With a large body of work mainly comprising mixed-media paintings, Tamuna Sirbiladze was known for her distinctive style, which continually forged new terms between dichotomous relationships. Abstract and figurative, playful and serious, energetic and quiet, vibrant and muted, Sirbiladze’s work is characterized by both its intensity and flexibility.
Known for the speed at which she worked, there is a quality of immediacy in her paintings, as if they provide direct access to her imagination. This primacy is perhaps most evident in her gestural, improvisatory paintings made with oil sticks on unstretched, raw canvas, which purposely retain the appearance of being unfinished. “As an artist,” Sirbiladze writes, “I don’t want to control what the representation will be seen as.” This catalogue presents a careful selection of these oil stick works along with her other paintings—including her celebrated V Collection (2012), which was made in dialogue with iconic works by Caravaggio, Giotto, Raphael, and Velazquez, as well as her later paintings focused on women’s bodies in intimate, underrepresented scenes, Sirbiladze’s response to male dominance in the art world.
With contributions by Max Henry, Anna Kats, and Julie Ryan, as well as a conversation with the artist and an arrangement of fifteen sonnets by her partner, Benedikt Ledebur, this publication provides a comprehensive survey of Sirbiladze’s works and practice.
Tamuna Sirbiladze (1971–2016) was born in Tbilisi, Georgia. She met and married the artist Franz West while studying at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna, with whom she collaborated on several art projects and works, until his death in 2012. Her last years she lived together with Benedikt Ledebur. Her works have been featured in various exhibitions in galleries and museums in Europe, including at Galerie Gisela Capitain in Cologne in 2001, ColletPark in Paris and Jonathan Viner Gallery in London, both in 2008, and Charim Ungar Contemporary in Berlin in 2010. She received significant critical acclaim for two solo shows in New York in 2015, Take it easy at Half Gallery and “good enough” is never good enough at James Fuentes. Her show Two Projects at Almine Rech in Brussels opened shortly before her death in 2016.
Max Henry is a poet, independent curator, and art critic. He has written for Art Agenda, frieze, The Art Newspaper, the Saatchi gallery, Norton Museum of Art, and many other publications and catalogs. Currently he is working on a collection of poems, Venus Spleen, and a fabulist theatrical tale, “El Rey”, about Picasso in the twenty-first century. He has curated numerous exhibitions, including in Athens, Berlin, Copenhagen, Gstaad, New York, Paris, St. Moritz, Zurich, and Vienna.
Anna Kats is a Curatorial Assistant in the Department of Architecture and Design at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Kats studied Slavic Languages and Literatures, and History of Art and Architecture at Barnard College of Columbia University, where her research focused on the interwar genealogy of architectural postmodernism in the Soviet Union and postcolonial critique in East Central Europe. She is also an alumna of the Fulbright Program. Her writing has appeared in a variety of books and publications, including Artforum and Architect Magazine. In her research on both contemporary and historic architecture and art, she treats historiography as a tool for dismantling hierarchies between cosmopolitan centers and provincial peripheries. She serves as Visiting Assistant Professor at the Pratt Institute in New York and as Contributing Editor at Metropolis Magazine.
Benedikt Ledebur is a literary critic, writer, translator, and poet born in 1964 in Munich. Curating and collaborating with artists, he was the editor of Der Ficker in 2005 and 2006—a resumption of Ludwig von Ficker’s Der Brenner—published on the occasion of exhibitions in Austria and Belgium showing the works of Franz West, Clegg & Guttman, Rudolf Polanszky, and Tamuna Sirbiladze. His other publications include Das Paradox des Realen: Essays zur Kunst (2014), Ein Fall für die Philosophie: Über Dichtung, Rhetorik und Mathematik (2014), ÜBER/TRANS/LATE/SPÄT (2001), and Poetisches Opfer (1998). He has also published translations of works by John Donne. He lives and works in Vienna.
Julie Ryan is a painter and curator who writes on art and culture. Following her time as a contributing editor to Index magazine, Ryan spent ten years in Vienna, and returned to Brooklyn in 2011, where she now lives. Ryan was also a longtime correspondent to Artnet.com and Tema Celeste magazines and has written essays for multiple artist catalogues. Ryan’s work is included in Publishing as an Artistic Toolbox, an exhibition organized by Luca lo Pinto at Kunsthalle Vienna in 2017. Ryan is currently writing a book of essays on the late Franz West, one of which will be included in the catalogue for West’s retrospective at Centre Pompidou opening in 2018, and traveling to the Tate Modern in 2019.