Giorgi Xaniashvili’s art is most likely to shock the Georgian audience, even if the artist does not see it as his ultimate goal. The society where religion is as prevalent as it is in here, finds it hard to accept the harsh truth of Xaniashvili’s art.
‘I am not trying to preach moral codes; I just don’t like the influences and attitudes that are dominant in today’s society. I find them comical.The values that are wrapped in a way that is appealing to the society and that they cherish, whereas in reality it turns out that the Kinto is a homosexual and the society does not want to believe in it, they like the dance so they ignore it.
My aim is to declare the situation, present it in its most extreme form- so that it becomes more visible and leaves no one indifferent.’Declaring no interest for the Nature-mortes that seem to flood Georgian art, he still sees the place for the subject matter.
Xaniashvili’s art does share feminist thought protesting against the objectification of women and their apprehension as one’s property. In a society where female solidarity is non-existent it is astonishing to find a male artist thinking in this way. Protesting against the gender stereotypes, he realises the depth of these implications, trying to distance himself, he catches these influences in his thinking too.The artist continues the theme of masculinity and boldly criticises our perception of a ‘successful man’- with an expensive car, donating money to the church and owning a woman.
Working in comics continuum, Khaniashvili builds the narratives around the subjects such as the fetishizing of boys. Having a baby boy is still seen as one of the great achievements of a woman- a boy as a future of the name, the genetics, the family and the tradition. The cartoon culminates in the son having oral sex with the father, cutting deep into and pointing at the paranoia of the society. For a country with an appalling rate of gender-specific abortion (when the mother decides to abort the pregnancy in case of having a girl) it is vital to highlight the absurdity of the situation.
Nowadays, the subject of homosexuality is one of the most debated issues in Georgia. Xanianshvili decided to summarise the society’s perception of these people-notably portraying the main hero as a man, as in Georgia homosexuality is almost always associated with men (the anxiety towards the male sexuality and even in here women are omitted) with the rabbit ears, the priest on the other hand is trying to protect his carrots and chases the rabbit away.
All of his drawings act as sketches for the sculptures either in wood or plaster. His future plans are to create the series of pseudo-decorative multicoloured porcelain sculptures, which will resemble the ones the soviet housewives have been obsessed with, but with an ironical twist so characteristic to the artist. The gay rabbit with a mobster priest are already in plaster waiting to be painted.
Khaniashvili works a lot with the material of wood; preferring it for its adaptable quality, the artist exploits the material creating the headless animals connected to each other as a symbol of the human interconnectedness. His most mature work so far is also in wood; the duo of a Venus and an Archangel offers a coexistence of the mythological and the contemporary, dead and very alive, mobile and static, flexible and rigid.
When working on the iconography of a Venus, the artist draws parallels to the figure of the Christ: ‘in the nutshell, Christ is also a mythological figure, but in comparison to Venus, this mythological figure is still alive and has not lost his relevance.' The goddess Venus is dead, but still personifying the module of beauty; Xaniashvili’s Venus tries to capture our contemporary perceptions of beauty and perfection. The hybrid of the goddess and the near-to-anorexia body tell so much of today’s society.
In our religion, the archangel is never depicted in 3-dimensions; the chronological development of the Orthodox Christianity seems to be the motive of the work. The figure of the archangel creates a contrast to the one of the Venus; the Goddess’s body follows the anatomical build up of a human, whereas the archangel’s body is smooth and sexless, even the joints are immobile. The heads of both sculptures are quite precise copies of the more known iconography, Xaniashvili creates the gods and saints of XXI century if you like.
Ironically enough the artist often gets commissions from the Church; for example a statue for the Catholic Church of Tbilisi. Then he creates cartoons about his working process. The main agenda is the objectification of something sacred, which equates to scandal in a society of Tbilisi; it is not surprising that the Facebook comments are often disapproving. It is peculiar how Xaniashvili and many of his contemporaries use Facebook as their online galleries, acting like the agents of themselves; you can view their art, contact them and even buy it from Facebook. For Xaniashvili religion is an object and funny enough a way of income. The climax of such relationship takes place on the last part of the comics; after taking the money for the work, the artist kisses the cross- ‘paying the dues’ as he calls it.
He analyses the religion coming out of the everyday context, how religion intervenes and is intertwined with the everyday living in Georgia, rather than criticising the religion itself, Xaniashvili claims to criticise these influences. The grim and grotesque imagery does translate the everyday living into art with the anatomical precision, no aestheticism involved.
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