Merike Estna: Dawn of the Swarm

In an age of digital domination, the calming refuge of a gallery is my favoured go-to for imminent escapism. The ability to explore a second realm inside the walled confines, offers a gentle break from reality and temporary respite from the noise outside. Inside this galleried sanctuary, the viewer is presented with a space in which the artist has built an environment of their design, forging a physical world from reams of ideas.

In her latest show, ‘Dawn of the Swarm,’ Merike Estna has succeeded in exuding a certain kind of magic, radiating within the gallery space like a glowing lantern. Nestled neatly amongst the busy flow of surrounding creative studios and venues, Bosse & Baum’s most recent curatorial experience provides a welcome portal to contemporary romanticism, within the chaos. I feel like I’ve followed a tribe of modern forest nymphs, combing my way through the delicate and mysterious layers of their world.

  Installation view, Merike Estna, Dawn of the Swarm, 2018, at Bosse & Baum, London. Photography by Oskar Proctor, images courtesy of the artist & gallery.


The installation consists of paintings, branches, ceramic vessels, tree stumps and beeswax sculptures, burning slowly like candles down towards the ornately tiled floor. Mottled patches of oxidised colour provide the backdrop to painted bodies of snakes, twisting themselves on the slabs of tile underneath my feet. Estna uses paint as a versatile and rich medium, with each surface and object she covers developing the plot of a larger, more intricate tale. Occasionally a performance takes place in this setting from a nude male, moving in harmonious, intuitive timing with his environment as an egg, a larva, a nymph.

Using the art of layering, Estna explores sections of time in her painting technique, both masking and revealing parts of an underlying narrative. The almost virtual like composition, references the domineering rate at which segments of the past, easily become both lost and uncovered in the digital atmosphere. Combining contemporary visuals with more traditional styles usually seen in craft and applied arts, she incorporates these into a modern embodiment of preserved story telling, bridging the contrasting notions in union. Weaving symbolism and Estonian mythology into the skeleton of her style, painted snakes, bees and bugs delicately adorn the works on display, hinting at folklore origins.


Boundary_Merike_Estna_6Boundary_Merike_Estna_5Boundary_Merike_Estna_4Installation view, Merike Estna, Dawn of the Swarm, 2018, at Bosse & Baum, London. Photography by Oskar Proctor, images courtesy of the artist & gallery.


Throughout her body of work, there is a consistent level of technical perfection, each piece a highly detailed evidence of Estna’s dedication to her practice. Focusing on art as being integral to the balance of life, she takes the viewer on a journey through the life span and communicative capabilities of material as medium. Seeing paint as a living being and expression fuelled tool, her latest offering presents the ever evolving fluidity and boundless nature that painting allows to bring her ideas to life. The installation is also accompanied by a publication, detailing works from the past three years of the artist’s career, including essays from Andrew Berardini and Maria Arusoo.

‘Dawn of the Swarm,’ is showing at Bosse & Baum, until 3rd November.