Irakli Bugiani - Painting Memories
by Nino Gabisonia/METAL Magazine
Irakli Bugiani’s cityscapes feel chilly and inchoate, even when marked with balmy details like palm trees and hot strokes of yellow and orange. This stark, unfinished quality is intentional and laces the Georgian artist’s paintings with a complicated sense of nostalgia. In his most recent series “Sovieticum,” Bugiani simplifies his aesthetic and enhances his use of visual austerity to more succinctly engage matters of personal and political memory.
Bugiani was born in Georgia in 1980, when the country was still under the thumb of the Soviet regime. Since then, Georgia has become autonomous, suffered civil unrest, and established itself as a democratic state. It has not, however—like many European countries that endured Soviet and Socialist rule—rid itself of historical and political ghosts that are manifest tangibly in architecture.
In the somewhat satirically titled series “Sovieticum,” Bugiani draws on memories of Soviet and Post-Soviet landscapes to probe softly political ends. Most paintings look as if they are just shy of completion: compilations of quickly rendered shapes and lines that resolve as simplified, shaky buildings, roads, and trees. The slapdash quality of Bugiani’s mark-making is willful and alludes to the passage of time and the ephemeral nature of memory. Large areas of greys and browns root the compositions in a smoggy, grim palette and nod to heavy-handed histories. Unexpected accents of bold color (lines of yellow, purple facades), however, act as contemporary, optimistic marginalia.
Compositionally sparse, the largest paintings depict tall, brutalist buildings set within bleak fields of whites, tans, and greys. Sepia tones and diffused edges radiate with the hazy quality of recollection. These are not merely portraits of the monoliths themselves—they contain the memories (dark and domineering ones) that affix to these places. Zip lines of bright yellow and a big patch of floating blue are assertive, slightly surreal additions that serve to modify, and perhaps undermine, their overbearing backdrops.
Smaller works are more detailed and situated within the context of the city. Tops of buildings bear down on palm trees or rise unexpectedly and emphatically from highway intersections. While, on one hand, these read as flashbacks from Bugiani’s own history, they could also describe a more universal experience—one of urban and political oppression, annotated (in a sun-yellow corner of a painting) with a desire for change.
Now in it’s 10th year Berliner Liste opened this week with 131 exhibitors ranging from emerging self represented artists to lesser-known international and Berlin based galleries. Additionally, for the first time Berliner Liste has created a section dedicated to photography. The oldest art fair in Berlin, Berliner Liste is exhibiting work on three floors at the industrial site, Kraftwerk, until Sunday, 22nd September.
The ground floor is dedicated to galleries and project spaces. There you can find the work of Georgian artist Irakli Bugiani, represented by Dhadamus Contemporary. His most recent abstract paintings of soviet architecture consist of muted colours, simplistic depictions, and visible heavy lined brush stokes. Bugiani’s soft portrayals of Eastern European structures capture a nostalgic feeling whilst conveying the necessity of functionality within brutal soviet architecture.
Two little series of particularly gorgeous paintings landed in artreview.com recently like gifts. One of them came from the Irakli Bugianishvili, a young artist from Georgia (in eastern Europe that is, not the deep south), now based in Düsseldorf:
It looks like Bugianishvili has painted an old family snapshot (maybe it's not even his own family; the painting has the anonymity and longing of a found photo). Other recent works of his are also photographic in composition and spirit (though they're not photorealistic in technique), but they accelerate the technique into realm of cinema: in Dream, it looks like the Figure is projected – hovering – on the canvas over a brooding background.
Considered one of the up and comers of his generation Mr. Bugiani’s work shows a wide range of influences, which he continues to explore at a rapid pace. Completing as much as three series a year, Bugiani’s passion for paint has proven to be as relentless as is his commitment to the uncanny photo album perfection he depicts in his scenes. As tranquil as his images may appear, there is always a mystical element lurking within the scene; something that attempts to detach us from the world as we know it.
The multifaceted imagery found in Bugiani’s series refers to not only his own experiences, but the collective experiences of others, which introduce us to a wider context or dialog surrounding social and cultural development. These unlikely partnerships also raise questions about Contemporary life and the seesaw of time and place our world wavers on at this point in history. Looking at aspects of the past and how they work to either alienate us or bring us together, one realizes that the same distinctions can also be made within our present.
As much as Bugiani’s scenes struggle between past and present, so too does the painter. His impressionistic background adds to the complexity of his layering schemes and artificial earthy palettes. The pseudo realism apparent in his most recent works conveys a sense of dream like memory that has become blurred over time. The dragging strokes quietly pulling the image in and out of focus allude to the passage of time, the inclusion of movement, and the critical element of human perception.
During his one-month stay in Croatia Irakli Bugiani has made a whole series of paintings of solitary areas with a single motif of forsaken houses in stark landscapes. The accentuated solitude radiating from these paintings is brimming with emotion and should by no means be mistaken for coldness. Vertical lines of liquid colour are an additional painting element which – as the author claims – separates the observer from the painting. In his earlier paintings he achieved similar distance by using reflecting glass which hid his portrayed heroes. But where is the painter in this relationship? Distant to us, these eerie deserted houses are a part of painter's inner artistic exploration. They may have been abandoned by everyone but he does not let them disintegrate nor fall into oblivion. By painting them in dark shades he does not allow them to scream, he rather speaks out himself, slowly from inside the painting, from the other side of the lines, pointing out problems of the alienated contemporary person. By living inside his paintings the painter breaks down the barriers he himself has raised earlier and draws the observer inside to join him in the picture after an intense visual consideration.
The Abandoned cycle precedes the recent bad news from Georgia, Bugiani's home country. It is, thus, inevitably felt as a premonition, an artistic deliberation, an emotional connection. But these paintings do not speak of a single, concrete space. They symbolically represent the current state of many individuals, perhaps even species. Still, to become aware of a problem is the first step towards its solution and this is precisely the direction in which Irakli Bugiani is taking us.