United Kingdom

Maria Kapajeva



Maria Kapajeva is Estonian artist, who works in London, UK. In 2018 she won the Runner-Up Award at FOKUS Video Art Festival, Denmark and in 2016 she got a Gasworks & Triangle Network Fellowship to work at Kooshk Residency in Tehran. Her work was internationally exhibited including the most recent: RIBOCA Biennial (Latvia, 2018), Kaunas Photography Gallery (Lithuania, 2018), Narva Art Residency (Estonia, 2017), WOAK Gallery (Poland, 2017), Detroit Oloman Gallery (USA, 2017). Her video works participated at Luminocity Festival (Canada, 2018), NexT Film Festival (Romania, 2017) and Berlin Feminist Film Week (2016). Maria’s first artist book is shortlisted for Aperture Photobook Award 2018.

Kapajeva’s multicultural background informs her practice of mining a diverse spectrum of cultural identity and gender issues within historical and contemporary contexts. She works with stories and histories that grow out of the collection of vernacular photography that she finds in archives, old family albums, on the internet or in flea markets. Kapajeva appropriates and deconstructs these images while looking for stories that have been forgotten or are about to disappear. Working with video, installation and object-based art she embeds found objects and images into unique pieces using various printing and stitching techniques.

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Dream is Wonderful, Yet Unclear

Maria has been working on this work since 2014 and it showcases a compilation of her works including 12,000, Cutbacks and The Bright Way. The work explores the relationships between collective and personal memories by looking at the community surrounding a textile mill, now closed, of which her family was a part. The story of one small community is set in the larger context of post-industrial cities worldwide, as they seek new identities. The exhibition depicts a mill filled by powerful rhythms of looms and lively collectives of women workers that, in today’s competitive world seems like a bright and distant dream.

Kapajeva focused on women, with a heightened sensitivity towards social and political matters in post-Soviet culture. As the daughter of a textile designer, she spent her childhood at the mill, drawing fabric patterns and dreaming about the same job her mother had. In the exhibition, the artist interweaves her mother’s work, her childhood dreams and their failures with the workers’ collective ones to underline the division between personal and collective memories that together form our historical narratives.

To watch an excerpt from The Bright Way (full video duration: 9 min), please go to this link here.


You Can Call Him Another Man

This work has started with a box of negatives I found at my parents’ house a few years ago. There were about 200 processed and unprocessed films, shot by my father. I excavated their contents, delving deeper into the lost images of my father’s life, to create my own stories by using these photographs he took before his marriage to my mother and my birth. I let myself enter into the world of a young man I never knew, and find connections in what possibly cannot be connected with the help of Italo Calvino’s words from his novel 'If on a winter’s night a traveller'. In 2018 the book is published by Kaunas Photography Gallery and it was shortlisted for Aperture First Photobook Award.

Every time I exhibit this work, I create a new narrative especially for the venue and only for one-time display. Sometimes, I make it as an interactive work by inviting people to contribute and create their own stories from the images shot by my father and quotes from Calvino’s novel.


The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Woman

"But I will tell you also what I do not fear. I do not fear to be alone or to be spurned for another or to leave whatever I have to leave. And I am not afraid to make a mistake, even a great mistake, a lifelong mistake, and perhaps as long as eternity too". (from A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce, 1916)

I grew up in a culture where women were declared equal to men. This, however, applied to their jobs not to domestic duties, which remained exclusively the obligation of women. They hardly ever got to the top management positions but instead aimed to get happily married and dedicate themselves to the families. When photography came into my life, I began to realize that the myriad of possibilities and perspectives that it afforded were much more interesting than any dream of ‘marrying a prince’. With my move to the UK, I was lucky to meet women who shared my thoughts, were passionate about their careers, and wanted a freedom of choice in what they would aim in their lives. Most of these women have moved to a new country, as I have, not to get married, but to realize their own potential in whatever they do: write, draw, paint, photograph or invent. Working in collaboration with them, I try to find the ways to photograph each of them as a unique and strong personality in her own working environment. These women are my peers and represent a new generation of impassioned young intellectuals who are not afraid to undertake risks and break the rules.



The series is a selection of vernacular photographs which were found on the Internet and digitally manipulated afterwards. The final collages demonstrate a collision of two cultures: Russian women in their domestic interiors in the poses they borrow from Western mass media as an exemplification of female sexuality. The series looks at assimilation and possible integration of cultures of post-Soviet territories with the Western values and how these processes reflect in women’s role in the society. The series contains of 20 images.


I Am Usual Woman

Quilt is stitched with a pattern called Double Wedding Rings. The pattern was traditionally used for a trousseau quilt made by bride’s female relatives. The used photographs were found on the matrimonial websites specially created for Russian women to find a Western husband. The images for the quilt are carefully selected from the ones which were shown on these websites as ‘the best samples’ of how women should be photographed for the best matchmaking. This work is continuation of my artistic investigation on women’s role in cross-cultural marriage and fantasies the Russian women as well as Western men have about the women's’ role in it. I am interested to question the relevance of traditions and old values nowadays taking into consideration the new opportunities the globalization can offer.

Quilt 170x170cm, unique piece