SASHA CHAVCHAVADZE – STATEMENT
The medium of matches combined with paper is a perfect metaphor for the uncertain and volatile culture in which we live. Though the work has an anarchic aspect – the potential for destruction by fire, the need for an explosion of meaning in a culture that has lost its bearings, it is not rooted in destruction or entropy. I use matches as a tool to describe the chemistry of change often brought about by loss and upheaval. Unlit matches, tiny units of energy which can save a life or kill, evoke both the nurturing and the destructive sides of human nature. The formal appeal of the work contradicts the element of danger, implying the integral nature of impermanence. The tension of the work, as in life, is in the potential for upheaval.
In a series of mixed-media installations and works on paper, I apply thousands of wooden matches perpendicularly to paper with glue, interspersed with ink drawings and “splinter narratives”. Matches explore the archeology of loss, slowing down time, breaking it apart “stick by stick”, exploring it as form and matter. The process, like seeding or knitting, arrests time in the moment. The match tips float above the surface of the paper creating a delicate staccato, and an ethereal second surface, in patterns, grids or linear formations. Sometimes the paper is rolled or folded, forcing the matches to conform to the surface, and creating three-dimensional objects.
The work grew out of a description of a match game described by Vladimir Nabokov in Speak Memory, one of the many visual devices he uses to come to terms with exile. Matches lend themselves to the language of fragmentation and loss (splinters, shards), suggesting the shifting of patterns, both internal and external, as one life is replaced by another (match games). For Nabokov fragmentation was not an end in itself, but became a form of syncopation as he searched for geometries and “thematic designs” in the overlay of past, present, and disparate parts of the world. When placed in patterns, grids and spirals, matches lend themselves to this rhythmic language, even suggesting the hidden geometries and cosmologies of physics.
The work is rooted in my own family history of violent upheaval and migration: my grandparents’ loss of an entire ornate life in Russia due to revolution and execution, the family’s re-composition into American immigrant culture, and my father’s subsequent thirty-year career as a CIA operative. The recent series, “cold/war/baby”, is a literal reference to my birth in Berlin in 1954 (my father would push my baby carriage while he made contact with his agents), and a figurative reference to the Cold War legacy of nuclear arms. American and Russian history, from the Revolutions to the Cold War, are revisited and sometimes “matched.”
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Medium: wooden matches, ink, on paper
1. “Nabokov’s Matches #1”
3. “Nina’s Brush”
4. “Nabokov’s Matches 2,3,4,5”
6. “Nina’s Garden”
7. “Match Knife and Spoon”
9. “Disappearing Brooch”
29. “cold/war/baby #1”
31. “All Worlds…#1,2,3,4”
34. “cold/war/baby # 2”
37. “Nabokov’s Ring”