Rooms and Beings: Interview with Rusudan Khizanishvili
Rusudan Khizanishvili is Tbilisi-based Georgian artist who has also exhibited widely in the West. In her works Khizanishvili symbolically examines human individuality, external and internal forces that affect us, moments of passion and contemplation that constitute human personalities and are thoroughly unique. She does not construct elaborate conceptual backstories behind her pieces and follows a more organic approach, focusing on a title, an idea and building up her layers of humans and their surroundings. In terms of her aesthetics Khizanishvili’s works widely differ from a typical style of an Eastern European artist because of her deep ongoing engagement with the contemporary Western style of representation. However, questions of self-identification, transformation, trauma, rebirth –relevant to any citizen of Eastern Europe—are examined with raw, powerful color and idiosyncratic handling of forms. On November 7 Khizanishvili has a solo exhibition opening at 68 Projects gallery in Berlin. The title of the exhibition is Rooms & Beings and it will present fourteen recent works. As the curator for this exhibition I asked Khizanishvili following questions as she was preparing this show from Georgia, unsure if the recent regulations related to the pandemic will allow her to travel to Germany for the opening.
Portrait of Rusudan Khizanishvili
Nina Mdivani: do you think about the art scene in Berlin and how this show is different for you from other shows you had this year (New York, Tbilisi)?
Rusudan Khizanishvili: every country has a specific place and mood in one’s artistic approach and art scene of Berlin has been interesting for me in the last few years. This is my third collaboration with Kornfeld Gallery (68 Projects is the title of their project space) and the fact that the show will present numerous works that were created over a limited period of time is significant because this will act as a snapshot of my current approach. Over time my main task as an artist was to create a universal vocabulary that would be relevant and recognizable for the Western viewer in general, disregarding a specific country it has been presented for or representation styles fashionable in that given country. This show is relevant because Berlin is close to me while also is unfamiliar, through the exhibition I can learn more about the ongoing art processes while also becoming part of them for this limited time.
NM: What can you say about paintings for this show?
RK: Except for one work all were painted from January to September of this year. They constitute a distinct series, as I worked on them during a very unique time, distinct not only by its physical dimension, but also requiring different spiritual attitude, unlike what I did before. As mentioned, it is important to me that these paintings will be presented within one space and people will be able to see how I lived them in that specific time. I am curious to see how audience will receive them, how they will react to what I was able to express. And how and whether people will recognize themselves in those bodies and faces. In a way I created these human beings in rooms within a dollhouse, where I am a puppeteer. This imaginary dollhouse is not dissimilar to theatricality of Henrik Ibsen and Lars von Trier.
I have started this year with working on portraits with live models. And then the pandemic transformed these works, making them more about what is hidden in and behind ourselves. As the time progressed our fears have been crystalized, they were given concrete faces and thus we were given opportunity to see these fears and overcome them.
The Last Room-Exit:
"In a way this painting is about me and how this trying time strengthened me, I was able to even double in size, to possess two bodies at once. As with any artist ultimately all my paintings are about my own being and what I am going through although expressed through various narratives and figures. This double portrait does not portray a bi-polar or any other mental disorder, but rather two different natures of the same person, material and ephemeral, emotional and physical if you will. A strong black being, wild and untamed, passes an energy or a mystical connection between the two women. This being is vaguely reminiscent of the Summerian culture which is more of a coincidence, more importantly this being is victorious."
Rusudan Khizanishvili, The Last Room-Exit, 2020. Acrylic on canvas, 59 x 59 in
The Flowers from Our Garden:
"This one has many visual references to medieval and Greek art, while fully embodying the Renaissance structure including the round shape of the work. Very important for me here are the flowers and that they are growing. I am interested in the process of transformation, of becoming, it is very mystical when something is transformed into a different substance and for example these flowers are springing forth from the earth. None of the other elements in the painting are fully developed, all of them intentionally lack something; only the flowers are presented in their full form. Also, I want to stress that this analysis comes after the fact of me painting the work. This is a direct self-reflection, as in positing the canvas as an instrument of understanding oneself and one’s immediate surroundings."
Rusudan Khizanishvili, The Flowers from Our Gardens, 2020. Oil on canvas, 40 x 40 in
Rusudan Khizanishvili, The Yellow Room, 2020. Acrylic on canvas,59 x59 in
The Yellow Room:
"This is a portrait of my daughter who is also divided in two, a very intimate portrait of my child. Outwardly it has references to Frida Kahlo’s double self-portrait. Right away when I knew that when I was painting Dea I knew I will portray her in a yellow room, for me an essential color when I think about Frida and the Latin-American art. In a way I painted my daughter because of the lockdown as my live models could not come for sittings. This was the first series of works where people are wearing their everyday clothes, usually clothes for figures I paint come directly from my imagination. Throughout art history clothes were used to underline the status of the sitters, to tell a story about individuality and here it was the first time that I used the actual clothing. I thought a lot about this as clothing is a very intimate part, it touches our skin."
The Rising Star:
"This painting is almost religious in its ambience, its composition closely resembling an altarpiece from a medieval church. It is always fascinating for me to think how frescoes were the only images available for the medieval people and I find great inspiration in art from this time. This work is one of the main paintings in the exhibition as it symbolically shows the birth, a creation of human with many powers. I am very much interested in exploring the process of human transformation, how we are capable of embodying new powers, embracing animal nature. Just as it was in the past when humans first lived with animals and then started to collide with them. Now we are attempting to add these powers just as shamans do. Just as shamans are gaining power after their rituals so do my heroes. No fixed time, arbitrary construction, past and present are on the same temporal plain and we can go to our roots when we were much closer to our animal nature, we can reach out to incorporate it. Also, this painting has a feminist connotation as in the end woman bears children and by that she will always have the ultimate say, the ultimate power. All the paintings we discussed bear marks of the contemporary mythology, as every mythology is created within a particular time. And I am interested in developing my own through my tales."
Rusudan Khizanishvili, The Rising Star, 2019. Acrylic on canvas, 70 x 47 inches.
curated by Nina Mdivani
68 Projects Gallery, Berlin
November 7,2020-January 9,2021
Rusudan Khizanishvili (1979) lives and paints in Tbilisi, Georgia. She has received her two BFAs in Painting from J.Nikoladze Art School and from Tbilisi State Academy of Art. In 2004 Rusudan received her MA in Film Studies from Tbilisi State Academy of Art. Over the past fifteen years Khizanishvili has participated in numerous group and solo exhibitions including Museum of Modern Art Tbilisi, Museum of Literature of Georgia, Tbilisi State Silk Museum, Mark Rothko Foundation, Daugavapils, Latvia, Galerie Am Roten Hof, Vienna, Austria, Arundel Contemporary, Arundel, UK, New Image Art Gallery, Santa Monica, USA; Kunstverein Villa Wessel Iserlohn, Germany; Norty Paris, Triumph Gallery, Moscow, Assembly Room, New York, USA, Window Project, Tbilisi. In 2015 Khizanishvili represented Georgia among five other artists at the 56th Venice Art Biennale. Her works are presented in the collection of the Georgian National Museum; private collection of Stefan Simchowitz, LA; Breus Foundation, Moscow.
Nina Mdivani is Tbilisi-born and New York-based independent curator, writer and researcher. Her academic background covers International Relations and Gender Studies from Tbilisi State University, Mount Holyoke College and, most recently, Museum Studies from City University of New York. Nina's book, King is Female, published in October 2018 in Berlin by Wienand Verlag and launched at the Frankfurt Book Fair, explores lives of three Georgian women artists and is the first researched publication investigating questions of the feminine identity in the context of the Eastern European historical, social, and cultural transformation of the last twenty years. Publication of the book was accompanied by an exhibition at the Villa Vessel Kunstverein in Iserlohn, Germany presenting the three Georgian artists in their quest for authenticity and freedom. In 2019-2020 Nina was selected as Curator-in-Residence at Kunstraum, Brooklyn. She has curated shows in Latvia, Georgia, the U.S. As a curator and as a writer Nina is interested in discovering hidden narratives within dominant cultures with focus on minorities and migrations.