A fine work of art can engage the viewer’s heart and soul for a very long time. You can extend your imagination quite a long way into it and can feel its rhythms. You can also observe how this particular artwork reflects the culture of the society and the time in which it was made. You can also reflect on how and why it causes you to respond personally. What are its qualities that are mirrored in you?
Georgian contemporary artist Avtandil Gakhokidze’s work exudes calmness.
The people and animals in his paintings seem to have patiently existed way before the artist painted them, or, actually, painted over their living, although invisible to us, faces and bodies with his highly refined technique. The result – a group of godlike characters who have graciously paused for a few minutes, just to let us admire them in awe.
His paintings are airy but quite loaded at the same time. They carry a lot of weight in them. For example, the stare of Venus in the painting with the same name is so piercing that the viewer can only return her gaze without even getting a chance to study the kissing men on the corner of the canvas.
✱ Golden Eros
Golden Eros Series
“Golden Eros is my first series that consists of ten works,” says Avtandil. He worked on the series for two years and created each piece specifically to fit the space of the Dedicace gallery.
“I worked very hard and long hours to remove paint traces and brush strokes from the paintings as much as possible,” he adds. These works differ most from their predecessors in their handling of surface texture; the idea was to get the airbrush effect and create an illusion that the pictures were not hand painted.
Just like Venus, his “Golden Eros” stares back at you with a ubiquitous gaze. The interplay between the two gazes thus blurs the boundaries between the two roles until it becomes unclear who exactly is gazing at whom; the gaze becomes a mode of interaction between spectator and the work of art.
Avtandil makes some of the paintings very explicit. His approach is certainly an interesting one and quite similar to the artists who consciously reject concealment strategy. For all the discomfort the suggestiveness of his work provokes, we should continue to study it.
✱ The Great Dane
The strangest paintings by the artist are the most interesting.
An unquestionable erotic charge runs through much of Avtandil’s work. In his Golden Eros series, Avtandil has succeeded in both creating an aesthetic distance and deliberately violating it at the same time.
✱ The Whore on the Beast
Avtandil’s Whore on the Beast presents an allusion to the theme of the Babylonian harlot and depicts an ironic interpretation of this motive, where the author uses an iconic pop persona and an image of a cat with heterochromatic eyes.
✱ Golden Rain
Avtandil’s interpretation of Zeus’ Golden Rain is so revealing, it leaves little to the imagination. This painting with a closely cropped picture of a woman’s vulva is focusing on the theme of God’s sexual desire: yet the unusual arrangement is made by cropping a female body down to an erogenous zone.
The presence of a ripe and delicious looking mango next to it suggests Zeus’ obsession to taste Danae’s chastity. The golden dots in the background make the whole painting look like a finely assembled collage, thus making it quite surreal.
“A lot of painters have and continue to influence me,” says Avtandil. He shares about the time he spent at Tina Tskhadadze’s studio with a diverse group of students with a wide range of skills and abilities. Tina’s differentiated instruction worked for all of the group and it was a period full of engaging assignments and research that evolved around self-expression.
Avtandil has always been fascinated with the portrayal of myths and legends drawn from various sources including biblical texts and Greek Mythology. “I got interested in classical mythology because of the depiction of mythological subjects in art. I remember quite well how I read different stories about certain paintings with mythological scenes. Since childhood, I’ve been drawing some of the myths that affected me the most and I keep coming back to the same characters. It’s interesting to mention that over the years they’ve transformed from literary characters into archetypal images,” says the artist.
✱ The Head of Holofernes
✱ Fragment, Judith by Giorgione
“I can’t point at any specific reason why do I choose some thematic motive: the decision to pick a specific subject matter is probably a subconscious act, connected with self-identification,” adds Avtandil.
“I finished painting one of them last spring and it took quite some time to finish it. I often get inspired by a famous artwork, or it can even be a quote. It reminds me of a game, with an ample amount of admiration mixed with an attempt of desacralization.”
Avtandil’s Judith is painted on a round canvas, against a dreamy floral background. The shape of the canvas has the form of the round head of young Holofernes, whose facial expression is very calm, almost as in a deep sleep. Judith obviously enjoys playing with the handsome head of Holofernes, gently touching his short-cropped hair with her toes. No matter how hard you try, there is nothing revolting in this scene. Moreover, you slowly immerse yourself in the beauty of the artwork and begin to admire the artist’s superb technique.
To address the question of whether an artist can survive in Tbilisi by his or her craft, Avtandil responded, “I haven’t thought about getting another job as painting requires a lot of work and dedication. However, I don’t think that it’s possible to make art while feeding on enthusiasm only. My first solo exhibition took place in 2019 at Decicace and we’ve been collaborating since. A gallery, as an institution, has an important role in motivating and stimulating an artist.”
Currently living and working in Tbilisi, Avtandil Gakhokidze is collaborating with Dedicace Gallery on his next exhibition.
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