David Zwirner is pleased to present an exhibition of paintings by Tamuna Sirbiladze (1971–2016) in The Upper Room at the gallery’s London location. Including works from throughout her career, this exhibition will offer an illuminating overview of Sirbiladze’s singular and vital oeuvre.
Born in Tbilisi, Georgia, Sirbiladze attended the country’s State Academy of Arts before continuing her studies at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna and the Slade School of Fine Art in London. Informed equally by the traditional underpinnings of her early education in the Soviet republic and the liberalism of her later training, her works are characterized by a bold treatment of form and light and an iconoclastic approach to style and subject matter. Most of the artist’s canvases oscillate between abstraction and figuration, with brisk strokes ripe with expressive and symbolic meaning.
Image: Installation view, Tamuna Sirbiladze, David Zwirner, London, 2019
"What now shows itself in my pictures are figures from my imagination which, as such, I want to leave as unworked as possible. Naturally, they are not pure visions or fantasy figures, but nourish themselves from external impressions that have established themselves in me. So they almost stand before my eyes before I paint them." —Tamuna Sirbiladze in conversation with Benedikt Ledebur, "When it comes to the point, what I'm doing now is almost something like revenge....Benedikt Ledebur in conversation with Tamuna Sirbiladze," Tamuna Sirbiladze, 2017
"For me these women figures are all very light and joyful, full of zest for life and fun. Maybe women understand me better there than men … Art is anyway generally dominated by men, and to be an artist as a woman always means tough competition. I also thought this with my prior decision to mainly depict women’s bodies in my pictures. A lot of artists insist on putting men on their canvases, they ignore the figure of the opposite sex. I’m not criticizing that, it’s simply a fact. But when it comes to the point, what I’m doing now is almost something like revenge. I don’t think that I’m already so important that it has an effect, but it’s an answer to the completely male history of art. I really once searched for women figures in contemporary artists’ work and didn’t find a single one." —Tamuna Sirbiladze in conversation with Benedikt Ledebur in Tamuna Sirbiladze, 2017
"Sirbiladze digested the canon of painting, with its overwhelmingly male dramatis personae and their attendant concerns, and adapted its norms to fit a distinctly female-centric (if not explicitly feminist) point of view. If her expressive brushstrokes echo those of Willem de Kooning, to whom she is time and again compared, then her agenda was something else altogether. Indeed, it feels a bit disingenuous to speak of ‘expressive extremes’ in Sirbiladze’s oeuvre, that rhetorical trope often applied to de Kooning. Her oeuvre, the oil stick works in particular, are more a study in expressive nuance; her work more often derives its emotive affect not from a wildly arched brushstroke, but from the counterpoint of hand-rendered gesture with text, or from the modicum of formal means with which she animated her subjects. Especially in her late work, Sirbiladze often eschewed thick strata of paint or uninterrupted swathes of pigmented canvas for lengthy, sinuous lines that could communicate volumes in the span of a few expressive strokes." —Anna Kats, "Still life," Tamuna Sirbiladze, 2017
"I like the fact that people can interpret things into my pictures. As an artist I don’t want to control what the representation will be seen as. … The pictures are also very airy, they have no weight in their presentation, they’re not concrete, heavy material. … At the same time, the colors are very light, with an impressionistic cheerfulness. Anyway, my pictures should be flexible." —Tamuna Sirbiladze in conversation with Benedikt Ledebur in Tamuna Sirbiladze, 2017
"Combining a flair for visual nonchalance and highly specific modes of display, the artist Tamuna Sirbiladze concentrated swift, straightforward parlance into epic images. The resulting body of work is as intelligent as it is wry, rich with allusions to fecundity, sexuality, family, and mortality." —Julie Ryan, "Image breaker," Tamuna Sirbiladze, 2017
"Tamuna had a strong sense of self-possession. Her body of work, which includes painting, oilstick on canvas, sculpture, photography, and performance, reflects that certitude." —Julie Ryan, Spike magazine, 2015