Shalva Nikvashvili´s vision of stereotyped identity cracks an appropriate whip in today´s society. His painstakingly assembled organic structures hint at the often contradictory experiences arising out of the contemplation that we live in world which does not let us be freely ourselves. The artist challenges precodified hierarchies surrounding language, social roles, constructs identities and sexualities. Indeed, his work proposes the dilemma of whether the human being is changeable and irregular or on the contrary, he possesses a naturally uniform individuality. Could we remove our identity?
The masks- playful in shape, tasteful in colour, placed around the head almost like an invading cell about to phagocytose- evokes the most traditional African cultures, where the person who wears a ritual mask conceptually loses his or her human life and turns into the spirit. In this case, the prosthesis works as a transmuted portraiture, they bear the history of his creator´s life. His memories, emotions and observations have been reduced to solid leather, cloths, chocolate wrappers or even fresh meat – which is assured to be eaten afterwards, as an autobiographic gesture, ‘’When I use vegetables or meat, I always cook a dish, I can’t throw away food because I remember my childhood when I have been hungry’’ says the artist. The repertoire of hand-made masks involves two actions, an intimate process of catharsis - the author faces strong or repressed emotions to transport them into an object - and a second process of realising, the object is given to another person, letting him to be free to evolve. Whoever is he.
“When you are used, raped, brainwashed and forced to follow someone’s needs to satisfy their maniacal mind, but in one moment you will just realise that all this is not what you want and you will break free to save yourself. You can free yourself from dark days but memories left from those dark days will stay with you forever”.
Can you tell us a bit about your background? Where did you grow up, how did you find art, how did your love of fashion and art develop?
I was born in 1990 /22/07 in Georgia. My family was and still is very traditional with christian orthodox mentality. I did not had anyone in my family who was interested about art (or they could not think about art because we had to think more how to survive). As my mom told me I start drawing when I was 2 years old (drawing portrait of my grandma) and afterwards as far I remember I have never stopped to be creative.
I found freedom and love in my work which forced me to believe for better life. I was never understood in my family because of lot of reasons, that’s why for me to be creative it was my dream life where I could escape and just do and be whoever I wanted to be. I was always busy with making dolls, sculptures and drawing every day.I think my love to art developed and is still developing every single day .
Take us through your journey. How did you get to where you are today? From studying fashion design at Georgian Art Academy of Fine Arts to living in Belgium.
I came to Belgium in 2014, because of my ex husband. I spent darkest 3 year together with him and then decided to help myself, run away and start my life from ‘clean‘ page. I can’t erase things I experienced but I try to give them space in my work.
I still live in Belgium with my boyfriend and we are still fighting for my (our) rights to be together.
What is the best advice as an artist you’ve ever gotten?
Work every day, accept critic and try to experiment a lot (in working process).
What or who inspires you most? How is the previous process to begin the sketch of a mask?
My biggest inspiration was and will always be my grandma.
I create masks almost every day. I start with feeling or memory I have and then search for materials to transfer my thoughts into masks.
As you say, your masks always transport an idea, feeling or memory. Is there any experience you´d like to share that made you create these featured masks?
My work is kind of my diary. I have been raped, abused and manipulated. Mask where I transformed white shirt into sculpture wearable mask is related to this experiences.
How would you define beauty?
For me, fire is beautiful for others it’s dangerous, I like danger and power. That’s what I call beautiful.
Your work has certain critical attitude towards “social norms” such as gender stereotypes or codes of conduct. How would you describe your position regarding this? What do you wish every child were taught?
I wish that one day nobody will talk about gender anymore, how man should be or how woman should be is invented by humans. Everyone has to have freedom of choice and then the world would be the best place to live.
Who are some of your favourite artists? Is there any specific reference you keep constantly in mind?
My biggest inspiration is Marina Abramovich, I think and feel that her work is real , she does not pretend something as others do.
What would you like to achieve as an artist?
To change world on my own way, where I can inspire others.
Any future ideas or projects that you would like to share with us
I am working every day, so it’s always new ideas to realise. I have some big projects/collaborations coming but I will keep it quiet for now until it’s all done.