Terje Ojaver, "A Woman with a Pet Fur Collar", 2011. View to exhibition "The Laugh of The Medusa" curated by Maria Helen Känd at Contemporary Art Museum of Estonia (EKKM). Photo: Paul Kuimet

Terje Ojaver (1955) is a sculptor, whose work includes abstract and figurative monumental painting, site-specific installations, performative paraphrases, classical sculpture, and video. She has also created notable monumental sculptures for public space.

In the 1990s Terje Ojaver mostly focused on site and material specific installations, characterised by a conceptual approach to nature. During the 3rd Annual Exhibition of Soros Center for Contemporary Arts, Estonia titled “Biotopia”, she exhibited the work “Bio-Top” (1994) on the columns in front of the entrance of the Tallinn Art Hall building, measuring the level of air pollution. At the open-air art centre Le vent des forêts Lahaymeix’ in Lorraine, France, Ojaver built massive protective planters around living trees (1998). At the Tallinn Botanic Garden the artist covered the ground with a ruffling carpet of natural grass, highlighting the unity of man and nature. In Kuressaare she released blocks of ice taken from the Kuressaare Castle pond in winter and preserved in a freezer, back into the pond in spring (2001), demonstrating the eternal cycles of nature. With the show “Dance of the deceived” (Petetute tants, 2009) Ojaver begun her series of replicas of large rocks, continuing it at the Sculpture Quadrennial Riga on the square of St Peter’s Church (2016), followed by a display of the rocks as floating pieces in Swan Pond in Kadriorg Park (2016), and later in Århus, Denmark (2019).

Ojaver’s work ties together canons of classical sculpture and controversial technical or narrative solutions, blending high and low art. Her figure-based work (mostly using her own image) make up a significant part of her practice, telling stories of women’s real and illusory positions, but also of herself as a wife, mother, daughter, her freedoms and obligations, strengths and resignations. Among these works we find “Blind” (Pime, 2011), “Awkward egg body” (Piinlik munakeha, 2015), “Self-portrait as burning fish” (Autoportree põleva kalana, 2014), “Self-portrait as a camel” (Autoportree kaamelina, 2012), “Self-Portrait as a tortoise” (Autoportree kilpkonnana, 2018). In creating these creatures as self-portraits Ojaver uses materials that during the past 50 years have been associated primarily with women artists: everyday objects, soft fabrics, etc. In her solo show “Stripclub” (Striptiisiklubi, 2015, Vabaduse Gallery) Ojaver exhibited “Madonna”, a work depicting a figure dressed in tarp, a bitter-looking woman, who will never be free of her burden. In contrast, she exhibited a series of bronze figurines focusing on depictions of woman’s sexuality in various stages of her life.

The solo exhibition “What happened to Little Red Riding Hood?” (Mis juhtus punamütsikesega?, 2019, Vaal Gallery) looked at the mythological woman, archetypal fears and fantasies, showcasing the sculptural installation “Beast” (Elajas), depicting a massive animal attacking a woman dressed in black. The video work “Sisyphus’ bride” (Sysiphose pruut, 2009) presented Ojaver’s interpretation of the Sisyphus myth: a woman in a bridal dress tries to achieve the impossible – to score a goal located on a top of a hill.

Ojaver has also created monumental sculptures for public spaces. Among them a monument to the poet Betti Alver in Jõgeva (1995), an equestrian monument for General Johan Laidoner in Viljandi (2004), the eleven artificial rock installation “Celestial rocks” (Taevakivid) in Ülemiste Centre (2014) and a bronze sculpture “Spingboard” (Hoolaud, 2016) in front of Valga Secondary School, depicting a boy ready to jump.

Terje Ojaver studied sculpture at the Estonian State Art Institute (MA, 1985). Between 2005 and 2015 she was a board member of the Estonian Sculptors’ Union; she has taught at Tartu Art College for over a decade, including masterclasses, drawing, form and installation courses, and is a teacher at the Estonian Academy of Arts. Since 1991, Ojaver has taken part in numerous sculpture symposia in Estonia and Europe. She has received the cultural grant of Republic of Estonia (1994) and annual Award of Estonian Cultural Endowment (1999). Her works belong to the collections of Kumu Art Museum and Tartu Art Museum as well as private collections. She is one of the laureates for the artist’s salary in 2023–2025.

Selected projects

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