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Spring/Break Art Show - NYC
September, 2023

The exhibition CHOOSE YOUR CARDS WISE presents two Georgia-born but abroad living young artists, Shalva Nikvashvili and Tamara Lortkipanidze. The artists in question with a seemingly contrasting artistic practices share more than it is apparent at the first glance. Both artists being queer and raised in a suffocatingly conservative society, conjure forth their memories of growing up in a harshly traditional, orthodox Christian, and homophobic homeland that had forced them to flee. For both, oppressive archetypes and stereotypes that individuals are forced to fit in within traditional societies become a point of departure for their artistic practices. The process of making art becomes a quest for self-exploration, as well as self-identification.

The exhibition is a a testament to conflicting emotions of love and hatred towards the country of birth, towards the painful and hurtful, but at the same time quintessential to forming one’s identity. A perverted love letter to the motherland, the show is a visceral exploration of the traditional signifiers of masculine culture, both aggressively dismantling and tenderly acknowledging its symbolic meaning.

Nikvashvili's diverse artistic practice is marked by his ability to create works that are simultaneously visually striking and conceptually rich. Performativity and masquerade play crucial roles in Nikvashvili’s practice that is always bold and playful. The artist, reflecting on his own experiences, is committed to researching the concepts of identity and self-identification – individual versus collective, many contradictions and difficulties these entail. Shalva Nikvashvili is not afraid to be confrontational and provocative by pushing the limits of what is acceptable; he finds solace for his identity in his art that has the capacity to accommodate his curiosity and courage.

Themes of self-mythology and private history wove through Shalva's artwork, telling the profound story of a generation that had navigated a treacherous path. The artist came to prominence with the mask pieces that he started creating as a way of reflecting on his own experiences of growing up in a newly independent Post-Soviet country, impoverished and highly turbulent Republic of Georgia. The artist translated these experiences and emotions into wearable pieces, he then photographed himself wearing these masks as a gesture of confronting and accepting, as embracing and owning the painful and defining occasions. Through the series, the artist got comfortable narrating his story by creating characters and then performing them as a way of liberating and healing himself.

Shalva’s series of masks has had a resonance of all sorts including among his artist friends. It has left such a big impression on Tamara Lortkipanidze, that she painted Shalva’s characters and incorporated in her painting ‘Capitalism Dinner Ceremony is announced’. Friends from the Academy of Arts, the painting is a celebration of that warm relationship and even more so, a nod to the struggles and dilemmas both artists had to endure in their path towards self-acknowledgement. Much in Tamara’s style, meticulously executed painting is a combination of highly realistic but at the same time absurd, breath-takingly beautiful, but utterly gruesome. The artwork is imbued with personal symbolism that serves as artist’s reflection on her homeland – perverted and violent, where dominating conservative values are so imposing, almost physically abusing one’s mind. Tamara has developed her signature style that can be characterised as magical realism- where a lot of attention is paid to building excessive, baroque settings; each detail is carefully depicted, each character is carefully dressed – it is apparent the artist is much interested in fashion as a testament to the time. Through this, the artist is building psychological portraits of herself, of friends and acquittances that on a broader sense serves a socio-political portrayal of the society she was born and raised into that she had to escape.

Much of both artist works are centred around a mask, but not as a hiding tool but as a seeing where from they both observe the world, singling out grotesque, destructive characters, - transforming them into a changeable skin- a mask and role-play with it- destroying the line between imaginative and real worlds.
The mimic of a real "reality" yet a place for escape, place for taking back control. It is as if if you joke about it, it'll harm you less...

Shalva Nikvashvili is a contemporary artist born in Sighnaghi, Georgia, in 1990, currently residing and working in Germany. He is known for his multidisciplinary art practice, which spans across different mediums such as painting, sculpture, performance, film, and costume design.

Nikvashvili's art explores identity issues, and his transgressive approach to traditional portraiture creates thought-provoking and visually striking works. His portraits often blend abstract and representational elements, challenging the boundaries of portraiture and visual art.

In addition to his visual art, Nikvashvili has worked as a costume designer for leading opera and theatre houses such as the Burgteater in Vienna, Austria, and the Bavarian State Opera in Munich, Germany. His costume design work showcases his ability to combine his artistic vision with a practical application, resulting in visually stunning and functional costumes that enhance the performance.

Nikvashvili's films are similarly engaging, exploring themes of identity and using his unique style to create compelling and thought-provoking works. His performances often feature live interventions, blurring the line between artist and viewer and challenging the traditional art experience.

His playful interventions can also serve to highlight social and political issues, creating a space for critical reflection and discussion.

Nikvashvili's diverse artistic practice is marked by his ability to create works that are simultaneously visually striking and conceptually rich. His unique approach to exploring identity issues through his art has garnered him critical acclaim, and his work continues to evolve, challenging the boundaries of the traditional art world.

Tamara Lortkipanidze (b.1989) is a young artist living in Barcelona. She studied at the faculty of Multimedia Design, Tbilisi State Academy of the Fine Arts, and experimented a lot in different media before finding her visual language in painting.

Tamara’s canvases have a baroque quality to them. The richness of colour, level of refinement, perfection when it comes to the surfaces, meticulous depictions, familiar compositional solutions... yet, the resulting works are so of their moment, talking about the world around, often depicting actual people – friends and acquaintances of Tamara. And indeed, it is her immediate surroundings that inspire the artist the most, be it trendy fashion designs, stylish tattoos and piercings, socio-political realities or the taboos we only just gained courage to talk about.