1990 · Georgia
Levan Chelidze paints an eclectic mix of portraits—of both people and animals— still lives, and landscapes of the Georgian region of Racha. In the era when almost everyone has a camera in their phone, and many artists use photos as the basis for their portraits, Chelidze still takes a traditional approach and requires his subjects to sit and pose. He is a master at capturing their essential features. But he also plays with perceptions, by setting their ‘real’ form, as he sees it, against imaginary backgrounds. What his subjects wear in his paintings—or sometimes don’t wear—similarly come from Chelidze’s fantasies, and not necessarily from reality. Subjects of Chelidze’s paintings are typically beautiful, sexy and noble. He paints people that he admires. Another common feature of his work is that there is often a disconnect between the realism of the main figure and the rest of the painting, whose meaning is often left intangibly vague. Chelidze’s portraits can seem unfinished, and sometimes that is the reality. If one of his subjects is unable to return for another sittings, that’s it—he finishes the portrait at that point and paints the background instead. It gives his paintings a disarming honesty, making them more emotionally free, and less formal.