Rusudan Khizanishvili: Dreaming Of Being No One
IN 1921, Georgia--the diminutive country in the Caucuses--was annexed by the Soviet Union, and stayed that way until 1991. The Soviet Union had been in disrepair for over a decade, and so Georgia suffered, too: during this time, Rusudan Khizanishvili was a young art student at the Tbilisi Academy of the Arts. “We didn’t have heating, gas, electricity, even water,” she told us via Zoom from her studio in Tbilisi, where she still lives. “We used candles for reading and for living.”
While she was a student, she was also a mother, and she continued to paint up to six hours a day. Given the dark--literally and figuratively--situation she found herself in, one might expect the paintings that resulted to be similar: bleak, brutalist, what have you. But they’re not. Not at all. There are somber moments, slivers of unsettling desaturation, sure, but for the most part her work--which draws from many traditions, including Georgian folk art--is dizzyingly colorful.
Take A New Star Rising, for example, which Kinstler puzzled, here. It’s a riff on a traditional Madonna and Child, an archetype introduced in the Renaissance, and rendered by artists like Giotto, Duccio, Raphael, da Vinci, and well, pretty much every white guy with a paintbrush who was alive at that time. In Khizanishvili’s version, the Madonna--or, to secularize things, the mother--who in the Renaissance-era often wore a blue robe (either to symbolize virginity, royalty, or both, depending on the moment), has blue hair. Instead of angels, she’s attended to by a plucky set of peacocks.
For Khizanishvili, it’s a testament to motherhood--which she cherishes--but not the idealized, off-limits, vaulted kind. Instead, it’s the kind of motherhood that’s fabulous, but not without its difficult moments. Perhaps that’s why, in the background, there’s a dark figure, holding a darkened star--actually, a pentagram, a symbol that’s been adopted by a variety of cultures through history, but these days is most commonly associated with Modern Paganism, practiced by Wiccans. There’s a panoply of meanings in Khizanishvili’s paintings, but that’s the way she wants it to be. “It seems like I make my own mythology, but I use the language of what was before, because we have a very big and deep history of art,” she said.
She mused on taking that approach to her identity, too. Making it a big mish-mash. “I want to be a universal artist, without any languages and any nationalities,” she told us. “I started to think that even I do not want to use my name one day. I just want to be a creator.”
“They will recognize you, Rusudan, I’m sure,” her friend, collaborator, and fellow Georgian Nina Mdivani chimed in from her apartment in New York. We’re pretty sure she’s right--Khizanishvili’s paintings are unmistakably hers. When that day does come, if and when she does become anonymous, we plan to play along, but for now, we think everyone should know Khizanishvili’s name.
Full interview with the artist is included in Kinstler’s 1,000 piece Rusudan Khizanishvili puzzle, available now in our shop.