Nanuka Tchitchoua is a Los Angeles-based artist who moved to the United States as a consequence of the civil war in her home country, Georgia. Having grown up surrounded by a family of art collectors, Nanuka was exposed to art from a very young age. Since then she’s realised that art would be an integral part of her life. Nanuka believes that people are born as stars and are connected by invisible threads. Her pieces are a rare representation of orderly chaos that portray the visible (and invisible) joys of life. 
How did you become an artist?
Creativity was my escape from an early age. I fell in love with painting and have never stopped doing it since my childhood. In high school, I knew that painting was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I was fascinated with the naturalism of paints, the process itself and the conversations I could have with the canvas.
I was born in Tbilisi, Georgia, in 1978, where I had a beautiful childhood until the ‘90s. Then the country fell apart, and the civil war broke out. During this period I lost many friends and family members. Throughout this period, art practice became a positive way of grieving; it filled the holes.
In 1992, I immigrated with my family to Los Angeles, where I continued my education at the California Institute of the Arts with a BFA in Fine Art and an MFA in Experimental Animation. Since my graduation in 2002, I have been working at the Museum of Jurassic Technology, a non-profit art organisation that chronicles an uncommon history of expression and innovation in the arts, humanities, and science. It is a place where visionary dreams come true, and I am very lucky to be part of this.
Georgian heritage and the way I was brought up have had a great impact on my art, and it’s been important to keep this relationship going. During the past ten years, I have been working on various projects and exhibitions in Georgia with Art Villa Garikula – the first and most significant artist residency and international art platform in the country.
Drawing and painting lie at the heart of my practice, though my work encompasses a variety of media: collage, photography, film/video, and it is often organised in series. My art-making process is more about healing than confrontation.
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In most of your drawings, we see women and details of their faces. Who are these women and what’s your attitude towards womanhood?
These works are my aspirations to waking consciousness about our bodies and our sexuality. I often use photo materials as a reference and construct their meaning. My paintings portray female sexuality and an exploration of human body through a positive sense of identity. As a female artist what I paint comes from my inner self.
Animals and birds are other subjects you concentrate on in your paintings, why are they so precious to you?
The core of my inspiration lies in my love of nature, humans, animals and birds. Love is the bridge to everything. I am constantly exploring my spiritual condition and my connection with nature. Part of my working process is meditative, and nature helps narrating what I want. All elements are players in life, and painting them is like navigating through beloved places.
You also enjoy creating colourful collages and prints besides painting, when and how did you start doing this?
During my years at CalArts I worked at a printing laboratory on campus; this is where I started using various old printing techniques in my mixed media paintings and films. My passion for art book making and binding was also born in the lab. While working on my thesis, called Impressions from Rustaveli – which was a fifteen-minute film running on a 16mm optical printer – I tried to build a whole new world around my subject. During that working process, I developed kinds of techniques that made my work even more accessible. Later I started using those techniques in my other projects as well.
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Your Impressions from Rustaveli prints are amazing. How has the famous Georgian writer influenced you?
For my Impressions from Rustaveli prints, I got inspiration from a Georgian medieval poem, called The Knight in The Panther's Skin, written by Shota Rustaveli. He was a Georgian writer who dedicated his epic romantic poem to the Queen Tamara of Georgia. The beauty of the poem and the bond of friendship between the man and the amazingly strong woman had a tremendous effect on me – this was the only book I brought with me when we immigrated to the United States, and I often ended up reading it throughout my teenage years. I have always been committed to my past, and I wanted to start a dialogue with Georgian culture through my works, so I created vignettes of the heroes and heroines, whose radiant love is represented in the poem. My project Impressions from Rustaveli keeps being resurrected and travels all around the world.
What periods of art history have influenced you the most and why?
Dadaism is what I relate to most as a human in my everyday life. I have an eclectic attitude towards artistic styles in general. I have often moved between different styles as while developing my own language. In my works, I mostly concentrate on the space between chaos and order, abstraction and representation. I think everything we do is a response to the contemporary world.
How did you get involved in book art?
I grew up in a family of collectors: they collected art, rugs and books. My fascination began at an early age when I was exposed to all those treasures. I developed my own approach through my interest in Dada and Surrealism; this influenced my worldview and art as well.
In the past few years, I have been focusing on making art books. Currently, I am working on a project, called Astronomical Diaries. In the majority of cases, these books then become experimental film poems. The transformations happen through collaborations with my husband, T. Wade Ivy, who is an incredibly versatile artist and an experimental filmmaker.
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Precisely, Astronomical Diaries are telling interesting and at the same time mystic stories. Do you believe in astronomy? And according to you, do the stars and planets have any real influence on people?
I believe in cosmology. I think that we are all born as stars, and we are all connected with secret threads. Through visualisation, we expand the understanding of our unity with the universe. All the images in the book are essentially data visualisations representing the accumulated knowledge of my time. Astronomical Diaries is an art book depicting the beauty and mystery of creation.
Are you presently working on something that you would like to share with us?
Currently, I am working on animations with my husband, based on the Astronomical Diaries. We playfully explore cosmic themes, the human figure, and the rich diversity of living things. The third and final volume of the Astronomical Diaries is to be completed by the end of the summer. Other than that, I am constantly painting, collecting images, searching for new materials, and practising art medicine rituals.
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