Name: Andro Wekua
DOB: 27 October 1977
Place of birth: Sokhumi, Republic of Abkhazia, Georgia
Mr. Wekua, do you paint every day?
I don’t paint every day, I don’t necessarily work every day, but I do have to think about my work every day, be near my artwork, come to the studio, look at books… Sometimes I bring my sketchbook or something small with me, so if I can’t make it to the studio, I can start on something while I’m travelling or at home. Even before this interview, I arrived to my studio 30 minutes before you and I’ll leave 30 minutes after you, just to be around my paintings. I like to be in the studio and just be in touch with things that evolve my process, it opens a lot of doors and windows, it’s inspiring. It creates this spark where it can grow, it’s something that I enjoy a lot and I can’t experience it anywhere else.
Sometimes half the battle of making something is just showing up to start making it.
Yes, coming to the studio really gives me something that I don’t find anywhere else. It connects me closer to myself, there’s this immediate response that I feel and can develop into something else and see how it grows together.
Does the spark that you mentioned happen every time you come to the studio?
It sounds a bit cheesy, but no, it doesn’t happen every time! Not every painting has the same path. Sometimes I can come here, torture myself in the work until nothing comes! (Laughs) That also means that I can work on my pieces for a long time. If ever I don’t like something, I can just put it aside and pick it up again another time, change it, try again. Some pieces I have been working on for three years or more. Most of the pieces for my new show There at Sprüth Magers London, I’ve been working on for over a year.
“Most of the communication I have is with my work — not with the show. The show is built in one week, but in the studio, I’m working almost every day.”
So there are no hard and fast deadlines for your projects? Not even for your exhibitions?
I have a deadline, don’t get me wrong. But these deadlines are giving me a framework to work within… It’s difficult, I can’t force it. Some work will just not go forward, sometimes it goes really fast. But I also really cannot do more than one show per year, so my work depends on that.
It seems like the goal for other artists would be to do as many shows as possible.
That makes no sense! (Laughs) I want to just be in my studio, confident in what I do, and make a great show in that way. Most of the communication I have is with my work — not with the show. The show is built in one week, but in the studio, I’m working almost every day. So this is much more vulnerable.
You’ve been painting since you were just a kid, have you always had such a deep connection with art?
Well, when I started painting, it was kind of a discovery because I first got interested in art through a friend of my father’s. It was kind of a cliché, this little painters studio on the Black Sea. It was something nice for me as a kid to go there, he would put everything on the table and tell me how to do it. I would sit down when he was doing his paintings and paint too. It was a nice relationship, and it showed me a different world. I liked it. I didn’t like going to school, but art I liked because he never showed me how to paint. He wasn’t teaching me, he just said, “Here’s all the stuff,” and I would paint.
But you did eventually go to art school, no?
I went to the art school, yes, this was just a kind of art school parallel to the normal school in Georgia. Eventually I went to Switzerland, and I just started studying art.
And Switzerland is where you started to become aware of an art world outside of what you knew from your hometown?
In Soviet times in Georgia, there was not much of an art scene that I knew of because I was too young. And then when I was 14, my family had to move because of the war, so there was a sense of art but it was only through what I studied or saw in books. Finding that real awareness only happened when I moved to the west. But to me, my first awareness of “art” was when I was 13 and made my first oil painting. I remember bringing it home and we hung it on the wall and I was like, “Okay, this is a painting.” I was proud! I was happy that I brought something home to my parents and people would come over and see it hanging there… I liked that.
You’ve come a long way from that oil painting hanging in your childhood home, to now exhibiting at Sprüth Magers, the Venice Biennale, Berlin’s Hamburger Bahnhof, Gladstone Gallery in Brussels, and the Kunsthalle Vienna.
(Laughs) At some point, I became an artist! It wasn’t like I wanted to become an artist. It just happened.
Has that success also brought some pressure and expectations? Sometimes reaching your goals can also leave you feeling lost, like you’re not sure where to go next.
I’ve learned that I have to give time to things. If there’s any feelings of pressure, I just have to give it time and it will pass. Sometimes it can get intense after an important exhibition because maybe I don’t know what to do next or I’m worried that nothing comes out… But I know now to believe in my feelings, that it will get good again, so I can wait. It took a long time to get to this point, but it’s changed. I have patience now, I get better and better.