Riin Kaljurand

My current painting practice has been very much influenced by my geopolitical origins. I was born in 1979, in the former Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic, then part of the Soviet Union, an era which has always fascinated me with its paradoxes and peculiarities. 

Much of my imagery is directly taken from Soviet Estonia’s women’s magazine ‘Soviet Woman’. As Judith Butler says: ‘Masculine and feminine roles are not biologically fixed but socially constructed.’ ‘Soviet Woman’ created images of femininity according to the communist ideology of work – women as hard working comrades of Soviet society. Sections of the magazine were dedicated to teaching women skills, that were considered useful, like cooking, health and beauty, and hand-crafting skills like crocheting, knitting, sowing, etc. It even included indispensable life skills like raising children.

The source material I work from dates from 1955 to the 1980s; I usually select photographs which feature women hard at work in traditionally ‘masculine’ milieus like farms, factories and construction sites. I choose my references quickly, working from a gut instinct; then I convert the selected image into what I loosely describe as a ‘painting’. I abstract the imagery from the original photograph to create simplified shapes which emphasise the workers and the act of working, not the work being produced.

In these works, I seek to create a tension between the logic of ‘should’ and the logic of ‘play’. I try to use paint, not as it ‘should’ be used – a medium to be applied to a surface using specific tools – but as a form-able, tangible, almost sculptural medium ripe for manipulation. My paintings are collaged from dried layers of acrylic or household paint, which I manipulate at different stages of drying – by scraping, folding, cutting, drawing into and building up. My work is distinguished by a palpable use of surface textures cast as paint. I often manipulate the context of mass-produced materials and convert them into figurative artworks. I also use cosmetic items to make marks into paint. The paint in this way becomes the surface as well as the medium. Some of my paintings are built up by collaborating collage techniques and traditional handcraft, such as basket weaving, knitting and crocheting (jobs that women were required to do, according to the social idea of femininity constructed by the magazine ‘Soviet Woman’). My biggest influence through out my art practice is contemporary and traditional ceramics. That is the reason; I use gold and silver in my works. In contemporary and traditional ceramics usage of silver and gold is often a must, but in painting usage of silver or gold is not that common. 

I also use mass-produced tools, considered traditionally feminine, like icing nozzles and hair combs to create my paintings. To give my work a three-dimensional sculptural form, I make acetate structures by vacuum forming traditionally considered feminine objects like combs, brushes, cosmetic items, polishers, files, toys etc. Then I fill these forms with paint and when paint has dried, I remove these sculptural paint objects from acetate structures and incorporate them into my paintings. I generally choose to hang the paintings further from the wall to emphasise their object-like format.

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Website: ww.artbyriin.wordpress.com