Thea Gvetadze is an artist creating images of enigmatic scenarios, loaded with tension, emotion and symbolism. Experimenting with traditional techniques in clay and textile amongst other materials, Gvetadze’s practice speculates with highly idiosyncratic forms of image-making, representation and story-telling. Her paintings in particular, often painted directly onto black velvet, are vivid and recondite compositions unyielding to the pull of such dark and cosmic ground.
Gvetadze’s solo exhibition at M HKA will configure a selection of new and recent works in painting, ceramics and tapestry, which together demonstrate the variety and sophistication of her image-making. These works will be presented alongside the deeply loaded and personal ‘readymade’ artefacts titled Esophagus Foreign Bodies and Trachea Foreign Bodies (both 2014) – her father Paata Gvetadze's personal display of soviet-era objects accidentally swallowed, that he removed from people's throats during his career as a doctor.
Thea Gvetadze lives and works in Tbilisi, Georgia. Following her studies at the Tbilisi State Academy of Art, she relocated to Amsterdam in 1993 to continue her studies at the Rietveld Academy, and subsequently attended the Düsseldorf Art Academy. She has had solo exhibitions at Gallery Nectar, Tbilisi; Museum von Ostwall, Dortmund; and the Georgian Pavilion at the 50th Biennale of Venice, 2003. Gvetadze has also participated in exhibitions and projects at Art in General, New York; Cobra Museum, Amstelveen, The Netherlands; and Karvasla Tbilisi History Museum.
Thea Gvetadze’s exhibition is presented within the framework of the IN SITU programme at M HKA. The IN SITU offers medium-scale monographic exhibitions by significant early- and mid-career artists from around the world. It focuses on the commissioning of new artworks and experimental practices in what is M HKA’s largest and most atypical exhibition space. The IN SITU programme is led by Nav Haq, Senior Curator, M HKA – Museum of Contemporary Art Antwerp.
This series of works have been painted directly onto a black velvet ground. The works were inspired by her annual visits to Georgia whilst the artist was still living in Germany. Gvetadze took particular inspiration from her walks, seeing her encounters with different individuals – market traders, fishermen, gardeners and other inhabitants – as part of the theatre of the street. Enigmatic in tone and with a certain darkness, they reflect stories of private lives, gestures and body language.
Esophagus Foreign Bodies and Trachea Foreign Bodies (both 2014) comprise personal displays belonging to Gvetadze’s late father Dr. Paata Gvetadze, of objects accidentally swallowed, that he removed from people's throats during his career as a doctor. Removed during emergency procedures, we might consider each item as representing a life saved. Forming a sort of museum of soviet-era ephemera, these collections talk of the journey of ‘foreign’ indigestible objects into the human body and back out again.
The ceramic work Zeda Tsinsvla is the artist’s first work since recovering from a serious injury eighteen months ago. It relates to the experiences since childhood of visiting the cemetery where family members are buried in the region of Adjara, Georgia. Inside a bus stop facing the entrance of the cemetery is large mosaic dating from the 1960s, depicting the scene of a bountiful harvest with young people under a blue sky. Its uplifting depiction of life sits in distinct contrasts with the death and sorrow of the graveyard. Gvetadze’s work picks out particular elements of the mosaic, pondering why exactly the work by an unknown author came to be located in the place where it remains today.
Following her studies at the Tbilisi State Academy of Art, the artist relocated to Amsterdam in 1993 to continue her studies at the Rietveld Academy. In political terms, this was a traumatic period of transformation in Georgia following the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991. For the artist, the visual form of utopian “socialist realism” fell apart as a metaphor for the structures of the country. Before any real knowledge of the modes and languages of the contemporary art world, the young artist intuitively followed the rhythms of the changing reality around her, defining a path of change within these compositions that seek to visualise a sense of transition.