Georgia, and Tbilisi in particular, is seemingly going through a sexual (re)awakening. This largely is originating from a bottom-up protest against the still restricted and marginalized status of women and sexual minorities in the country. Women and LGBTQ people are denied their sexuality, whereas the traditional macho status of the Georgian straight man allows him to get away with everything.
But artist Anna Kutaladze is upset. Upset with the patriarchy, upset with the values of Georgian society as dictated by the Church, and upset with the fact that about half of the society does not have the freedom to fully be themselves. And she chose to express her madness and demand for freedom of expression and equality in cheeky, some would say ‘explicit’, or even ‘pornographic’, drawings. Not through polished photos on social media, not by taking off her clothes, but by picking up an old-fashioned pencil and shaping the feelings and perceptions of many, many women – herself included.
Tbilisi-based Anna is not a full-time artist but also a lawyer – giving her work a certain bravery to it. Unpretentiously she said about herself and other Georgian women: “She is happy, she is simple, but sometimes she is mysterious. Yet at the end of the day, sometimes she is tired and wants to masturbate.” An artist that really excites us, Anna kindly spoke to us about her personal, provocative, status quo questioning artworks.
Looking at your drawings, there are many things going through my mind. They are aesthetically pleasing, funny, emotional, provocative. What message(s) do you mean to get across with your work, if any?
Each artwork has its own very unique story, and mostly reflects on emotions one is going through in life. Before mentioning a specific theme, I would just say it shows the reality of everyday life: when we really are aware of our own desires and we can feel ourselves.
Mostly, I’m addressing gender-related issues prevalent in our society, thus my main characters are women – women who are not afraid to show their personalities, emotions, desires, and despair, and who face society’s stigmas bravely. Today, they are always in the background, and my intention is to give them courage to be themselves. When you look at the artwork, you can often relate, sometimes even see yourself. Therefore, you feel less alone – the kind of feeling that gives you support. This is what I am trying to deliver through my artwork. My main themes are relationships, loneliness, fair, pain, abuse, sex, and violence. These are not only my feelings and perceptions, but those of many women.
I find the drawing with the nun saying ‘Pray for me.. or follow me’ very fascinating. Am I right in thinking this is grass-roots criticism towards how the church in Georgia regards women and female sexuality? What is your stance on that?
Absolutely! Not only sexuality and sexual habits, but a woman’s role in general. When we talk about these issues in Georgia, we mostly mean pressure from the church, and their own irrelevant interpretations and so-called “rules” which dominate and determine society’s attitudes.
I think that everyone should be free in their own life choices and beliefs. Thus, with this artwork, I want to underline the meaning of freedom, freedom of choice, and freedom of expression. I leave people with two options: either they can ‘Pray for me.. or follow me’.
Have you always felt comfortable drawing ‘explicit’ images like these, or is it a recent development? Do you think Georgia is changing in this regard?
This is the style I chose to express these concepts and notions in. Some people label it ‘pornography’, and they are not perceiving women’s sexuality and sexual habits as a normal and natural fact. However, despite this, I think that yes, in this regard Georgia is changing and moving forward.
Lastly: what guy could be as heartless as to steal your cigarette?! What happened to him?
Actually, he was not. After all, that’s how I was feeling at that moment. But he couldn’t break my heart. I won!