On the path to authenticity and multi-potentiality

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Every two years, europalia spotlights the distinct relationship between heritage and art by curating a varied artistic programme focusing on a centralising theme or country. This year, the festival looks at Georgia. Luckily for us, one such exhibition is found at M HKA in Antwerp. With the works of Georgian painter Elene Chantladze and Rooms Studio founders, Nata Janberidze and Keti Toloraia at the forefront, we sat down with multi-hyphenate Bogenna Ivanna as she discussed multi-potentiality and the path to authenticity. 

What were your initial thoughts as you walked through the exhibition? 

My first impression was the spaciousness, openness, freedom and purity of the installation and works. Also at the same time, I felt very invited to come into the space and get to know the work better and was really intrigued to come closer. 

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Did it evolve as you walked through the space?

Yes, because from far away it looked like everything was perfectly constructed but as I went closer and became more familiar with the painting and the spatial installation, I saw the details of the work, the fragility and the authenticity. At the beginning, I thought the structural elements had a sturdy design and were well shaped, but when I went closer I really discovered the personal aspect - the personality of both the work and the artist. I experienced the traditional elements and craftsmanship in the work of all the artists. I  appreciate the old motifs translated into a contemporary art/design language. The purity of the materials and forms truly captures the essence. It feels very genuine, and I like that.

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As someone who designs spaces, what is your view on the interplay between the structures of Nata and Keti and the paintings of Elene?

As a designer of spaces, I find the interplay between the structures of Nata and Keti from Rooms Studio and the paintings of Elene to be quite fascinating. It felt as if they knew each other or worked together for a long time. The structural elements in the works of Rooms Studio provide a unique spatial context that works complementary to the paintings of ELENE. The works of Elene were more colourful and more figurative, and the work of Rooms Studio was the perfect background for the stories of Elene to come through. 

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The physical structures create an environment that engages with the paintings, offering both a backdrop and a framework for the artwork. This interplay not only highlights the individual strengths of each artist but also creates a dynamic synergy within the exhibition space. It's an excellent example of how different artistic disciplines can come together to enhance and enrich the overall experience of the viewer. 

You have quite a multidisciplinary practice, what do you appreciate about this method of working?

I don’t call it multidisciplinary but multi-potentiality. For me, it helps to have different interests and different ways to express myself. I see the potential in the blend of expressing myself through various interests. It is a very rewarding experience when I can combine all those different skills because the outcome is always different. It’s not always the same skill set I use with new projects. So sometimes I can't express myself in one way and then I can use something else from my skill package and use that instead. It's almost like a language for me, that's why I call it multi-potentiality. The thing that connects everything is vulnerability and openness.  

I see the potential in the blend of expressing myself through various interests

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Are there themes within the exhibition you identified with?

Yes, incredibly so. It's precisely because I consider myself a multi-potentiality that I identify with Elene's work. I noticed she often uses the title ‘free drawing’ or no title and I, myself, also draw a lot and when I draw it is also free lines. From the beginning, I'm not sure what the outcome will be. I just draw freely from my intuition. Alongside my independent artwork, I work as a drawing instructor at the Thomas More Interior, Design, and Architecture department. While the lessons I conduct are more structured, there remains ample room for individual expression in drawing style. This is why I enjoy teaching these classes so much; you can truly observe the students' personalities shining through in their drawing styles. As for Rooms Studio, I've been following their work for a while,  so I was already familiar with it online, but I had never seen it in person, so this is a true honour. The part that I identified with, and what I strive to do, is the sculptural component of their work; exploring the boundary of how to create functional objects that distinguish themselves. I work intuitively, embrace randomness, and, above all,  prioritize honesty. Last year, I met Nati at a dinner hosted by a mutual friend, which made it even more special for me to visit this expo as a New Master.

I work intuitively, embrace randomness, and, above all,  prioritize honesty 

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Elene specifically, while painting throughout her life, found recognition in the art scene later in life, what has been your experience within the art scene?

In my upbringing, I didn't really have much exposure to it. I danced a  lot and always had an interest in colours and shapes. In the  Netherlands, I studied interior design for 4 years. When I moved to  Belgium in 2013, I had to - unfortunately - give up dancing, and I began to search for another means of expression. That's how I got into drawing and painting alongside my studies in interior design and specialisation in furniture design. After completing my interior and furniture studies, I started at InSitu at Antwerp Art School, but I didn't finish it. My designer's heart just beats a little harder. My first real encounter with the art scene was, I think, in 2021 when I was one of the artists of Nightwatch, a project by FOMU - the Photography Museum. In 2022 and 2023, I was on the other side, helping to organise the Nightwatch program. Currently, I support the communication team of the Photography Museum. So, the interest has always been there alongside being a 'designer,' but only recently have I become more actively involved in the art scene. 

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What has been motivating you in this artistic journey?

What’s been motivating me is a multifaceted blend of factors. I've been motivated by the desire to combat the feeling of being lost for words in everyday life. Through my art, I've discovered a powerful means of communication and expression that transcends language barriers. It's a way for me to convey complex feelings and ideas that I might struggle to express verbally. It's a space where I can freely express my thoughts, emotions, and experiences, which has been invaluable, especially during challenging times. My art provides a space for me to recharge, find solace, and express my vulnerability and openness. It's a way of embracing my imperfections and sharing them with others, which I find to be a profoundly enriching aspect of my artistic journey. There's also this deep desire to connect with others through my art. I aim to communicate with people on a different level, to touch their emotions, and to create a sense of unity and shared experience.

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<div class="editorial-banner"> <div class=“editorial-credits”> @bogennaivana / @europalia / @mhkamuseum </div> visit europalia.eu </div></div>

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