Gvantsa Jishkariani solo exhibition
Curated by Ellen Kapanadze
Phoros: Sandro Sulaberidze
Supported by The Ministry of Education, Science, Culture and Sport of Georgia
Presented at the theatre company Open Space for Experiemental Art, Tbilisi
The Why Not Gallery is glad to present Gvantsa Jishkariani’s solo exhibition Together Forever.
The exhibition presents an increasingly personal take on the artist herself, her persona, interests, emotions and experiences. It is a journey through Gvantsa’s fears, traumas and weaknesses, but at the same time, it is a testament to her victory over these challenges and a celebration of herself.
Gvantsa’s art is as experimental and eccentric as the artist herself. The presented exhibition, like all of her previous shows, is a new adventure into materials, techniques, forms of expression and a research of her own experiences. And as always, it is saturated with humor as a way to deal with the difficult social and political situation or personal experiences.
The exhibition represents Gvantsa’s exploration what it means to be self-sufficient, delving deeper and every time challenging oneself. This seemingly specific relationship can easily be read as a generalization on Gvantsa’s generation; the generation that obsessively observes itself on and off screen; the generation that created the culture of oversharing and is its most active user, who live in their own Instagram stories and stage performances of themselves through their social media channels. Gvantsa also presents her own performance and uses sincerity and self-confidence as the most reliable mask.
The artist herself is the main topic of the exhibition; it is a sort of summary of her experience, the growing up pains; her fears, pains, frustrations and disappointments are taken as inspirations and transformed into positive energy. The title acts as a manifestation of these explorations – the only thing we have with us forever is ourselves. This harmony with oneself, certain self-sufficiency is the topic of celebration through the exhibition.
In terms of the aesthetic, the exhibition is divided into two parts, which echoes Gvantsa’s recent development in art and also emphasizes the duality of his persona. On the one hand quite brave, uncompromising and strong, but on the other hand infinitely emotional, gentle and sentimental, Gvantsa’s personality seems to be illustrated on the exhibition.
One part of the exhibition is devoted to the works The Last Tarot and New Gods of Post- Apocalyptic World. Both works were created through digital editing and are a group work by Gvantsa and some of her friends. Both are created in the same aesthetics, which the artist herself defines as post-apocalyptic and post-gender.
The Last Tarot was created by Gvantsa, young art historian David Apakidze and photographer Nata Sopromadze. The aim was to interpret the tarot reading card in an original way and to portray the eccentric representatives of the Tbilisi alternative art circle as various arcanas. The authors have personal relationships with all the participating characters, and the assignment of their roles is a kind of celebration of these relationships. In addition, the project closely relates to the Georgian fashion scene – all the characters wear Georgian designers’ clothes, many of them are designers themselves or work in the field. At the same time the piece highlights the scene as the most liberal space in the present context.
New Gods of Post-Apocalyptic World is inspired by Greek mythology and presents a modern interpretation of such popular heroes as Daphne, Narcissus, Iris, Dionysus and Persephone. These characters, quite different from each other, are all closely related to nature and life. However, the images are inserted in a deserted, lifeless landscape. The young characters, with their colorful attributes, are in stark contrast to the background. It is as if these newly created heroes, full of life, vivascious and armed with sincerity, emerged from this hopelessness to take possession of this lifelessness and establish new order in the world. This work is a co-creation with art historian David Apakidze and photographer Anni Katrin elmer.
The second part of the exhibition is more focused on Gvantsa herself and is visually more diverse. At the intersection of these two directions is a digital collage that has the same aesthetics as tarot cards and is also printed on an Aluminum Bidond plate. However, thematically it belongs to the second part of the exhibition – in the deserted landscape, where the sunny day suddenly changes into stormy sky and the dark clouds predict heavy rain, the image of Gvantsa is seen as a bridge over the river, with several images of herself balanced in different poses. The work is called Keep It Tight and was created as part of the Tbilisi Online Biennale, which was the first project to the pandemic. Given this uncertainty, when artists emerged as one of the most vulnerable social groups, the work can be viewed as Gvantsa’s reflection on the situation and a manifestation of her own self-sufficiency.
The second part of the exhibition begins with the tapestry I Recycle My Tears. To create the work, the artist aggressively worked over the factory-made tapestry and then embroidered the sentence. She often returns to this technique and it can be said that the tapestry series is one of the largest in her oeuvre. She always works on the tapestries herself; this rather time-consuming activity is as a kind of meditation for the artist, often to free herself from the emotions to which the phrase is dedicated. The statement ‘I Recycle My Tears’ can be considered both the mantra of the exhibition and the artist herself.
Throughout the exhibition, Gvantsa’s image is found in different forms, made in different materials and acquires a new meaning every time. The techniques employed have traditionally been used to celebrate and immortalize important figures and events, and mostly relate to the masculine world. These techniques themselves have clearly defined standards, which Gvantsa studies closely and then perverts them. On the one hand, it is an egocentric gesture, on the other hand, it is quite sentimental – in a world that is only aimed at breaking you, shattering your dreams and goals, you have to glorify yourself, for not giving up and continuing after all the disappointments and heartbreaks.
The four-plate mosaic, I Recycle My Tears, is an illustration of the phrase depicted on a tapestry. Tears from the artist’s portrait on the first plate are shed on the other plate, on the artist’s hand, her face and finally on the piece of cloth. The technique of mosaic has a very interesting and centuries-old history, which the artist has interpreted in her work, and in this exhibition, it acquires special significance. The image executed in mosaic was primarily a form of praise, both in the ancient world and in Christian culture. Then in the Soviet period it became the most common and popular image of propaganda. Gvantsa’s work seems to combine these two ideas – it takes the everyday and the banal and elevates it to the degree of excellence through the technique. The element of glorification is especially emphasized because the presented work is made of natural stones.
The mosaic hangs on a vintage-style wallpaper Waters of Volcanoes in pastel colors, where, despite the pastel color palette, some kind of drama unfolds. Columns of stream rise from the ridge, where the volcano is and on top hangs a mosaic of flying phoenix Bird of Fire. The mythical bird, found in different cultures, representing cyclicity – constantly being reborn from its own ashes as a result of self-burning. This allegory of destruction and the birth of a new beginnings as a result, is an important observation for the artist who is always trying to create new meanings from her own pains.
At the center of the exhibition hall lies a pink loose mass with gold coins scattered on top, an installation The Ungodly Amount of Power. If one looks closely at the coins, they will recognize Gvantsa’s image. The coins are created by a close study of currencies – and following the tradition, on the other side there is another visual – this time it is the artist’s cat. In this way the artist creates the unit of money of her own imaginary kingdom and with her usual sense of humor, presents the possibilities of parallel realities. At the same time, this work also references childhood games and memories – mountains of golden coins, lost treasures, submerged cities, turn into chisel powder landscapes in Gvantsa’s art.
The artist took an interpretation of her own image to a new level and created a life-size sculpture of herself Self-Portrait. Here, too, is a play with those well-known visual expressions through which people are celebrated for their accomplishments. In this case it is to capture the moment where the artist is now, to summarize and immortalize all the discoveries, achievements and experiences she has gained. This work once again emphasizes the importance of the presented exhibition for the artist.
As part of the exhibition, the artist created an interactive game exhibited as a Slot machine. The game is based on the same principle, but in this case, the player wins Gvantsa video when hitting a jackpot. The videos presented were shot during the lockdown period. The short videos taken on the phone are mostly of an artist performing various banal activities, sometimes with her own cat, sometimes very well-dressed, and sometimes with nothing but underwear. These videos were mostly posted on her Instagram feed and document a kind of adventure of self-discovery in solitude. Humor and self-irony, as one of the main driving forces of the artist’s creativity, are well-felt through this work.
The exhibition also features two paintings Purple Hills & Gold Sun, and Turquoise Beads & Pink Land. Gvantsa rarely paints and practically never exhibits her own paintings, so the exhibition is also special in this regard. Elements of other works are repeated in the paintings – the chisel powder landscape, in Turquoise Beads & Pink Land turn into hills, and the architectural elements seem to present the view from the Ideal Castle of Gold. Flying Pegasus in the Purple Hills and Gold Sun is another demonstration of the artist’s interest in mythology, world cultures and traditions, which is also often found in the works at the exhibition. Although these paintings present a kind of destructive scenarios, melting suns and the rivers carrying boulders, the landscapes still have an idyllic, harmonious mood. This element of the fantasy is important for the artist as an attempt to reconsider reality.