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Sasha Chavchavadze

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New drawings in a ‘Matchwork’series that combine ink drawings and applied wooden matches, explore the chemistry of change and volatility by focusing on the legacy of the Cold War. The work is rooted in my own family history, specifically my father’s thirty-year career as a CIA operative (Cold Warrior). The series “cold/war/baby” is a literal reference to my birth in Berlin in 1954 in the depths of the Cold War (my father would push my baby carriage while he made contact with his agents), and a figurative suggestion of the Cold War legacy of nuclear arms. Match tips float above the surface of the drawings creating a linear staccato and an ethereal second surface, intensified by variation in the match tip color.
In drawings comprised primarily of ink text and matches “splinter phrases” from my father’s cold war memoirs are spelled out across the paper. Shadows cast by the matches create a three-dimensional effect, propelling the text off the page. The work is both a personal exorcism and a public discussion of the insanity of the arms race.
In several drawings I explore the mathematical equation, 8 + 2 = 10, mentioned in a recent interview with Hans Blix, referring to the number of nuclear states (8), and de facto nuclear states (2), which exist today as a result of the Cold War. Grommets and bolts are used both as support, and to count out this equation. In the series, “All Worlds”, ink drawings based loosely on maps and applied with matches are folded, rolled, or strung along metal bolts and locks, creating three-dimensional objects. These pieces allude to both a global sense of interconnectedness, and to the worldwide system of nuclear arms that is ‘locked in place‘. 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 loss and exile. Though the work has a violent 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. The tension in the work, as in life, is in the potential for upheaval, and the possibility of change. The formal appeal of the work contradicts the element of danger, suggesting the integral nature of impermanence.
Tiny units of energy which can save a life or kill, matches reflect both the nurturing and the destructive sides of human nature. - IMAGE DESRIPTION : 1. - ‘Nabokov's Matches # 5‘, Detail, matches, ink on paper, 40 x 60 in, 2003. 2. - ‘cold/war/baby #1‘, matches, grapite, paper on bolt, 8 x 8 x 30 in, 2004.
3. - ‘He spent hours walking…’, matches, ink on paper, 38 x 40 in, 2004. CIA diary text: He spent hours walking, the best way to identify the enemy. If you walked long enough, it became clear who was following you. 4. - ‘cold/war/baby #6‘, matches, ink, paper, bolt, 6 x 12 x 20 in, 2004. 5. - ‘cold/war/baby #2,3,4,5‘, matches, ink, rolled paper on locks and bolts, 6 - 14 in, 2004. 6. - ‘Nabokov's Matches #1,2,3,4‘, matches, graphite on paper, 8 x 8 in. ea, 2003 .
Sasha Chavchavadze
New York, NY
New York
North America


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