Introduction

Levan Songulashvili National Gallery
TRIPTYCHOS, solo show at the National Gallery, Tbilisi, 2021.


Early Life and Influences

Levan Songulashvili was born in 1991 during a transformative period in Georgian history, as the Soviet Union was collapsing and independence was being re-established.

At the age of 12, he witnessed the 2003 Rose Revolution in Tbilisi with his mother, an event that deeply influenced his worldview and shaped his understanding of the relationship between individual freedom and collective desire. This experience is reflected in his art, which blends the mystical elements of Eastern art with the technical aspects of Western art traditions.

Through his work, Songulashvili explores the concept of “the other,” emphasising the significance of understanding and accepting diverse cultures, identities, and perspectives.


Artistic Approach

Songulashvili has a strong interest in the ideas and theories of German and French philosophers such as Martin Heidegger, Friedrich Nietzsche, Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, and Jean Baudrillard, as well as in the principles of psychoanalysis developed by Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, and Jacques Lacan.

His artistic approach revolves around the theme of mutability, delving into the relationship between individual identity and the collective. Sometimes he repeats certain imagery or forms in his work, creating a sense of unity and connection, while also highlighting the individual’s role within the larger group. Songulashvili examines the interplay between personal experiences and social or cultural influences, and the complexities of self-discovery.

Furthermore, his work reflects on the impact of technology and artificial intelligence on shaping his sense of self and consciousness, the complex and dynamic relationships between humanity and the environment, as well as his perspective on the future, encouraging reflection and deeper understanding of the world around us.


Personal Narrative

In addition to his focus on identity, power, and social dynamics, Songulashvili delves into the subjects of childhood memory and history. He draws upon his own life experiences as a foundation for his work, using personal narratives and recollections to create a visual language that is both intimate and relatable. This evokes a sense of vulnerability and connection, deepening the link between the artwork and the viewer.

Through his art, Songulashvili encourages the viewer to contemplate the boundaries and transitions of the world and human nature, giving them the option to see themselves as either a subject or an object. He holds the belief that the fundamental essence of both the world and human nature is rooted in the idea of constant change and fluidity, embodied by the concept of flow and flux.


Collections & Exhibitions

“Ad Infinitum”, Levan Songulashvili’s solo show opening, 2022.

Songulashvili’s works are part of notable public and private collections globally, including the permanent collection of the Brooklyn Museum, the Tbilisi Museum of Contemporary Art, the Georgian Museum of Fine Arts, the Adjara State Art Museum, BREUS Foundation, Museum of the Rustaveli National Theater.

The artist’s site-specific installations, paintings, murals and video works have been showcased internationally, including at the Royal Academy of Arts, the Brooklyn Museum, Sotheby’s, the Saatchi Gallery, the National Gallery of Georgia, the YARAT Contemporary Art Centre, MoMA Tbilisi, OBJECTIFS Visual Arts Centre in Singapore, the Adjara State Art Museum, and the Presidential Palace.


Colleborations

Iggy Pop and Levan Songulashvili at the Brooklyn Museum.
© The Brooklyn Museum Archives, Photography by Elena Olivo, New York, 2016.


The system of objects

Site-specific video-sculptural installation; 7-channel video projection, 593 polystyrene styrofoam balls, thread, dimension variable.
2018.

the system of objects Levan Songulashvili



“The possession of an independent sense of emergent identity is a major concern of Levan Songulashvili. It is further indicated by his System of Objects video-sculpture installation which deals specifically with singularity and the collective through means of repetition. In the work, a singular figure stands transfixed in the centre and median point of the concourse of the Oculus building in New York (close to the site of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Centre), while all around him foot passengers are shown walking backwards as in a state of repetitive reverse gear. Participant spectators add themselves to the greater view over the balloon-like heads of a putative audience. It evokes the question of our own daily life of conformity and senseless repetition.

The video was developed from and related to the painting Idem et Idem, a Latin usage of repetition (literally “Same and the same”) revealing a close and immediate intimacy between the artist’s time-based film and video works and paintings.” — Mark Gisbourne (a former president of the British Art Critics Association, and international vice-president, he co-organised the World Congress of Art Critics, Tate Modern, at its opening in 2000).

System of Objects Levan Songulashvili
The System of Objects  (Installation view) 7-channel video projection, 593 polystyrene styrofoam balls, thread, dimension variable.


The System of Objects  (Installation view) 7-channel video projection, 593 polystyrene styrofoam balls, thread, dimension variable.



Idem et idem (series)



Idem et Idem Oil, acrylic, wax on canvas, 152,4 x 182.88 cm, 2016.



The idea of the “Journey of the Hero” is a recurring theme in Songulashvili’s art, as he embodies the role of the hero in his own creative journey. With a desire to understand the human experience, he embraces the unknown, takes risks, and uses his art as a means of exploration. He views his artistic journey as a personal, visual expression of self-discovery and growth — “I am what I become, and what I become is what I am.” These experiences are particularly reflected in his painting series “Idem et Idem.”

Set against the backdrop of a rapidly changing world, where globalisation and technological advancements are leading to mass migration and increased displacement, Songulashvili’s “Idem et Idem” series serves as a visual representation of the complexities of human experience. The themes explored in this series have a long historical legacy, from the forced migrations of ancient civilisations to the contemporary refugee crisis. However, Songulashvili’s approach is uniquely his own, borrowing from his childhood reminiscences of a pivotal moment in Georgian history. This fusion of historical background and contemporary urgency imbues the series with a profound impact.

Idem et Idem Levan Songulashvili
Idem et Idem Oil, acrylic on canvas, 300 cm X 200 cm, 2018.



LS: ”Amid the clamour of New York, where the ruthless wolves of Wall Street roamed the towering skyscrapers of commerce, I sought refuge in the hallowed halls of Carnegie Hall. There, I was transported by the performance of Steve Reich’s minimalist opus for six pianos. Music has always been my muse, and as I listened, I was struck by the visual forms that danced in my mind’s eye. The rhythmic pulsations of Reich’s composition appeared to me as black, chaotic spots and white silhouettes, reminiscent of the delicate art of Japanese ink drawing on rice paper. At first, the figures resembled penguins, wandering the frozen wastelands. Yet, as the music swelled, they transformed into a host of women marching in unison – a representation of the Idem et Idem (The Same and The Same, 2015).”

Idem et Idem  Ink on paper, 28,3 x 31,2 cm, 2015.
Idem et Idem  Ink on paper, 28,3 x 31,2 cm, 2017.


LS: ”As a child, I was in attendance at the Easter liturgy and was struck by the long lines of pilgrims who had gathered in the courtyards of the cathedral. My first experience of a funeral procession was for a classmate, where mothers dressed in black, heads bowed, carried the shrouded deceased to a meticulously dug grave. At the tender age of twelve, I witnessed my first revolution on the central avenue of the capital, where I observed public speeches being given to masses of people, with rows of heads that formed a horizon line. Throughout my life, I have seen society shaped by ideology, the collective unconscious, and herd instinct, whether at protest rallies, in temples, in night clubs, or at stadiums…

I am interested in separating the individual from the group dynamic.”


Idem et Idem  Ink on paper, 37 x 35 cm, 2015.


Idem et Idem Oil, acrylic on canvas, 300 cm X 200 cm, 2019.



elysium



LS: ”The year 2020 was a crucial moment in both personal and creative life as the world grappled with the effects of the global pandemic. Isolation had a profound impact on a large number of individuals, leading a portion of the population to feel helpless, demoralised, and dispirited. In the aftermath of losing my mother, I channeled my emotions into creating a monumental expressionistic painting titled “Elysium” (2020-2021). Compared to my previous paintings, “Elysium” has a unique approach that brings together different stages of my deeply personal and transformative journey, marked by significant milestones in my life. The process of creating this painting  was a cathartic for me, began before my mother was diagnosed with her fatal illness, and continued until she passed away. After taking some time to grieve, I was eventually able to complete the piece for a solo exhibition “Triptychos” (2021) at the National Gallery Tbilisi, in commemoration of her anniversary.”


Elysium  Oil, acrylic on canvas, 200 x 250 cm, 2021.


LS: “In ancient Greek mythology, Elysium was the afterlife, a place where the blessed dead lived in happiness. In my painting, I have taken this concept and given it a contemporary twist, exploring the idea of humanity as a collective entity undergoing a continual process of transformation. “Elysium” is an abstract-figurative work that depicts the dynamic, kinetic circulation of human metastases through its use of bold brushstrokes and a vibrant colour palette. The pixelated figures in the composition create a puzzle-like representation of the universe seen from a bird’s-eye view. This perspective emphasises the interconnectedness of humanity and highlights the cyclical nature of life. The painting serves as a visual meditation on the timeless themes of birth, death, and renewal, and invites the viewer to reflect on their own experiences and the ways in which their lives are intertwined with others.”

Triptychos solo exhibition at the National Gallery, Tbilisi, Georgia, 2021.



The Jellyfish


Thales of Miletus, the ancient Greek philosopher, famously stated that “all things are full of gods.” This belief is echoed in Songulashvili’s “The Jellyfish” series, where the organism is viewed not just as a biological entity, but as a symbol of the complexities of existence and mutability of life.

As Thales saw everything as deriving from water, Songulashvili uses the jellyfish as a metaphor for rejuvenation. He perceives the jellyfish as a science-fiction-like creature, embodying birth and growth, sexuality, and life itself. Its intangible and elusive nature serves as a metaphor for the divide between conscious and unconscious experiences and encapsulates the themes of mutability, ephemerality, and the passage of time. The tension between the organic and inorganic elements in the jellyfish imagery speaks to the relationship between humanity and technology. The artist explores the shifting dynamic between the natural and artificial, and its implications for our collective experience.

Songulashvili explains, “The jellyfish is a symbol of the fluidity of life, constantly in motion and adapting to change.” He adds, “It represents the interplay between the seen and the unseen, reminding us that there is always more to the story than meets the eye.” Through the jellyfish imagery, Songulashvili also encourages reflection on the impact of our actions on the environment, challenging our perceptions and assumptions about what it means to be alive.

The Jellyfish  Oil, acrylic on canvas, 152,4 x 182,88 cm, 2017.


The Jellyfish  Oil, acrylic on canvas, 200 x 250 cm, 2017.



Noli Me Tangere

Noli Me Tangere Levan Songulashvili
Noli Me Tangere   Oil, acrylic on canvas, 250 x 300 cm, 2022.



“I created “Noli Me Tangere” (“Touch Me Not” 2022) during the Russo-Ukrainian war. The painting’s title refers to the Gospel passage where Christ spoke to Mary Magdalene, but the true meaning of the work lies in its reflection of the human experience during times of conflict.

Until that moment the viewers observed the mass human scenes from a distant perspective, in the case of “Noli Me Tangere” the frontal part of the composition was occupied by the life-size figures. Approaching their dynamic, compressed bodies made the audience part of the story.

In 2023, The President of Georgia has decided to mark the anniversary of the Russo-Ukrainian war by showcasing the piece in the Presidential Palace as a poignant reminder of the human cost of war and as a testament to the enduring spirit of solidarity.” — Levan Songulashvili




Pieta

Pieta  Oil, acrylic on canvas, 300 x 250 cm, 2022.

LS: “I am struck by the power of archetypes in our human psyche. The image of a mother grieving her child is one that has resonated across cultures and eras, transcending time and geography.

My interpretation of the iconic image of Pieta is a visual expression of the antinomies of momentary and eternal. The figures of the mother and son are rendered in contrasting techniques; The mother’s figure is depicted in rich, warm tones of oil paint, which blend in with the landscape, while the son’s silhouette is portrayed in delicate watercolours, giving it an ethereal quality that blends in with the air. In some points, I made the individual disappear and even altered the positions of the characters, challenging traditional representations of the scene.

This unconventional approach of the painting is a bold statement on the interplay between form and substance, the tangible and the ephemeral, that challenges the viewer to contemplate the fragility of life.”

Pieta Levan Songulashvili



Video Art



Skyward | 2022.


Anima | 2021.