Artist: Thea Djordjadze

Thea Djordjadze Artist

Thea Djordjadze

Thea Djordjadze, The easy isn’t done easy, 2007, Coated steeland Installation view, Our full, Malmö Konsthall, 2012

It’s rare that art as apparently spartan as Thea Djordjadze’s can be so tantalising. The thin wooden or metal frames and glass vitrines that frequently star in her sculptural assemblages suggest a minimalist sensibility and evoke the pristine, poker-faced displays of museums. Yet these elements of her art rub shoulders with more worn-in, personal fare, including rugs, reconfigured furniture and rough, hand-moulded lumps of uncooked clay. Things look fragile and faded, like relics from a lost civilisation.

Djordjadze’s materials are worked fast and arranged intuitively, with an eye for colour, texture and lines drawn through space that hints at her early training as a painter. Growing up in former communist Georgia has also left its mark on the Berlin-based artist’s sensibility. Her work often features the country’s local carpets, while its pared-back appearance and flimsy materials echo the clean, definite forms of eastern-bloc architecture, belying a shaky political regime. In place of modernist purity, she creates poetic, allusive arrangements of objects, hinting at stories that never sit still.

Thea Djordjadze (born 1971 in Tbilisi, Georgia) lives and works in Berlin. She studied at the Academy of Arts in Tbilisi from 1988 to 1993. The academy closed in 1993 due to the Georgian civil war. Djordjadze moved to Amsterdam to study at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy. After a year she moved to Düsseldorf, where she studied at the Staatliche Kunstakademie until 2001. Selected solo exhibitions: The Common Guild, Glasgow (2011), westlondonprojects, London (2009-2010), Kunsthalle Basel (2009), Kunstverein Nurnberg (2008). Selected group exhibitions: dOCUMENTA (13), Kassel (2012), Carré d’Art, Musée d’Art Contemporain, Nîmes (2011), Sculpture Centre, New York (2011), Hayward Gallery, London (2010), Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris (2010), Barbican, London (2008), the BB5 – 5th Berlin Biennial for Contemporary Art (2008), Venice Biennale (2003).

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Michael Schmidt, Lebensmittel (Food)

Michael Schmidt, From the series,  Lebensmittel, 2006 – 2010

Michael Schmidt is one of Germany’s most important social-documentary photographers. Although he works in series, each photograph stands as an autonomous work in its own right. When the photographs are seen together in a book or an exhibition, connections between two pictures give rise to a third, as Schmidt explained in an interview with Dietmar Elger in his book Irgendwo.

In his Lebensmittel series (2006–10), Schmidt confronts photography with its painterly qualities in 177 photographs. The work’s all-too-perfect patterning makes it look like a naturalistic painting and manifests an immaculate production process. While using the documentary form of investigative journalism, Schmidt succeeds in capturing the social reality, hybridity and poverty of the food industry in a way that is neither accusatory nor dismissive. Schmidt is not concerned with finding a clear, self-sufficient aesthetic form. He opts neither for pure confrontation with the monstrosity of reality, nor for escapist visions based on abstraction. Instead, in his work, the aestheticized landscape becomes a mere region, a building is just architecture, a still life is simply an arrangement of objects.

Schmidt was born in east Berlin, but his family crossed to the west before the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961. He trained as a policeman, at his parents’ insistence, before taking up the camera in 1965 to document the streets, buildings and people of west Berlin. He later told an interviewer: “I could also make photos somewhere else; I just wouldn’t know why.” Schmidt was self-taught, and his early series, including Stadtlandschaft (Urban Landscapes) (1974-75) and Berlin, Stadtbilder (Berlin, Urban Images) (1976-80) mapped out the city in which he lived in a semi-documentary way. In 1976, he founded the Werkstatt für Fotografie (Workshop for Photography) in Berlin, and invited several leading American photographers, including William Eggleston and John Gossage, to teach there.

In the following decades, his approach became more impressionistic. He would shoot thousands of frames for each project without thinking too much about the end result, which would emerge later out of rigorous editing. Increasingly, he was drawn to series over single images, atmosphere over documentary representation.

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