Tamara, if we had normal times and would sit together right now, where would this be? Where do we speak together? We meet in my studio. It’s in the city, in an ex-industrial unit, converted as a studio. Frequently tidied up, but still chaotic. It’s an overloaded space with a professional atmosphere. Maybe we are sitting at your favorite place. Please describe it briefly. It’s the so called-reception room. Where everything is located: kitchen, lounge, hangout space, office. Where do you come from, where were you born when? I come from Georgia, Tbilisi. Born in 1968, 15th of January. Where do you currently live and work? I am living in Tbilisi and working there in my studio. Which stations and people have shaped you? I think my family shaped me, but I was also influenced by interesting, strong and sometimes negative people. But still, in general, they all have left a positive presence in my memory. Which authors and books can be found on your bookshelf? All types of books, from classic to modern authors. Which books have influenced or shaped you? I remember unforgettable impressions from “Crime and Punishment” by F. Dostoevsky when I read it I was very young. Also Knut Hamsun. What are you currently reading? For now, there are different kinds of books near my bed, on art or just good literature and I read them all from time to time. What music do you listen to and when? All kinds of music. In the process of working in the studio we listen to a radio and I love how it changes genres all the time. If you would cook something for us, what would it be? It’s not my strength, but maybe I would make a dessert from my gourmet friend’s recipe. What do you like to eat most? I love all types of delicious food. I’m not picky with it. What do you think about breakfast? Coffee is my breakfast and I love it. It’s the special part of my day. What kind of sport or counterbalance do you practice? A lot of walking – that’s my sport. And I love swimming. Do you have special passions for which you are burning, and if so, which ones? My passion is art. I also love dancing. Do you have a personality trait that defines you, or something that you like to share with us, like special thoughts, a fetish, typical idiosyncrasies? I think as defining personality traits I would name discipline and humility.
Tamara Kvesitadze, courtesy of Galerie Kornfeld
To begin, please tell us your artistic vita in a few sentences.
I have come to art through early exposure to the Western artistic traditions while being small as my parents were constantly surrounded by artists and intellectuals. I started to draw and create watercolors early on, later continuing with professional classes and receiving my undergraduate degree in architecture from Tbilisi Technical University. I took a clean break with architecture when I started working on auteur dolls in late 1990s using them as a perfect medium to articulate the changing identity of Georgian women. All the dolls from the past as well as more recent ones carry their own microcosms inside, opening up to the viewers what is normally hidden from outsiders; showing to the world what it means to be a woman within a traditional patriarchal society. While working on these dolls I moved to New York for several years. After being exposed to more contemporary art I added element of motion to my works thus arriving at my current medium of kinetic sculptures. I have been working in this medium ever since while consistently experimenting with size, volume, and emotional currents that run through all my works. As major milestones of my artistic career I would name the kinetic sculpture „Man and Woman“ in Batumi, Georgia; presentations at the Venice Biennale in 2007 and 2011 as well as recently completed kinetic sculpture 18.5-meter „Sigh“ in Wuxi, China.
Tamara Kvesitadze, Man and Woman, 2019
Two sentences about your current project and the upcoming exhibition at Gallery Weekend.
“The Passage” is an installation that will be presented during the Berlin Gallery Weekend at Galerie Kornfeld and naturally it reflects the circumstances we are globally inhabiting this year, our time. It is a challenging and strange year that brings out fears as well as a sense of a shared humanity. This is why I believe the ultimate message of this work is positive as it builds on the inherent strength of humans. We go through this passage and it changes us without destroying the essence of who we are.
What are you most concerned about at the moment; what is on your mind?
At this moment I am concerned about my trip to Berlin for the exhibition. I am thinking about travelling in the time of Corona, when everything is bizarre and unusual.
Tamara Kvesitadze, The Passage (Rendering), 2020
How did you come to art? Why art?
Art has been present in my life for as far as I can remember. I was always fascinated by breathing life into objects existing in reality separate from my own and connecting them to my own experience of life, my own fragile truths. I see my works as vessels, delicately constructed from materials and holding my perceptive understanding of life, of human place in it, of woman’s identity. Context of unifying old visual traditions of my country with modern technologies and showing these dualistic creations in the West as well as in the East is important to me.
What makes you happy at the moment? What is currently scaring you?
With age all the little, good and joyful moments make me happy. People scare me the most sometimes.
Do you believe that art has a social responsibility? And what do you think it can do?
Yes, I believe that art carries a social responsibility as it can give a better understanding of the present, of our part in the larger schema, within our environments. As an artist from Georgia that is smack in the middle of Europe and Asia, I believe it is my responsibility to synthesize both of these expansive worldviews in a way that is accessible, relatable and open to viewers.
Art can transport you into a different dimension, a universe that is primal and immediate, has different rules of gravity that affect you emotionally as well as intellectually. As an artist I make a statement for what is important to me, for what I want to see more in the world out there. In my case I want to see a shared understanding of cultures, of traditions, and identities. And I want to see a world full of women as leaders, who are empowered by their roots, but also open to challenges.
What makes your art special? What are the central themes of your work?
I think that the main characteristic of my art is its sincerity. I translate my own nature into it, being as direct as an artist as I am in life. Also, I never look back at my previous works or larger projects, escaping their influences and always creating from a blank slate.
The central theme of my art is love, separation, collision, and synthesis. Looking at these themes as an artist I am able to unite people by looking across borders, forgetting trade restrictions and preexisting animosities. Also by using women as central heroines of my compositions I underline their changing nature in the modern reality.
Tamara Kvesitadze, Embrace, 2019
How do you protect yourself from too much inspiration these days?
There is no such thing as too much inspiration for me, it can literally come from anywhere.
How much in your works is planned in advance – how much is created intuitively?
The main idea is usually planned in advance, while I always tweak and change elements in the process. My process varies from project to project, but also like to switch across media if possible as it keeps my eye fresh and open.
What should your art effect on the viewer?
If my work affects a viewer emotionally, I have achieved my goal. By showing two worlds colliding into one in Man and Women I am trying to show that integration and unity is possible.
And judging by the global response to this sculpture I think I have succeeded.
What are your (next) goals?
My next goal is always the next project. I am perfectionist and all minutiae of a project is of an equal value to me.
What is your opinion about faith? Do you have principles of faith or is there a motto?
Despite the fact that I come from a very religious country, I don’t have any specific spiritual motto or a strict system of set believes. I respect religious people who have solid faith and I like to visit a monastery from time to time. I don`t think I am very religious, but I try to comply with the elementary rules of Orthodox Christianity. I love being in a church, lighting a candle and praying from time to time.
Which project would you still like to realize, if lack of time, courage or financial resources would not play a role?
I have several dream projects, what they all have in common is to create yet a richer visual and emotional experience, maybe to incorporate elements of music and theater, to envelop and transport a viewer to a completely different place.
What do you consider to be attributes of good art?
Inspiring, honest, and open and it is so rare today, much of art is politicized or over-conceptualized.
Is one born as an artist*? Or is studying art compulsory in your view?
I do think you are born an artist, but studying art is really necessary. Even more then gaining information is the factor of genuine artistic community when you are studying in art school and free-flowing exchange of ideas. Education gives you a solid understanding of the world no matter in what sphere you have received it.
Tamara Kvesitadze, The Passage (Rendering), 2020
To whom do you show a new work first?
Whoever is next to me at that particular moment.
What does the first hour of your day look like?
I drink coffee and remind myself of the time when I was smoking. I love mornings and all the rituals associated with it.
In times of the internet of things, are galleries from your point of view still necessary? If so, why and what for?
I think that the universe is flowing exactly in that direction, everything is so much easier to access and I think it’s not bad. From this point of view galleries may not be necessary anymoresoon, but for the art industry I guess that’s a utopia. On my end I am very happy to have representation from Galerie Kornfeld that has been working with me for many years now.
Social media – in your view a blessing or a curse?
I am not personally engaging with the social media, but I believe that it is a very useful and accessible instrument for the art industry. I know that many people have been exposed to my works specifically through the social media so in a way I am grateful to it.
The exhibition The Passage with a room-filling work by Tamara Kvesitadze is shown from 11th September to 31st October 2020 at the Galerie Kornfeld, Fasanenstraße , 10719 Berlin-Charlottenburg. The gallery is open Tuesday to Saturday from noon to 6 pm. Appointments by arrangement are possible under +49 (30) 889 225 890 or under the email address email@example.com.
In times of Corona, when travel, studio visits and personal contacts are inappropriate or even impossible, the written interview remains an important medium to introduce artist personalities, to spread their messages and to stay in touch with art lovers. The interviews are not edited or shortened by the editorial staff and are always reproduced in the original language. Therefore we do not translate the interview into English or German, unless the interviewee submits a translation.
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