Portfolio: Ketuta Alexi-Meskhishvili

From 19th century cyanotypes to rose-printed napkins: the Berlin-based artist shares some significant images

Anna Atkins, Dictyota Dichotama, in the Yound State and in Fruit, c.1843, cyanotype, 26 x 20 cm. Courtesy: The British Library Board, London

Anna Atkins, Dictyota Dichotama, in the Yound State and in Fruit, c.1843, cyanotype, 26 x 20 cm. Courtesy: The British Library Board, London

Anna Atkins, Dictyota Dichotama, in the Young State and in Fruit, c.1843, cyanotype, 26 x 20 cm. Courtesy: The British Library Board, London

Anna Atkins cyanotypes

There is a kind of morbid sisterhood between photography and flowers, as they both seem to emphasize the passing of time, and Anna Atkins may have been the first photographer to have tapped into this relationship. She is also the first known female photographer and publisher of a book to be illustrated with them: Photographs of British Algae, which was published between 1843 and 1853. Her interest in botany and art led her to make cyanotype records of an array of flowers and plants throughout her life. These cyan prints are led by research, but are also informed by formal decisions regarding how to fit an objects onto a plate, a dual process that results in a perfect tension between formalism and realism; between found and made imagery.

Michael Snow, Wavelengths, 1967, film still

Michael Snow, Wavelengths, 1967, film still

Michael Snow, Wavelengths, 1967, film still

Michael Snow, Wavelengths (1967)

The fragile, ambiguous celluloid space between illusion, fact and self-reflection occupied by this non-narrative film is exactly where I would prefer to spend most of my days. I like every single frame. As a meditation on time and the act of filmmaking, it holds the same power over me now as it did 20 years ago when I first watched it.

Florence Henri, Autoportrait, 1928, Épreuve gélatino-argentique d'époque, 39,3 x 25,5 cm. Courtesy: Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Kunstbibliothek. Florence Henri © Galleria Martini & Ronchetti

Florence Henri, Autoportrait, 1928, Épreuve gélatino-argentique d'époque, 39,3 x 25,5 cm. Courtesy: Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Kunstbibliothek. Florence Henri © Galleria Martini & Ronchetti

Florence Henri, Autoportrait, 1928, Épreuve gélatino-argentique d'époque, 39,3 x 25,5 cm. Courtesy: Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Kunstbibliothek. Florence Henri © Galleria Martini & Ronchetti

Florence Henri

When I look at what is left of Florence Henri’s self-portraits, still lifes and images of women, I think we are twinning. Or, to put it more directly, I think my generation of photographers are twinning with her. Her experiments with light and shadow, reflective materials and empowered depictions of the female form still look relevant to me after almost 100 years. I have often wondered what kind of images she would have made had WW2 not interrupted her practice.

Stock images of flowers

I like this ‘Double Rose’ motif from the decorative napkin and fine catering supply company SimuLinen, because it recalls the anonymous Soviet flower postcards from the 1980s, which I grew up surrounded by. Those postcards excite me, as do similar examples of anonymously-made stock imagery. In their double ambition to be both emotive and impersonal, simultaneously relevant and undefined, they chart a strange but familiar territory of not belonging to a clear context.

stan_brakhage_mothlight_1963_film_still

Stan Brakhage, Mothlight, 1963, film still

Stan Brakhage, Mothlight, 1963, film still

Stan Brakhage, Mothlight (1963)

Like many of Stan Brakhage’s films, Mothlight communicates that pre-verbal state in which you haven’t fully found the right words to aurally express your thoughts. Brakhage made the film by scratching, drawing and placing things directly onto the film emulsion. I find kinship in this direct engagement with the negative – I see it as a kind of war on flatness – as I also want to make photographs that hold a trace of my hand, doubling the way that reality leaves its mark on the film.

andro_wekua_just_kidding_2004_ceramic_glass_hair_iron_and_wood_3.4_x_6_x_5_m._courtesy_rubell_family_collection

Andro Wekua, Just Kidding, 2004, ceramic, glass, hair, iron and wood, 3.4 x 6 x 5 m. Courtesy: Rubell Family Collection

Andro Wekua, Just Kidding, 2004, ceramic, glass, hair, iron and wood, 3.4 x 6 x 5 m. Courtesy: Rubell Family Collection

Andro Wekua, Just Kidding (2004)

Just Kidding (2004) was the very first work I saw by Andro Wekua: Sitting on a ceramic pedestal were two white ceramic figures, gazing at their own reflections in a black glass painting. It was not this use of ceramic that struck me (the practice was still fairly uncommon in 2004), but rather the emotional content of the work. In its un-quivering commitment to vulnerability, the work seemed to open up a space that made shortcomings of information apparent. It seems to me that under the banner of ‘Information is Power’, one’s ability to understand art become increasingly dependent on the amount of information and explanation it can offer the viewer. Wekua’s art neither offers nor asks for an explanation in order to exist, and in that I still find tremendous honesty and freedom.

Ketuta Alexi-Meskhishvili (b. 1979) is an artist who was born in Tbilisi, Georgia, grew up in New York, USA, and currently lives in Berlin, Germany. Her recent solo exhibitions include 'Hollow Body', Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York, and Kölnischer Kunstverein, Cologne; and 'I Move Forward, I Protozoan, Pure Protein', Micky Schubert, Berlin. Her work has also be included in group exhibitions at Bridget Donahue, New York; FRAC Haute-Normandie, Sotteville-lès-Rouen, France; Kunstverein Hannover, Hannover; Casey Kaplan, NYC and New Museum, New York, for the 2015 New Museum Triennial, amongst others. Her work is currently included in 'The Pleasure of Love', October Salon, Belgrade, which runs until 6 November, and is preparing a two person presentation with her father, Georgi Alexi-Meskhishvili for FIAC, Paris, which opens 19 October.

Most Read

Ahead of its South London Gallery performance, how Tom Phillips’s Irma – a work that questions the genre of opera...
With the opening of the 15th Istanbul Biennial this week, a guide to the best exhibitions around town
Ahead of the openings of EXPO Chicago and the 2017 Chicago Architecture Biennial, a guide to the best exhibitions...
Florine Stettheimer, Beauty Contest: To the Memory of P.T. Barnum, 1924, oil on canvas, 1.2 x 1.5 m. Courtesy: Wadsworth Athenaeum Museum of Art, Hartford, Connecticut and Ettie Stettheimer
The Jewish Museum, New York, USA
Highlights of the exhibitions and performances taking place during Berlin Art Week 
Reflections, a favourite verse, and a new poem dedicated to one of the English language’s most renowned poets of the...
Nicole Eiseman, Sketch for a Fountain (Skizze für einen Brunnen), 2017, Skulptur Projekte 2017, bronze, gips, wasserbecken. Courtesy: Skulptur Projekte Münster
Various venues, Münster, Germany
Buoyed by Manifesta announcing it will dock in the port city in 2020, is Marseille becoming the new LA? 
Ahead of this year’s DC Open and gallery share Okey-Dokey, a round-up of the best shows across the Rhineland cities
From artist Enoch Cheng’s nocturnal balletics to fascist violence in Charlottesville, rethinking the political agency...
Opened 15 months ago but remaining empty until now, the inaugural show at the landmark Palestinian Museum in Birzeit
The dual sides to the city’s Cph Art Week
Queer cringe at the BBC and other diversity dilemmas
Marta Minujín, El Partenón de libros (The Parthenon of Books), 2017, under construction in Kassel as part of documenta 14. Photograph: © Rosa Maria Ruehling
On documenta 14 in Athens and Kassel
Chris Kraus’s biography of the first female ‘Great Writer as Countercultural Hero’
Remembering the artist whose occultist experiments transformed her body and biography into art 
In this microcosm of the disenfranchisement of ‘Late Great Britain’, what use is art?
Public debate around Confederate insignia has little to do with historical fact, and everything to do with collective...
A multi-faceted collaboration between Matthew Barney, Ragnar Kjartansson and the Iceland Dance Company reflects on...
What Luc Besson’s Valerian and a number of recent artists’ 3D films are getting right about our current reality
The removal of the Confederate monuments in Baltimore shows decisiveness after years of inaction – already they stand...
Yayoi Kusama to open her own museum; Confederate monuments removed in Baltimore; David Roberts Art Foundation to leave...
From a tribute to Straub/Huillet to Valerie Massadian’s portrait of teenage motherhood, the turn to real situations and...
Japan’s growing number of art festivals tread a precarious path between state-sponsored leisure-culture and soft-power...
Fifty years after the term was coined, a show in Samos reflects on ‘the unlikely liaison between love and politics’
Arsenale and Giardini, Venice, Italy
SoundCloud has been invaluable to the new music community for both documentation and discovery – now the audio-...
The extraordinary life of the late, great, gallerist and collector Alexander Iolas
Various venues, New York, USA
At a time of instantaneous information and fetishized immersivity, artists are evoking scent as an alchemical, bodily...
With her current show at Gasworks, London, the Kuwaiti artist shares some influential images
Romare Bearden, Pittsburgh Memory, 1964, mixed media collage and graphite on board, 22 x 30 cm. Courtesy: © Romare Bearden Foundation / DACS, London / VAGA, New York 2017
Successfully layering a broader socio-historical narrative onto a period of radical non-conformity, this is an...
With a strong surrealist strain, and including a welcome number of female artists, highlights from the 48th edition of...

Latest Magazines

frieze magazine

May 2017

frieze magazine

June – August 2017

frieze magazine

September 2017