Metaphysical Surfaces – Levan Mindiashvili in conversation with Irakli Bugiani

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Levan Mindiashvili – Let’s begin by talking about your process; when you start working on a painting, do you always have a certain plan and then methodically chase it, or is it a more intuitive process?

Irakli Bugiani – Lately I’ve been working without a fixed, thought-out plan. Generally I start by coloring the canvas, not really focusing on where it’s leading me. When I see that the work isn’t advancing, I just put it aside and begin a new one. I enjoy just layering the canvas a lot. Sometimes, details will appear that lead me to a whole new idea or interpretation. Generally, the work itself talks to me and says what it needs. The starting point though is always our vision and conscious perception: What are we looking at? Who is looking? And what is it that we perceive? The work is a certain peephole through the world, also a certain hint.


L.M. – In her text, Nurdan* mentions that you always prepare your own the canvases, because the canvas itself – as a device containing the image – is extremely important for you.

*Catalog text for the exhibition – 191°S im Weltkunstzimmer, Hans-Peter-Zimmer Foundation, Düsseldorf (2015)

I.B. – Yes, that’s true. I have done numerous experiments in several materials and techniques, but finally I returned to canvas. I’m driven to this rectangular, defined shape and I want to experiment within it, inside of it.

L.M. – So to put it in another words – the limits of traditional painting are the starting point for you. Throughout the history of painting there were two main concepts for understanding art (and mainly painting). The first one lasted until the beginning of Impressionism and entailed perceiving all kinds of art as an imitation of the visible world. After Impressionism painting was perceived as a window to the new invisible world.

I.B. – The second theory is the one that truly interests me, when the pictorial surface is transformed into a metaphysical one, offering an open field for interpretation and individual understanding of the work. I try to avoid predefined structures. And I’m also very driven by materials themselves, by structure of canvas, by layers of paint. At this point, I want each work of mine to be an individual entity, even though over the course of time certain works create certain links between them and can be seen as being grouped together as series.


L.M. – What interests you more: working on contrasting works and opening different fields, or are you still looking for in-between spaces for these opposing structures?

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I.B. – I’m in a constant flow of changes; everything changes around and inside me all the time, so I believe that the studio is the space where experiments take place. In the beginning of my practice, when I became more aware of my works, I started thinking in series, even though there always were some works that didn’t “fit” in the main flow. These days I am openly interested in those contrasts you just mentioned. I like to create works that are very different from each other, even though one can always recognize that the same person created them.

What really interests me is the reality of ‘dreams’ and the least interesting thing to me at this moment is to react to the events occurring in the outside world. I am more focused in microcosmos within myself; it’s a micro zoom-in rather than a comment or criticism. That’s my statement at this point, that’s how I perceive the world right now; I’d rather paint a tree than a terrorist act everyone is talking about. When I was working on a series of collages, those were more political works, very thought out and well-planned; all the texts had an order in which to follow in order to explore issues of political or social character. After those works, I completely abandoned painting, opting for cut-outs and pasting, but then I realized that things like seeing, hearing, perceiving are sensations that are very important and I felt a need to explore them more.


L.M. – I have already mentioned this about your works before, especially regarding the recent ones that they are in a very close dialogue with the history of painting itself. Is it important for you to feel you’re a part of this legacy? Are there artists – despite their age, either older or younger generations – that you feel a certain affiliation to, or that you are in dialogue with them?

I.B. – You know there are times when I am painting something and suddenly I realize I have seen it before. Or there’s something I really want to do and eventually will see the same thing at an exhibition. But if we are talking about inspiration, I’m more driven from other disciplines, such as film or music.


L.M. – How does the Dusseldorf scene inform your work? Where do you see yourself in relation to the processes taking place right now?

I.B. – Of course there’s a big art scene in Dusseldorf, but it seems more conservative to me. There are museum shows of great importance, but I wouldn’t consider myself as having emerged from that scene. I prefer to stay in my own micro-cosmos.


L.M. – Even if you see yourself pretty distant from that scene, I must admit that your works are clearly in sync with everything that is happening in contemporary painting right now. I believe that the environment and the surroundings always inform us, even on unconscious level. How does being in Georgia affect you, what does it change?

I.B. – Of course it affects me. Everything has an impact on me to a certain extent; especially those emotional moments, when you become aware of new things, when you discover new truths for you. At the end of the day, painting is an expression of all these internal discoveries that lead to philosophical statements.

L.M. – In most of your landscapes there are no traces of humans.

I.B. – That is a deliberate decision. Though in the “Sovieticum” one can still see them, the architecture is a certain trace of human existence. I think when you paint a human, the message changes drastically. When we talk about perception and observation, these are the processes that occur within a human being and by depicting the subject itself – a human/observer – the message of the work becomes something completely different.


L.M. – Are you interested in landscape as in a form of “nature”-  or is it a purely metaphorical approach?

I.B. – These are metaphors of the places (or spaces) where I long to be. They are not depictions of physical places. It’s a playful take on kitsch, as well as banal subjects like a seascape, for example. Playing on these borderlines and with these subjects, that’s what interests me.  I think art should be in a playful conversation with the kitsch.

L.M. – Globalization and easy access to the Internet triggered globalization of images themselves. Today images are openly accessible for any purpose or use and each artist is free to construct their own meanings around them, depending on the context and need. And we can’t avoid Zeitgheist either – finding similar images and approaches across various artists. These similarities are more evident thanks to the Internet; however, historically we also know about many examples of several art movements being emerged and developed simultaneously in different countries, independently of each other. Being aware of this, what does the authorship of the image mean to you?

I.B. – That is a very difficult topic to talk about… I still believe, that each artist has to have his or her own way to express himself or herself… Though I must say, one can just imitate Van Gogh’s paintings, like Adrien Ghenie does, and still have his own voice.

L.M. – Now you are talking about “citing” and “appropriation” – two very common strategies in contemporary art.

I.B. – Being an author to me means to look deep inside yourself and trying to find out who you truly are. Of course you can’t avoid influences, even advertisements we see on the streets every day influence us. I’m not a big user of the Internet, if something interests me, I prefer to go to library for a book and spend some time with it. Lately I’ve been particularly interested in ancient civilizations –  I also did several paintings, but I’m not yet sure what I will do with them. Maybe I’m just inspired by them, but don’t yet know it clearly. I would say, even when you’re citing another artist, you’re still saying your own thing, and that’s a truly amazing strategy.


L.M. – The idea of “New”- is it important for you?

I.B. – Yes, that’s extremely important to me. If someone creates something, it has to be “new”. Actually, it inevitably will be, if you’re really authentic. That’s why art is so interesting – everyone is so different. When an artist digs deep inside his or her self, that’s where they’ll find “New” and “Authentic”. Art is something “new” created by an artist – whether it is a whole new world or just a statement. Artist has to have a certain discomfort with the world or reality around him, has to react to it and create the works in this way. Art is a certain form of a therapy too. Historically it’s already been proven that art needs certain barriers and pressures. When there’s a certain discomfort or a problem, it always triggers a creative impulse.

L.M. – You mention problems and oppressions, and we can’t avoid mentioning our teenage years, which ran throughout the 90s. Lately, we started talking about these years openly and I wonder whether that time had a deep impact on you or does it remain a distant experience?

I.B. – My work might not talk about those experiences literally, but those were experiences that informed my childhood and shaped me as an individual. We could even raise a question: what is childhood anyways? We are those little creatures, but still we only have memories and ideas of ourselves from that time. A little while ago I found some rough drafts I had done in my early years at Karlsruhe Academy and I found similarities with the stuff that I’m working on right now. There’s a certain thematic path that an artist follows and crosses over again and again. I recall you saying that artists in general have one idea or topic and they develop it throughout their careers.


L.M. – I believe your topic is the painting itself and its history.

I.B. – It might sound banal but I love the very act of painting, of putting a layer of paint on canvas. Maybe I’m only interested in the process after all. The process itself is extremely pleasant, and for a while I thought that painting is smudging the surface intellectually. One smears the surface but thinks a lot about how to do it.


L.M. – So, what is more important for you, the final result or the process itself? To put it differently – what’s more important, remnants of the process on the canvas or that invisible experience triggered by the process?

I.B. – The latter, without any doubts, because when the work is finished, it’s already gone and doesn’t interest me anymore. I immediately want to start creating a new, completely different one. I’m very often inspired by the works of children – of my own kids’ and also by the ones I teach at school. I am amazed by their effortlessness and freedom to create absolutely amazing things. Sometimes I even borrow certain elements from them.


Levan Mindiashvili

October, 2016

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