How does tenderness relate to translucence? What weight can both possess? When are they weightless?
These are but some of the questions one is inclined to ask upon encountering the oeuvre of Salome Dumbadze. In the Tbilisi-based artist’s solo exhibition Indoor Window, these prompts are porous —spilling softly, spanning species and splicing climates. The collected works, which encompass paintings, graphics and textiles, tether tender translucence with tranquil transcendence.
Salome Dumbadze. Mirror. 83x3 cm. Oil on Canvas, Wood. 2020
In her paintings, Dumbadze pictures the process of passing or peering through a portal to another possibility as a practice that isn’t necessarily charged with pressure. The poses and pastures that populate her imagined locales ripple with pastels. Her scenes often involve looking out from within. As suggested by the exhibition’s title, this view tends to be through a window. There is never a glare or reflection in Dumbadze’s windows, so it seems they aren’t even glazed.
Salome Dumbadze. Window. 180x220 cm. Oil on Canvas. 2020. ATINATI's Private Collection
The apparent lack of glass in Dumbadze’s painted windows indicates that the animals frequently featured in her work are free to roam, retreat from, or join the unseen onlooker who is inside. For the most part, they are at rest. Perhaps the most endearing member of the pack that appears in Indoor Window is Smoggy, the artist’s husky. Smoggy plods on his padded paws in an expanse of periwinkle, mossy green and glacial white. Amidst the purples, a pink pendant necklace is waiting to be worn; its plasticity punctures the scene.
Salome Dumbadze. Untitled. 59x59x2 cm. Oil on canvas, Epoxide resin. 2021
“Portrait of Smoggy” (2020) features a custom frame, which has become a hallmark of the artist’s body of work. The frame consists of connected ceramic elements, whose textured surfaces are slightly glazed, recalling those used in the decoration of Georgian Orthodox churches. According to the exhibition’s curator, Elene Abashidze, the artist, has turned “this decorative element into a political act of caring.” Using wood, resin, and marble, Dumbadze deftly demonstrates that framing is a form of sheltering that simultaneously propels the potential for an adapted perception.
Salome Dumbadze. Portrait of Smoggy. 53x53x4 cm. Oil on Canvas, ceramic, wood. 2020.
Salome Dumbadze. Sweetest gift/rather caring, 53x53x4 cm. 2020, Oil on Canvas, ceramic, wood.
Contemporary artists from Georgia approach the country’s rich cultural legacy in many ways. Put simply, there is an incredible amount to inherit. With her works in Indoor Window, Dumbadze conveys that personalization is an appropriate form of not merely incorporating, but of cooperating with the heat and heart of that which has been handed down, such as the luster of iconoclastic symbols or the expressive interpretation of Pirosmani’s painting. That she engages in this cooperation while immersed in her own imagination speaks of the potency of her practice.
Salome Dumbadze, Untitled. 55x55x4 cm. Oil on Canvas, Marble. ATINATI's Private Collection
Salome Dumbadze, Postcard for loners. 55x55x4 cm. Oil on Canvas, Marble. ATINATI's Private Collection
Salome Dumbadze, Rioni, 2021, Sublimation printing on artificial silk, Edition of 1 + AP, 21 x 29.7 cm
In a vitrine in the gallery’s reading room is Dumbadze’s “Rioni” (2021), a Smartphone photograph of western Georgia’s main river printed on artificial silk. The image depicts what my mother affectionately calls ‘sparkle water’ — water that glints, shimmers, and sparkles in the sun. To be sure, “Rioni” is hydroelectric in its own right. Conspiring with the universe, the river spreads its copious charge.