Jaan Toomik (b. 1961) is an acknowledged Estonian painter, video and performance artist. Having gained recognition as a painting student in the late 1980s, his practice shifted towards installation and performance art after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Toomik gained international recognition primarily for his video works such as “Dancing Home” (1995), and “Father and Son” (1998). The artist has exhibitied widely, both at home and abroad, where he has participated in the first Manifesta (1996), 4th Berlin contemporary art biennial (2006) and represented Estonia at the Venice Biennial twice, in 1997 and 2003.
Born in the university city of Tartu, he was forced to undergo the then-compulsory Soviet Union army service from 1981 until 83. Upon his return, Toomik joined the art academy in Tallinn, where he studied painting in the period between 1985 and 91. Some neo-expressionist paintings, like “Menstruation” (1989), are testament to a time when Toomik considers himself to be more influenced by and concerned with art from abroad. However, with the coming of independence, the artist claims that the interest in his immediate situation took over. This is consequently the time when Toomik was responding to the changing political situation, converting from a neo-expressionist painter into a post-conceptual performer.
Subsequent travels to international art events helped shape his role as an international art star at home, as well as gaining him long-standing supporters abroad. His famous videos, like “Way To Sao Paulo” (1994) shown at the Sao Paulo biennial that year, and “Dancing Home”, first screened in Helsinki at ARS ’95, laid the foundations of Toomik’s practice which proceeded to trace and transcend both geographical and autobiographical borders. The artist’s most successful and well known work “Father and Son” was made in 1998 and portrayed the artist skying naked on the frozen Baltic sea to the soundtrack of his then 10 year old son’s religious choir singing. The video belongs to several private and museum collections, including Estonian Art Museum, Tallinn; Erika Hoffmann collection, Berlin; Stedeljik museum, Amsterdam; Moderna Museet, Stockholm; Ludwig museum, Budapest.
Toomik’s recent solo exhibitions and screenings include: Film and video retrospective, 63rd International Short Film Festival Oberhausen (2017); First Slumber, Tallinn Art Hall Gallery, Tallinn (2016); Smells Like Old Men's Spirit, Temnikova & Kasela Gallery, Tallinn (2015); 84 HRZ Gallery, Munich; Werkstattgalerie, Berlin (2014); Galleri Sult / Skur 6 , Stavanger; Orton Gallery, Helsinki (2013); ARTRA Gallery, Milano; Pop/off art Gallery, Moskow (2012).