Avtandil Gurgenidze is a widely recognized contemporary Georgian artist known for his active presence in the art scene and more than fifty solo exhibitions.

In addition to his paintings, he also works on large-scale murals which can be found in such diverse locations as the Tbilisi’s Nadzaladevi metro station, a weather station on a 3750-meter-high mountain, ski stations, streets, playgrounds, and other urban areas in Georgia and Europe.

Nadzadalevi metro station in Tbilisi.

Kyiv Post
has spoken to the Georgian artist about his close ties with Ukraine and where his inspiration usually comes from. 

Gurgenidze's connection with Ukraine

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Gurgenidze really came to the attention of the Ukrainian public when he undertook an ambitious project to paint old An-24 passenger plane in his own inimitable style inside the hangar of Kyiv International Airport.

His first encounter with Ukraine occurred roughly 20 years ago during a visit to friends. Since then, he has become a frequent visitor, having organized approximately 15 solo exhibitions in the country, with the inaugural one held in Kyiv in 2007.

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A German officer said they assumed some flew with “unfriendly intentions” but decided to simply incorporate them into the training to caution Ukrainian troops of the real dangers on the battlefield.

“I came to Ukraine 20 years ago, perhaps even longer. I arrived, went to visit friends, and immediately found inspiration here. I particularly enjoy drawing outdoors. New ideas come to mind almost instantly in new environments, often in the most unexpected circumstances. Sometimes I see a company's logo, and the composition of the painting forms around it,” he says.

Over the years, Gurgenidze's artwork has taken in many of the regions of Ukraine, from Lviv to Donetsk, much of which has since fallen under Russian control. His final exhibition in Donetsk occurred just months before the outbreak of fighting in Donbas.

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“I really enjoyed Donetsk... it had its own industrial beauty. However, at that time, I already sensed social unrest. There were many pro-Russian individuals, and politics were often discussed. Eventually, none of my pro-Russian acquaintances stayed in the occupied territories; they all relocated to Russia. Everyone witnessed the extent of Russia's atrocities,” Gurgenidze reflects.

AN-24

In 2015, Avtandil decided to undertake one of his most daring and ambitious projects: painting an AN-24 aircraft at a Ukrainian airport.

Despite the noble goal, obtaining permission from the airport management proved to be extremely challenging, needing him to navigate what he calls “the nine circles of bureaucratic red tape.”

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AH-24 plane, painted by Avtandil Gurgenidze.

“I then remarked to my friend that if everything in your country is as difficult as it is in this airport, you will encounter numerous challenges.”

However, the artist eventually secured permission to realize his idea. For the next two weeks, he worked tirelessly, with little time for breaks, for sleep or food.

“It was incredibly demanding; I lost 12 kilograms in just two weeks, barely finding time to eat.”

Yet, two years later, just before the Eurovision Song Contest was held in the Ukrainian capital, the artwork on the plane was inexplicably repainted, with no attempt to justify the decision.

Gurgenidze declined to delve into the specifics of this situation, merely stating that “it's all very complex and unclear” – comments which only thinly disguise the lingering discomfort he feels over the affair.

“I remember my first arrival at Kyiv Boryspil after the plane had been repainted; naturally, I was in a somber mood. Upon arrival, I handed my passport to the woman sitting in the passport control cabin.

“Before even examining it, she looked up and said, ‘Avtandil, we are truly sorry about your plane being repainted.’ I was deeply moved by her words at that moment.”

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Prophetic Paintings

A few months prior to the Russian invasion of Ukraine's Donbas in 2014, Gurgenidze created several paintings that proved to be prophetic.

Among them was a piece painted in Donetsk in 2013. Little did anyone know at the time the tragic events that would befall the neighboring city of Mariupol less than a decade later, which you can unmistakably recognize in his fiery depiction of Azovstal.

Another painting from Gurgenidze’s collection also evokes certain associations. It depicts Ukraine, with red and black birds soaring from the northeast, from Russia. He completed this artwork in 2023, just a few months after Russia’s full-scale invasion.

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“I usually paint a picture and forget about it. I think about the painting either before or during its creation. After that, it seems to cut off all feelings and memories. And in the case of this painting, it was different. I remember waking up, and it was in front of my eyes and my thoughts were all about it,” he remembers.

“I couldn't figure out what the problem was. Then I turned on the TV, listened to the news and realized why I was thinking about this.”

The Art-therapy

Gurgenidze’s paintings, as described by his official representative in Ukraine, Katerina Kucherova, who accompanied him during our interview, frequently serve as a source of inspiration and hope for Ukrainians, and not solely for them.

“One woman who purchased a painting from us mentioned that she brings it with her to take shelter during rocket attacks. It serves as a sort of talisman for her.”

Subsequently, with the consent of the owners, Katerina shared several screenshots of correspondence that contained similar confessions.

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“You see, yesterday I was preparing to spend the night in the corridor because we had received alarming information about a potential nighttime mass strike. Thankfully, it didn't happen, but I found myself instinctively packing our belongings in case the windows shattered, and I couldn't bear to think about the worst-case scenario. In the midst of it all, I reflexively reached for the wall and took a picture. I have a painting, a suitcase, and two large porcelain dolls with me,” the owner of some of Gurgenidze’s works messaged Kateryna at some point.

“There's this sense of endless faith in these paintings. They must not vanish; they need to stay close, like a talisman,” she added.

The Art Drone

Gurgenidze’s new ambitious project is to change a UAV into an artistic object. He cannot reveal all the details of the project for security reasons, but I will be able to provide photographs of individual details of the painting that turned the weapon into a work of art.



All photos were provided by the "Art Society by KK", the official representative of the artist in Ukraine. 

The official representative of Avtandil Gurgenidze in Ukraine is the art atelier "Art Society by KK". For collaboration inquiries and purchasing merch "AG&KK" with Avtandil's artworks, click here

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