning any more, I just choose what seems interesting to me.

I have had several exhibition-full years in a row – it means that I have prepared around 10 shows per year including International group exhibitions and local ones in the UK and Estonia. After those tense periods, I have a feeling that I would not want to come out from the studio for the next two years. Artists need a break between the exhibitions so they could create again great artworks. Being in the „front“ all the time creates tension and over-producing – you lose authenticity. You turn into a person who produces the same hand-painted wallpaper pattern again and again.

How are you doing now, how has the crises and current situation influences your everyday life and painting?

Instead of walking normally, I sneak to my studio. In our village people go out once a day at least when we are allowed – for sports, to walk the dog, do necessary shopping or as one mysterious person – run around in a gorilla suit.

I paint “dead” ideas… I think the current situation will emerge into my painting later, if at all. I still go to my garden-plot to collect food and water plants. I am running out of paint and I can not get them from the store, so I am soon forced to create them myself.

Do you think the art field is especially vulnerable now?

Art field and artists are vulnerable, and are so constantly. No one pays us 70 or 80% of the salary for staying at home and I could keep on whining about it, but I rather approach everything with humour and say, that I can print my own money if I need or want. Of course, it is a metaphor; I will do a painting, get money for it – it is almost the same as printing the money.

Artists should feel themselves richer than ever before!

Beauty and modest lifestyle offer me a lot of positivity. For me, the current situation changed nothing. Living one day at the time, using as much as you need, caring about the environment, reusing, growing your own vegetables and creating – this keeps me going. Projects are stopped by now and it is time to create new things to cope.

But yes, the first thought is fear that art is most likely the last thing that a person, who buys the bulk of toilet paper in here desires, and therefore deserves in my eyes.

I was afraid of people, not the virus

Or is it all so bad? For a person who is at home in a quarantine, who is exhausted of the job, it is an only chance to feel good by reading books, listening to music and looking at art or creating it for fun. The same way we need a bathroom, we need art to clear our souls. Art is not disappearing! It is possible, that art is even justifying itself better than ever before. I dropped off a colouring book to one person I know because it was difficult for him to cope with his everyday life in isolation.

Also, creators have the opportunity to watch towards the changes and future and discover the digital world. I myself I am getting used to the opportunities that cyber-galleries offer, create online tutorials about painting by dots…

Too Much Going On Inside Me, 2019 by Meru

 

How will this whole situation impact society and what are the learning we should take with us?

Very good question – exactly, what are the learnings! 

Surely now it is time for innovation and moving towards the better direction. For each and every one of us, it has a different meaning, but we should ask ourselves if this former “normal” and turning back to it is wise and reasonable.

FOOD – we should care and look closer, what kind of food we eat and what and who do we support by that!

CONSUMING and how much rubbish we create and reality of how less we do actually need, could make every one of us value quality. It would also determine, who will make it and who are forced to shut down the production.

TRAVELLING – travel less and in a more meaningful way, the world depends on us.

Every person has felt by now, if the system, that we have participated in, has personally worked for him or not. Who are we in this system? Of course, it includes how government and society reacts to the crises and later to the economy.

Do we all make something better and do it even worse – the choice is ours to make.

Cleanliness – everyone had to learn how to wash the hands

Work In Progress by Meru

Check out artworks by Meru

 

Meru’s exhibition was planned to open in Staapli 3 gallery, which opened its doors for the first time in April last year. In the middle of the bright and spacious 240 square meter area of ​​the gallery, there is a specially designed art café, where you can take time to enjoy art in a cosy atmosphere. Gallerist Katrin Repnau introduces the gallery and activities of Staapli 3.

The main goal of Staapli 3 gallery is to offer visitors a wide range of works with different artistic orientations – from Scottish interior design to original works by Estonian artists. We are primarily a sales gallery, but we offer hospitality for various art and cultural projects – we organize temporary exhibitions and various art, music and cultural evenings.

Mark Gask, the owner of Staapli 3 gallery, is from Great Britain, he has worked in the field of art for almost 43 years and since 2003 he has lived in Tallinn. Mark has his own Gallery I gallery in Scotland, which has a concept similar to Staapli 3’s gallery – a gallery that is not just for viewing or showing art but is combined with a café.

Photo: A. Raudjalg

How do you choose the exhibitions and what is the focus of the gallery?

Staapli 3 gallery provides exhibition space for both professional and young artists. Exhibition projects from all fields of art, regardless of the art medium, are welcome for both individual and group exhibitions. There is an exhibition space, but the gallery will issue an invoice to the artist in a pre-agreed amount to cover the costs of organizing the exhibition (opening evening, information). The gallery has two exhibition spaces (Olive and Red), the rest are for sales, the exhibition lasts 4 weeks. In the intervening period of the exhibition projects, sales works will also be exhibited in the exhibition spaces.

The primary selection criteria for the main exhibition program are the continuity of the artists’ art practice and the conceptual strength of their exhibition projects. The main program of last year’s exhibitions included: Maria-Kristiina Ulas, Mall Nukke, Alvar Reisner, Henrik Hürden, Annika Kiidroni textile installation, animation exhibition (selection of graduates of the EAA animation department), comics exhibition, Drink & Draw 2019 croquettes exhibition, etc.

What impresses you about Meru’s works?

When I first became acquainted with Meru’s work, it seemed to me that she had stubbornly and with constant consistency sought inspiration and developed her own art practice. For me, Meru’s paintings have a strong place in the artist’s vitality and thirst for life to develop his own works. The artist’s paintings are impressed by their searching use of colour, which directly reflects the artist’s own internal tensions and at the same time touches on more problematic topics such as being an artist, a person and a woman in modern society.

Regarding the exhibition “Night Mare / Nightmare” planned in the gallery of Staapli 3, the artist has indicated that it is a kind of retrospective. In the project of this exhibition, the artist’s fascinating desire to see the truth with herself, to show interpretations of the last 10 years and new perspectives on her artwork is fascinating.

Photo: A. Raudjalg

Photos used by the permission of Staapli 3 and Meru.