Selected works by Andro Wekua

Andro Wekua
Covered

2006

Collage, silver foil, tissue paper, colour pencil and felt pen on illustration

36.6 x 48.2cm

Andro Wekua’s photographs and painted sculptural installations channel fragments from his own memories of childhood into mosaic-like narratives, conveying a very real but always remote sense of place. In his work, which often features an element of tiled form, it is as if broken images are being put back together, like a seductive but ultimately unsolvable puzzle. 

Sunset (2008), an eight-metre wide installation composed of 170 glazed ceramic panels supported by metal scaffolding, is an abstract composition which is also reminiscent of a landscape with softly billowing clouds and a central red and black circle representing the sun falling over a darkening ground.


 

Andro Wekua
Sunset

2008

Installation of 170 glazed ceramic panels, metal framework, steel scaffolding

500 x 800 x 82 cm

Primary colours dominate the work, whose painted areas are suggestive of strong but incomplete recollections typical of a dream or a long-ago experience, the details of which have become hazy over time. The scale of the work and its fired tile composition make it appear like an ominous public pool mural from the Soviet era, or a larger-than-life backdrop from a Ballets Russes production. 

Aspects of his pieces have a decidedly East European flavour. His use of geometry and his photographic montages, such as Black Sea Surfer (2004) and Covered (2006), seem to come from the visual culture of Communism, but they also feel completely embedded within a more universal underground cinema aesthetic.

Andro Wekua
Black Sea Surfer

2004

installation in 7 parts with 3 collages, colour pencil, pencil and felt pen on paper. 4 fabrics(velours)

175 x 200 x 265 (Overall 3.5 x 8m)
Although Wekua uses representational elements in most of his works, his visual symbolism is often perplexing and self-contained. His practice develops elements inspired by both contemporary culture and by his background – he is originally from Soviet Georgia but left at the age of 15 and has since then been living in Germany and Switzerland. All that remains of his past are ruins, strangely juxtaposed with his present-day perspective.

Articles

Andro Wekua: Wax mannequins, childhood memories, sneakers and solitude
2008, by claire Gilman, Frieze Magazine

As one critic recently noted, writing about Andro Wekua is not an easy task. The artist’s multi-part installations featuring cast mannequins, abstract sculptures, figurative painting, drawing, collage and film dispersed throughout carefully conceived environments are overwhelming in both scope and psychological content. At one level, sprinkled references to the artist’s past evince a complex, personal symbolism rooted in Wekua’s childhood in Soviet Georgia. The film Like a Lily in My Back (2003) for instance, is largely composed of found footage from the artist’s childhood, including scenes of his father’s funeral – loaded subject matter, to say the least. Yet Wekua’s sources remain for the most part obscure, and his method of layering paint and blurring filmic images is equally obfuscating, suggesting that his charged iconography may function to evoke less a specific past than the commonality of all private, imagined lives.
The uneasy co-existence of openness, on the one hand, and withholding, on the other, runs throughout Wekua’s work, nowhere more dramatically than in his signature cast-wax mannequins. Three of them occupied the galleries at his recent solo exhibition at the Gladstone Gallery in New York: a young girl, with arms folded and eyes downcast slumped in a chair (Gott ist tot aber das Mädchen nicht, God is Dead but Not the Girl, 2008), and two hunched-over figures, their heads buried in their arms and long, dark hair (Sneakers 1 and Sneakers 2, both 2008). These latter were distinguished by divergent motifs painted on their backs – a blue target and harlequin pattern respectively – and by a comedic mask attached to the back of the second figure’s head. As in all Wekua’s installations, the contrast between the mannequins’ postures and their presentation is discomfiting. Formally and psychologically reserved, the figures are nonetheless theatrically presented: the girl’s chair sits on top of a low platform inside a glass case, which is in turn supported on cinder blocks, while the other two figures sit on tables balanced on cast aluminium palettes. Platforms on top of platforms, frames, curtains, masks and elaborately coloured backdrops: these are the devices Wekua uses to focus attention on his objects, as though forcing them out of their desired isolation. His traditional working method – he casts live models in wax – renders his personages both strangely lifelike and spookily artificial.

Read the entire article here

Source: frieze.com

Andro Wekua by Gianni Jetzer

(The original German text appears below)

“Two strikingly made-up girls are sitting on a plinth, riveted by their black reflection opposite. They attract our attention, exposed as they are in the art-space and yet carefully settled on their artificial piece of furniture. They seem fragile (if not wounded) and yet determined. The installation is in fired clay. The gleam of the glaze covers the whole figure, impregnating it against the outside world, only the hair is permeable. Visitors come on the scene and are confronted momentarily with a certain sense of intimacy. How does one approach this story, their story? And what role is an observing participant supposed to be playing? The title, "Just Kidding", disarms the careworn look. Or it is asking for a carefree childhood and sincerity on a phonetic plane (Just a Kid).
Andro Wekua's work is permeated with a form of instrumentalized fiction. The exhibition as an artistic venue brings a sense of tension to the atmosphere. The numerous mysteries are intentional. We are confronted with "Nameless Streets" or "Mary", a girl who lives in a hotel that has seen better days, apparently as a refugee, "it would have been wonderful". Wekua is a master of the hint, the refined gesture. His narrative structures are precisely flighted and yet astonishingly open. There are suggestions of stories that have already been fully told in the viewers' minds, taking up the artist's imagination.
Wekua was born in Georgia and has lived in Germany and Switzerland for a long time now. He is equally familiar with the realities of life here, in the former Soviet Union and in present-day Georgia. But the Soviet Georgia of his childhood is beyond his reach, and generates a kind of artistic myth. His home town of Sochumi, once a holiday destination for Soviet functionaries, a picturesque coastal town with lemon trees, is now a forbidden zone and so remains a reservoir of memories: his grandmother's house, the Black Sea, political turmoil, the pingpong table behind the house, the monumental freighter at the quayside. Wekua builds up atmospheric images from these fragments. One drawing has "I see" scrawled on it, then a little lower down comes the addition "Black see". We fly blind through a geographical and biographical fiction that sometimes comes very close to the artist himself. Wekua skilfully locates his drawn, collaged or filmed images in a no man's land between East and West, aesthetics and improvisation, confidence and mourning. He constitutes his own, pictorial screenplays that play with his past and yet still stylize it as fiction.
Andro Wekua's art is very directly "artistic" (and yet not academic). He establishes a form of reality that does not exist outside this context. Here he is helped by both his creative imagination and also his ability to constitute fragility on a visual plane.
Gianni Jetzer, Flash Art, No. 241, March 2005
(Translated from German by Michael Robinson)

„Auf einem Podest sitzen zwei auffällig geschminkte Mädchen. Sie blicken gebannt auf ihr schwarzes Spiegelbild gegenüber. Gleichermassen im Kunstraum ausgesetzt und auf dem künstlerischen Möbel sorgsam gebettet, erregen sie unsere Aufmerksamkeit. Sie wirken fragil (wenn nicht verletzt) und dennoch bestimmt. Die Installation ist aus Ton gebrannt. Der Glanz der Glasur überzieht die ganze Figur wie eine Imprägnierung gegen die Aussenwelt, nur die Haare sind durchlässig. Als Besucher betritt man die Szenerie und wird augenblicklich mit einer gewissen Intimität konfrontiert. Wie nähert man sich dieser, ihrer Geschichte? Und welche Rolle hält man als betrachtender Akteur inne? Der Titel „Just Kidding“ entwaffnet den sorgenvollen Blick. Oder aber offenbart die Forderung nach einer unbeschwerten Kindheit und Aufrichtigkeit auf phonetischer Ebene (Just Kid).
Andro Wekuas Werk ist durchzogen von einer Form instrumentalisierter Fiktion. Eine spannungsreiche Stimmung bestimmt den künstlerischen Ort der Ausstellung. Die zahlreichen Mysterien sind Kalkül. Wir begegnen „Namenlosen Strassen“ oder „Mary“, einem Mädchen, das, offenbar als Flüchtling, in einem etwas herunter gekommenen Hotel wohnt, „wunderbar, wäre es gewesen.“ Wekua ist ein Meister der Andeutung, der feinen Geste. Seine narrativen Strukturen sind zielgenau und dennoch erstaunlich offen. Es werden Geschichten angedeutet, die im Kopf des Betrachters fertig erzählt werden, die Fantasie des Künstlers aufnehmend.
Einst in Georgien geboren und schon seit langem in Deutschland und der Schweiz lebend, ist Wekua gleichermassen mit der Lebensrealität hier, in der früheren Sowjetunion und im heutigen Georgien vertraut. Das sowjetische Georgien seiner Kindheit bleibt allerdings unerreichbar und begründet eine Art künstlerischen Mythos. Die Heimatstadt Sochumi, einst Feriendestination sowjetischer Funktionäre, malerischer Küstenort mit Zitronenbäumen, ist heute Sperrzone und bleibt auch daher ein Reservoir der Erinnerung: Das Haus der Grossmutter, das Schwarze Meer, politische Wirren, der Pingpong-Tisch hinter dem Haus, das monumentale Frachtschiff am Quai. Aus diesen Fragmenten konstituiert Wekua atmosphärische Bilder. Auf einer Zeichnung steht in krakeliger Schrift „I see“, ein bisschen weiter unten folgt der Zusatz „Black see“. Im Blindflug durchstreifen wir eine geografische und biografische Fiktion, die dem Künstler selbst bisweilen sehr nahe kommt. Geschickt siedelt Wekua seine gezeichneten, collagierten oder gefilmten Bilder im No man’s Land an – zwischen Westen und Osten, Ästhetik und Improvisation, Zuversicht und Trauer. Er konstituiert eigene, bildhafte Drehbücher, die mit seiner Vergangenheit spielen und diese gleichwohl zur Fiktion stilisieren.
Die Kunst von Andro Wekua ist auf sehr direkte Art und Weise „künstlerisch“ (jedoch nicht akademisch). Er begründet eine Form von Realität, die es ausserhalb dieses bestimmten Kontextes nicht gibt. Zu Hilfe kommen ihm dabei sowohl seine bildnerische Fantasie, als auch seine Gabe, auf visueller Ebene Fragilität zu konstituieren.“

Gianni Jetzer, Flash Art, No. 241, March 2005