Tbilisi Artist Maka Batiashvili Mixes the Everyday and Allegory in Vibrant Paintings

Maka Batiashvili works across mediums—oil painting, book illustration, video art, documentary film—to create visual allegories that are pleasant on the eye. She transforms unremarkable scenes—people lying in a grass field or balancing a ball—into lovely snapshots of the human condition with a folkloric feel. Her paintings play with representations of the human form and reframe the ordinary as fantastic.

In the piece Falling (2009), Batiashvili uses a mix of earth tonesburnt sienna, indigo, a plethora of greensto render a person being bucked from a horse. In the background six little sheep appear, painted with cartoonish regularity. This work recalls several pieces by Marc Chagall, who painted imaginative scenes with shallow depths of field; both artists have a tendency to depict figures with improbably flexible limbs and strange proportions in relation to their animal cohorts.

The figures in Batiashvili’s work, while often lacking in noses or otherwise clarifiable identities, read like lovable characters at play on canvas. (Perhaps this is where her background in book illustration is made most visible.) Her expressive style, bright colors, and impastoed brushwork lend her work to fauvist comparisonsparticularly Paul Cezanne and Henri Matisse.

In two paintings by the same name, Portrait (both 2013), a solitary subject appears against a color-blocked background. Both figures are droopy and beady-eyedyet there is something endearing about their forms. A swab of cobalt blue paint encircles one figure’s face, obscuring its mouth or other identifiable features from view. In the other painting, the figure’s sallow skin is punctuated by a ruby red mouth and adorned with teal clothingan awfully cheerful color palette for a figure so gloomy.

Evening (2015), Corner (2010) and Grass (2014) show intimate interactions between figures, while still maintaining a flat perspective and near-featureless faces. Though Corner may feature just one figure, the particular curvilinear line of that figure’s body against its yellow ochre background oozes familiarity and warmth. And just as the Fauvists used brilliant colors to illuminate ordinary scenes and imbue them with a magical feel, so too does Batiashvili, in her own spirited way.

Anna Furman

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