'The mere aspiration of an artist has to be improving the world and without the protest this can not be achieved'- tells me David Kukhalishvili while I intrude into his home studio. 'I protest against us not being a country'- and fair enough, the points Kukhalashvili raises in his art paint quite a grim and accurate reality of the country.‘I try to create art that will be readable to everyone, I don't want it to be exclusive for artists and art historians, I want to reach everyone from the market sellers to the elite.’
Perceiving Neo-Socialism as the only adequate and promising future for the humanity, Kukhalashvili’s art is in direct dialogue with the daily realities of Georgia. His photo series Not Working, of the blanked out buildings- the institutions that do not function for him is one of the vivid examples. The building of the Public Broadcaster, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Patriarchy, the City Hall, the President’s palace, the Supreme Court-all of them make up the list. Each of these edifices refers to specific events and decisions that the artist disapproves of; Kukhalashvili did not like the priests sabotaging anti-homophobic demonstration. The Ministry of Internal Affairs got wiped out when the students protesting the inhumane labor code got arrested. The National Gallery is included because of neglecting the contemporary artists and rotating around the same names. Some of the newly built buildings, acting as the visiting cards for the President Saakashvili are also portrayed as white silhouettes- discontent with their inadequacy towards the surroundings- most of these buildings are squished into the old part of Tbilisi, ruining the historical vista.
The aesthetics of graphic design might be the only imprint of the Tbilisi State Academy of Arts on Kukhalishvili's oeuvre (where he attended graphic design classes), which is also included in his list of white buildings. Arguably the academy would not approve of such bold thinking and expressing on canvas.
Working in series as most of the Georgian artists of his period, the ideas spread on couple of canvases do indeed convey the message more precisely. One of them is about the almost terrifying rate of women who sneak out of the country in order to work illegally in the West and support their families from there. In recent years the theme became the focus of many Georgian artists opening up in the documentary Women from Georgia by Koguashvili, who might even be the first to see it as a social problem rather than a couple of coincidences. Kukhalashvili has also created interesting canvases. The busses as the main transport for departing are heading towards the map of Europe coloured in pink personifying the hopes and expectations of these women whose planed stay of maximum 5 years usually exceeds to forever as the families left never manage to save up or start working. The same pink continent acts as a background for the cars, which presumably symbolise the cars the families left in Georgia buy from the money sent.
Evidently, Kukhalashvili puts a lot of thought is in his colour choices, in harmony with their symbolism. The series with black backgrounds that engulf the central objects convey certain things about Georgia. One of the most striking from the series is a pink bus stop stuck in the middle of nowhere. From the inside it is adorned with different flags; this is Georgia stuck in constant mode of optimistic waiting for the other countries to help. Trapped in the middle of nowhere, all the dreams, ambitions, aspirations and generally the lifestyle seems so inadequate and distanced to the much-desired Europe.
There is a central rubbish bin with a halo taking the stage of noble subjects, of saints and kings. The artist explains: ‘for many the rubbish bins are the only source of food. There is a hierarchy among these people and every area has its own owner. For them these rubbish bins are sacred.’
The other objects seemingly mundane and unworthy of canvas space are the hospital beds, which turns out is a critique of the indifference most of the doctors have towards the patients. If they are not paid in advance they easily let the patients die, so if you are the lucky one affording to pay the fees-signified by the red ropes around and the balloons are to hint- this has to be celebrated. ‘If you get to the hospital you are a VIP’ says the artist without a hint of sarcasm.
Kukhalashvili keeping a close eye on the news would not let the political situation slide out of his all-criticising canvases. However, he has found a very unusual form for this. He presents politics as the playground- especially relevant for the country as Georgia where the same faces adjust to the seemingly irrelevant positions- Dimitri Shashkin being the Minister of Justice, then Minister of Education and then Minister of Defence or Irakli Okruashvili who started out as the Minister of Internal Affairs, moving to being the Minister of Defence and then to the Minister of Agriculture. In a country as such the politics resembles a game and the politicians seem to be playing and having fun rather than working for a country. This feeling is intensified with the regime of constant elections, whose winner was known in advance for quite some time. Due to the corruption and the inexistent alternatives, the National Movement party used to be the ultimate winner. Kukhalashvili translated these conditions in the football fields and tennis courts where it is impossible to score on one of the sides. In general Kukhalashvili is not satisfied with the politicians of today and says they do not feel the responsibility as to why they are getting paid by the people. His protest against these individuals is expressed in the void facades of the government offices, leaving the sensation of emptiness as it is not inhibited by humans that do not work for humans. 'I believe in a society forcing them to work for people. I want to provoke protest in the society with my art rather than awakening the sense of responsibility in these officials.’
At present the artist works on the project Geomemory revolving around the central square in the hometown of Tbilisi. During the Communist regime, there was a statue of Lenin, the unstable 90s saw the square empty, an epicentre of the Civil War, it was renamed into the Freedom Square. When Mikheil Saakashvili came to power he installed a sculpture of the Saint George.
‘I decided to convey my message in style of cube-futurism, which in itself was motivated by the Marxist thought, they believed work would lead humans to happiness, there would be no wars; doomed for failure it was a fairytale they believed in. All of it reminded of the times we lived in, the way Akaki and Ilia believed that Iveria would shine, ironically the school behind them was burnt on the way to enlightenment'. The language of cube-futurism is the leitmotiv of these three canvases; the Communist Tbilisi, anarchic 90s and the Rose Revolution.
The formalism of the first and the last canvases is quite similar, according to Kukhalashvili this signifies the similarities in governing- the totalitarian regimes.
For more of Kukhalashvili's art visit:https://www.facebook.com/daviti.kukhalashvili?fref=ts