Ani Gurashvili: The soft breeze of mortality
Sept 9 - Oct 7, 2021
30 Orchard St
In Optical Illusion, we see a fractured visage, framed by three oddly shaped mirrors. They hover delicately, head to their rich, chalky bodies, but cast back a look of caustic rapture. Are we the woman whose arm protrudes from beyond the frame, sleeve tied shut around fleur-de-lys tattoo? Do we gaze back on her, ourselves, or something else? Gurashvili’s whisper thin Turrell portal casts a lugubrious glow, broken by a backlit net whose hovering shadow place it somewhere “over there.” These smeary scrims, like James Ensor’s knife-edge grounds, unfix us from our vantage point. We understand depth as the byproduct of perceptual tweaks, not an immutable physical fact. This expansion of experience is elaborated further in Seer’s chamber, a mid-size painting that recalls the seething red interior of Jorge Pardo’s legendary “Mountain Bar,” in which two hands, outstretched RPG-style, escape the shadow cast by a Kong-like vase—but also, surprisingly, in smaller pictures, like “Treasure Chest.” Here, the POV perspective Gurashvili uses to expedite our descent into the picture plane needs no horizon, no dangling limbs, no furtive glance. What appears to be a narrow trompe l’oeil jewelry box is a phenomenological probe; this painting is figurative because its technical pedigree is so arresting, the viewer is “in” the picture by sheer necessity.
In The portal, a brilliant blue-green canvas that recalls the fox wedding from Kurosawa’s “Dreams,” a mediating plane of frosted glass separates humanoid from animal; here Gurashvili challenges the dominance of a human perspective, suggesting that the painting is as much “for” the chipmunk as it is for us. In Dagger, one of her latest and most ambitious pictures, a bloody weapon is left beside a body of water that sparkles with bioluminescence. It is unclear whether the crucial event has just happened, or will soon occur, and this uncertainty allows the moment to unfold endlessly. A text supplied by the painter suggests she hangs out in a smoke-filled studio with her cat, Albunia, hazily contemplating her next move. This is a ruse-she has no cat. Ani Gurashvili is nothing if not exacting. Her paintings are full of the stuff of fantasy: jewels, mirrors, charms, veils, lamps. This might be the legacy of the Wiener Werkstätte, but like Karen Kilimnik’s nostalgia for the present, or Sue De Beer’s collapsing of the “goth” with the Gothic, these precocious trappings linger in the picture long enough to engage the senses, but only that long. They are in service of something far worthier: the staging of narrative affect without narrative itself. It is only through these layers, this jockeying woolgathering and punctiliousness, that we might glimpse our own fleeting condition, aloft, for now, on the soft breeze of mortality.
Ani Gurashvili, b. 1990, is a Georgian painter living in Vienna. She received a Bachelor’s degree in Media Arts from the Tbilisi State Academy of Arts in 2012 and a Diploma in Painting from the University of Applied Arts, Vienna in 2021. Group exhibitions include Patara Gallery, and Why Not, Tiblisi; Pilot, Vienna; White Crypt, London (forthcoming).