|Born||August 17, 1991|
|Education||New York Academy of Art,|
Tbilisi State Academy of Arts
|Known for||Visual artist|
|The STYX Series (2016–2018)|
The System of Objects video-sculpture installation (2018)
Idem et Idem Series (2016–2018)
Songulashvili was born in Tbilisi, on August 17, 1991. His special skills were identified early on. He began painting at three years old and received professional training in his hometown during his teen years.
In 2011, the 19 years old artist was invited to Germany as part of the art project, where he designed a play along with his German counterparts. The western culture, German and French philosophy and psychoanalysis has influenced the young artist’s world view, and he proceeded to new creative experiments and conceptual research on his return to Georgia, which was a beginning of a new stage in his art, followed by significant success.
At the age of 21, Songulashvili graduated from The Tbilisi State Academy of Arts with a bachelor's degree in Drawing and Printmaking. He won several merit scholarships and art prizes and became the first Georgian artist who earned his Master's (M.F.A.) degree with honors from The New York Academy of Art in Painting.
In 2018, Songulashvili had his extensive autonomous exhibition "The STYX" in two gallery spaces, curated by Mark Gisbourne. The show included a series of paintings and film installations devoted to the self-regenerative medusozoa jellyfish. In the second space there was another projected video three-wall environmental installation "The System of Objects", filmed in the Guggenheim Museum and newly completed Oculus in New York. The work also incorporated an extensive and innovative foreground receding sculptural component. The overall theme of the exhibition was that of "passage" and life journey, very much in line with philosopher-anthropologist Joseph Campbell’s famous historical anthropology of The Hero’s Journey, from life to death, ignorance to enlightenment, from day to night, and that of eternal return. For Songulashvili this served as both a universal metaphor and creative theme, and also as an extended simile of the artist’s own evolving life experience.
In 2018, Songulashvili’s monumental stage installation "IDEM ET IDEM" was presented for composer Giya Kancheli’s historical concert with the world premiere of his latest musical piece for choir and chamber orchestra. Inspired by one of Songulashvili’s painting series the composer entitled his work with the same name.
The artist's award-winning works and multimedia installations are shown in art galleries, private collections, and museums worldwide, including Sotheby’s (NYC), The Royal Academy of Arts, Saatchi Gallery, among others. The artist's pieces are in the permanent collection of The Brooklyn Museum and on permanent view at The Rustaveli National Theatre.
Songulashvili has received a number of national and international awards, including the President’s Award and The New York State Assembly Award for Achievements and Contribution to the Arts.
Songulashvili also writes psychological prose, essays, verses and plays the piano.
The idea of mutability and possession of an independent sense of emergent identity is of great concern to Songulashvili, particularly as it relates to the recent re-emergence of Georgia as an independent and autonomous state in 1991 — the year of the artist’s birth.
The paintings of Levan Songulashvili engage with powerful and abstracted themes relates to the prescient concerns of passage and presence. That is to say from states of consciousness to the unconscious. He deals allusively with a sense of boundary and transition, the immersive nature of the world, the psychical element of water, the idea of flow and flux.
As an artist he holds a mastery of affect and transience, having created painted works consisting of large-scale canvases that feature large expanses of grey-black washes infused with an otherworldly light; vast tonal shifts; and a primordial glow that hovers between the mythic and the bioluminescent, which also evoke feelings of the underworld, phantom-like blurred apparitions, images of the so-called “Shades” (Umbra), faces or presences that exist in an interstitial reality, an in between world of spectral dreams.
His use of sepia, white, grey, and black ties in with a long history of black and white art (paintings and graphics) that has sought to bring inner clarity to creative forms of expression. The use of colour is dependent all but totally on light while black and white are absolute polarities. It therefore also touches upon matter related to popular film, video, photography, and specifically the polemic at the beginnings of Western Art, namely darkness (Pliny’s drawing a line around a shadow), or light (Plato’s cave and the theory of reflection).
Songulashvili's use of the medusa-like jellyfish imagery is an operative metaphor, they are not intended in any sense as to be taxonomic, depictions of accuracy for the purpose of classification, but as a poetic metaphor of life and sensory experience. Jellyfish are also creatures of continuous passage taken wherever the tides and prevailing winds drive them. At the same time as an artist he has undertaken two personal aspects of passage, his developmental life-passage as an artist-painter, and his increasingly extensive travel and experiences.
Levan Songulashvili explains his work by saying, "I care about the mysteries of Life, its origins, its endless cycles and regenerations and I question the current civilization in which we find ourselves and wonder: what will be the future of Humankind? What is problematic for scientists is fascinating for me. This process looks like a never-ending quest for an answer. In my view, an artist should be somewhat Don Quixot-ish. I am familiar with a state, after self-reflection an irrational impulse urges me to find water in a desert, which would then lead me to the ocean".
In 2019, Songulashvili was artist in residence in Singapore, where he realized a multimedia solo project named Stoicheîon 金星. The show presented two monumental video installations and a selection of Japanese-ink paintings at the Objectifs - a centre for photography and film, Chapel Gallery.
The term Stoicheion (στοιχεῖον/stoicheîon; the etymological derivation of the term is from the Latin elementum, first documented in the sense of “constituent component” or “basis” in Plato) was in Classical antiquity fundamentally linked to the classical theory of the four elements. In European cultural history, the term “elements” denotes the four basic substances: Earth, Water, Air and Fire. The philosophical concept of stoicheion denotes the basic components or the foundations of Being.
STOICHEÎON 金星 represents an attempt to understand the bewilderingly great multiplicity of the natural world as combinations of a limited number of elements. Inspired by the culture, visual artistry and techniques of Asian ink paintings in Singapore, Songulashvili combined his experiences with his main focus on air, water and earth, as well as Earth’s sister terrestrial planet, Venus, which rotates in the opposite direction to most other planets and where the Sun rises in the west and sets in the east.
The STYX is an installation of mental, emotional, and psychological passage. It refers to a sense of exigent myth and allegory, alluding to the famous mythological river as a site of psychical transformation. It is the point of transit and entry to the imagined underworld, and stands for the experience of life as that of journey and passage, a voyaged dream into the ravelled beyond, leading to an awakening that acknowledges the expanded awareness of new realities. From living consciousness to masked unconscious, from life to death, and the imagined world and afterlife, the River Styx is an aqueous symbol of radical change from the mutable aspects of the world to immutable and inevitable certainty of our eventual passage. For these reasons the project conceived as an immersive experience as expressed through video installations and a unique series of sepia and black and white related paintings by Songulashvili.
The artist’s integration of a video installation and his paintings presents an interwoven vision, mediated by the extended metaphor of the self-regenerative "hydrozoan" medusa jellyfish. A creature not intended by the artist as a description as such, but as a symbolic metaphor, and an embodied form of signification that is representative of life and the nature of mutability and change.
Songulashvili sees the Styx as emblematic of the interstices or in-between that is present in everyday life. Like the drowning souls in this river of oblivion that have not achieved passage, the jellyfish are dependent on the vagery and drift of ocean currents. Yet it is also clear that the greater accumulative and material accomplishments of the artist are best seen through the inner vision of his paintings, which presents the viewer with feelings of veiled and ephemeral presences that capture fleeting (mutable) experience and temporarily transfixes them. For example, the large Styx (Portrait), whale also indicative of the translucent and the semi-veiled, shows in the spectral presence of a child’s face that seems to emerge out diffuse mist or hypnopompic consciousness.
Levan Songulashvili whether he is focussed on video or painting has developed a marked accomplishment that places him in a long tradition of artist’s that reflect on states of meditative consciousness. The STYX is for the viewer a personal journey through emotion and consciousness, a sensory immersion into mortality and sensibility — the passage that is a human life.
The System of Objects
The possession of an independent sense of emergent identity is a major concern of the artist, and is further indicated by his System of Objects video-sculpture installation, that deals specifically with singularity and the collective through means of repetition.
A singular figure stands transfixed in the centre and median point of the concourse of the Oculus building in New York (close to the site of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Centre), while all around him foot passengers are shown walking backwards as in a state of repetitive reverse gear.
And we as participant spectators add ourselves to the greater view over the balloon-like heads of a putative audience. It evokes the question of our own daily life of conformity and senseless repetition. The video was developed from and related to the painting Idem et Idem, a Latin usage of repetition (literally "Same and the same") revealing a close and immediate intimacy between the artist’s time-based film and video works and paintings.
Awards and nominations
|2018||ArtistADay||The Top Artist of the Year 2017||Won|
|2017||BWAC Brooklyn Waterfront Artists Coalition - National Art Exhibition||People's Choice||Won|
|2017||The International Education Center (IEC) Full Tuition Academic Scholarship Award||Arts||Won|
|2016||The New York State Assembly||Achievements & Contribution to the Arts||Won|
|2016||The International Education Center (IEC) Full Tuition Academic Scholarship Award||Arts||Won|
|2016||EGO Awards||Arts - The Discovery of the Year||Nominated|
|2015||The International Education Center (IEC) Full Tuition Academic Scholarship Award||Arts||Won|
|2015||The Georgian Public Broadcaster (GPB) Awards||Best Artist / Event of the Year||Nominated|
|2015||The New York Academy of Art (NYAA)||Portrait Scholarship Award||Won|
|2014||The New York Academy of Art (NYAA)||Merit Award||Won|
|2014||The Ministry of Education and Science of Georgia (MES)||Master and Doctoral Program Full Tuition Scholarship Award||Won|
|2013 — 2010||The Tbilisi State Academy of Arts (TSAA)||Merit Scholarship||Won|
|2013 — 2009||The Ministry of Culture and Monument Protection of Georgia||Full Tuition Academic Scholarship||Won|
|2012||Inter Art Batumi||International Certificate|
|2011||JSC TBC Bank||Grant for the Art Project in Germany||Won|
|2010||The Ministry of Education and Science of Georgia||Award and Certificate for Mural Painting As Part of "Developing Inclusive Education at 9 Public Schools of Georgia" Project|
|2010||The National Library of Georgia||Award for the Successful Participation in the Open Doors Day|
|2008||The President of Georgia||Special prize and a letter of appreciation for achievements|
|2008||Republican Educational and Art Conference (Georgian Language Section)||A first-class degree Diploma||Won|
|2007||IV Art Competition of The Hobby Gallery||A first-class degree Diploma||Won|
|2007||Republican Educational and Art Conference (Georgian Language Section)||A first-class degree Diploma||Won|
|2006||Republican Educational and Art Conference (Georgian Language Section)||A first-class degree Diploma||Won|
|2006||III Art Competition of The Hobby Gallery||A first-class degree Diploma||Won|
|2006||The Georgian National Youth Palace Award||A first-class degree Diploma & Award in Arts||Won|
|2005||II Art Competition of The Hobby Gallery||A first-class degree Diploma||Won|
|2004||II Art Competition of The Hobby Gallery||A first-class degree Diploma||Won|
|2004||International Art Competition "Niamori"||Arts||Won|
- "Bio – Levan Songulashvili". levan.gallery. Retrieved 29 April 2018.
- Author, No. "Georgian artist's works join Picasso, Van Gogh at Brooklyn Museum". GeorgianJournal. Retrieved 29 April 2018.
- "Brooklyn Museum". www.brooklynmuseum.org. Retrieved 29 April 2018.
- "Iggy Pop's Life Drawing Class". 3 November 2016. Retrieved 29 April 2018 – via NYTimes.com.
- "Iggy Pop's Life Drawing Class - "Untitled (Standing pose)," Levan Songulashvili (Georgian, born 1991), from "Iggy Pop Life Class - The New York Times". Nyti.ms. 2016-11-03. Retrieved 2018-04-29.
- "ჩვენი მწერლობა" ("Chveni Mtserloba") – Georgian magazine, Levan Songulashvili, No. 11 (115)|author=Tekle Janelidze|2010
- Author, No. "Levan Songulashvili – Young Georgian discovery of world art". GeorgianJournal. Retrieved 29 April 2018.
- "Agenda.ge – Young Georgian painter features at Sotheby's art auction". agenda.ge. Retrieved December 1, 2015.
- "ქართველი მხატვარი ნიუ იორკში დააჯილდოვეს • artinfo.ge". 28 September 2016. Retrieved 29 April 2018.
- "ლევან სონღულაშვილი ნიუ-იორკის შტატის ასამბლეამ დააჯილდოვა". 28 September 2016. Retrieved 29 April 2018.
- "STYX","On the Journey to the Distant Shore", Mark Gisbourne, page: 6, total number of pages: 123, Publication – 2018.
- "Levan Songulashvili - New York, NY Artist - Painters - Artistaday.com". www.artistaday.com. Retrieved 29 April 2018.
- "STYX", Mark Gisbourne, page: 7, total number of pages: 123, Publication – 2018.