VIENNAFAIR The New Contemporary is grateful to the Ministry of Culture and Monument Protection of Georgia and the Embassy of Georgia in Vienna for their generous support of the special project VIENNA Duet: Georgia “Our Caucasus i. e. Chveni Kavkasioni” curated by Irena Popiashvili and the artistic directors of VIENNAFAIR Christina Steinbrecher – Pfandt and Vita Zaman.
“The art scene in Georgia is still in a transformative stage and stylistically it is a mixture of national, traditional, former Soviet official styles and contemporary, sometimes borrowed and more often authentic art forms. This exhibition features several generations of artists who work in different media. Similar to Kote Sulaberidze’s watercolor landscape of the Caucasus mountains, which needs an explanation from the accompanying sign directory, Our Caucasus serves as a visual guide to the Georgian art scene. More than half from the group presented here are female artists. When I curated the show Contemporary Georgian Art at the end of the 80s and beginning of the 90s, of the thirty artists only three were women. I simply could not find more – this is not to say that there were not many women graduates from the art academy, but not many of them were making it in the art world.” – Irena Popiashvili
The title of the group exhibition presented at VIENNAFAIR refers to the chorus line from Tengiz Abuladze’s 1976 “The Wishing Tree” (Abuladze’s Repentance from 1983-84 became a flagship film and an early sign of Perestroika). The film tells life stories of multiple characters who live in the same village at the beginning of the 20thcentury. Among them is an unusual man, a believer in a better future and the approaching revolution, who has a following of local children. Their “anthem” has a chorus line that goes: “Chveni Kavkasioni”, which means “our Caucasus”.
The exhibition presents two groups of contemporary Georgian artists: artists who are based in Tbilisi and Georgian artists living and working in Vienna. We would like to introduce the first few:
Natela Grigalashvili has been taking photos of Georgian villages and the Georgian countryside since the early 90s. She was little known or acknowledged in Georgia until the New York Times printed one of her photos in their arts review section. Her recent project is about the Javakheti region and the Doukhabor village of Gorelovka. The national and international interest in this pacifist sect that Leo Tolstoy defended has been heightened by Natela Grigalashvili’s tireless, ongoing efforts to photograph and document the village and its inhabitants.
Maya Sumbadze can be characterized as something like a female version of early Andy Warhol. Her commercial work in advertising is immediately recognizable to general public of younger generations of Georgians. Both in her artworks and her commercial work, Sumbadze uses computer generated images (she draws them using a computer program) and after printing she often hand paints over them or touches them up with ink. This process makes her commercial and artistic work indistinguishable from each other: Her commercially created images, ads, or posters are as much artworks as her creative work that is intended for the art world.
Giorgi Khaniashvili’s (born 1982) first encounter with art was making copies of photos from the yellow press, erotic films, and porn magazines. These images stayed with him and to some extent defined his visual language. The images came to signify that unique period when the Iron Curtain came down and some new, unknown cultural and visual products poured into the Soviet reality. This is an era when two worlds – the former Soviet and the new savage capitalism – coexisted in a strange hybrid form. Giorgi Khaniashvili believes that “this eclecticism and total tolerance toward everything are the basic principles of his art…” That’s why his sculptures bear a resemblance to antique sculptures, have facial features of a Byzantine archangel and demonstrate certain shameless characteristics of yellow press and porn magazines.
Andro Eradze (born 1993) is a photographer. He also produces public art – the artist shares poetry with people, writing quotes from his favorite poets on the walls of the buildings. The act of writing graffiti is a form of communication for the artist. The idea came during a walk through the city, when the artist realized that there was nothing of his “own” in these streets. He decided to make parts of it his. When the walls tell something to the people who pass by, it makes daily life more exciting. Andro Eradze admires and shares poetry of Charles Bukowski, Patty Smith, Anna Akhmatova, Otar Chiladze, Karlo Kacharava, and Pablo Neruda. According to the artist, Bukowski suits Tbilisi the best. Writing on the walls was the beginning of the sharing process. It is difficult to translate poetry, so he chose to write the phrases that are the most clear and understandable for everybody. Bukowski has a positive effect on Georgians who are sad but still hopeful and absurdly positive.
“My Caucasus” it is the title of Kote Sulaberidze’s three-meter-long watercolor drawing of the Caucasus mountains, which serves as the centerpiece of this exhibition. The long landscape is sprinkled with colored logos, and there is a special print that explains them, a directory in a sense of these signs. In other words, viewers need special guidance to “read” “My Caucasus.”
Stay tuned to the blog and read the second part of VIENNA Duet: Georgia – “Our Caucasus”: Learn about the work of Marika Asatiani, Mamuka Japaridze, Sophia Tabatadze, Koka Ramishvili, Giorgi Okropiridze, Guia Rigvava, Tamuna Sirbiladze, Tatia Skhirtladze, and others.