The Belvedere presents Tamuna Sirbiladze's first comprehensive retrospective
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The Belvedere presents Tamuna Sirbiladze's first comprehensive retrospective
Tamuna Sirbiladze, Flavonal, 2006. Private collection. Photo: Nathan Murrell © Tamuna Sirbiladze.

VIENNA.- In a career that spans around three decades, Tamuna Sirbiladze (1971–2016) undertakes an uncompromising and insistent inquiry into the potentials of painting. Eight years after her death, the Belvedere presents the Georgian-Austrian artist’s first comprehensive retrospective, surveying the complete spectrum of her oeuvre, from painting and drawing to installation art.

General Director Stella Rollig: In Vienna, the Tbilisi-born Tamuna Sirbiladze developed her distinctive style, which is defined by a markedly expressive technique and anthropomorphic imagery. She left an oeuvre that speaks to the esprit, sense of humor, and radicalism she brought to the medium of painting and yet ineluctably prompts the question “What if?”—a question to which we will never have an answer.

Curator Sergey Harutoonian: The exhibition’s title, Not Cool but Compelling, is borrowed from an oil stick drawing created in 2011. It aptly indicates what was always Tamuna Sirbiladze’s guiding concern in her work: giving cogent form to her own creative vision without being bound by the aesthetic conventions of her time.

From her beginnings at the Academy of Fine Arts in Tbilisi to her final years in Vienna, Tamuna Sirbiladze’s art undergoes a remarkable evolution that is abruptly cut short by her tragic death at the age of forty-five, when she is at the height of her creative powers and has just achieved her international breakthrough.

After a largely figural early oeuvre, Sirbiladze’s visual language gradually shifts away from representation and toward abstraction. By the early 2000s, she returns to figuration, but from a very different angle. Although Sirbiladze consistently eschews any display of her brilliant painterly skills, a choice that leads many critics to label her an exponent of Bad Painting, her pictures possess an undeniable beauty and radiance.

The human body, sexuality, and vulnerability are recurrent themes in Sirbiladze’s paintings, sustained in part by the artist’s searching contemplation and interrogation of her own self. Meanwhile, her art also reflects a probing engagement with classic art history. Several series reinterpret iconic works, while unvarnished depictions of female bodies introduce images of womanhood previously unseen in art.

Not Cool but Compelling showcases around one hundred works from all periods of Tamuna Sirbiladze’s oeuvre, including central paintings, late drawings, and a large installation created in collaboration with the artist’s husband, Franz West. Divided into five chapters, the chronologically arranged presentation at the Belvedere 21 surveys the artist’s entire oeuvre and retraces major threads that run through her art.

An exhibition catalogue with contributions by Sergey Harutoonian, Sophie von Hellermann, Magdalena Nieslony and Stella Rollig will be published in April by Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther und Franz König, Cologne.

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