THE GWQA WITH FIDAN BAGIROVA: THE IT GIRL AS CONCEPTUAL ARTIST
GEORGE WAYNE – A quick, apt description of the new sculptures from your new one-woman show – 'Flower Capsul'. GW defines it as where artistry meets floristry. How would you describe it?
FIDAN – Femininity meets strength. Flowers represent femininity but with my sculptures I have crafted them out of metal to show power and strength and ultimately to attain female solidarity.
GW – Flowers are clearly more than an inspiration for you. Talk about your flower fetish and clearly the modus for your new abstract expressionism.
FIDAN – I wouldn't call it so much a fetish but more an obsession. For example, I like to wake up every morning with flowers by my bedside. I like that my first experience of the day to involve flowers. Before opening my eyes I notice the scent, the first glimpse of the colorful shapes. It offers me inspiration to start the day. This is what I try to encompass in my sculptures the color, the shapes, and whenever I look at my sculptures they offer me a positive inspiration with what to do next.
GW – Viewing your work recently – the critic here had a moment to himself and mused.. My personal precis here would be…This is truly where art meets botany in a very thoughtful and provocative way.
FIDAN –Botany has always been a big point of inspiration for many artists. It's like an artwork of nature itself. Beautiful shapes, colors, textures all created by a seed. One could think of it in a philosophical manner that everything could become anything.. so lets plant some good seeds and make some happy positive things to come to fruition!
GW – You are working with aluminum and trying to harness, the finesse and delicacy of the flower as post-millennial conceptual sculpture. It's a very interestingly flirtatious effort on your part. Do you think you succeeded?
FIDAN –While I find flowers to be quite seductive by manipulating metal to resemble flowers I am hoping for it to convey as a show of strength and to be seen as a symbol for female empowerment. Yes I believe I succeeded in my part, While I believe the flirtatious effort was not intentional I can see how flirtatious can be viewed as powerful, especially in society today.
GW – You mentioned during your opening night at the leading HG Contemporary Gallery that you were inspired by the metal work of the great conceptual sculptor John Chamberlain and Andy Warhol's iconic 'Flowers' series. One would have thought that the vast opus of the great Georgia O'Keeffe would also have been a source of inspiration.
FIDAN – Yes she is a source of inspiration, I enjoy her large scale close up flower paintings they are gorgeous! But we differ in implementation and theme although we both worked with photography. As you know my current exhibition also has my photography works displayed.
Throughout my art I drew inspiration from John Chamberlain's metal sculptures, however his works were much larger and made from car parts. As much as I'd love to make some flowers using heavy metal. How my art differs from his…well I make flowers while he used car parts which is a very masculine object. Also, I am both petite and I like to personally work on my pieces so I chose recycled aluminum sheets that I can work on my own without any help. The sight of me working with a 150 pound car door would accidentally be my first piece of performance art =)
GW – GW will suggest that before the end of October that you visit the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx and view the sublime "Georgia O'Keeffe Visions of Hawaii" now on display at that hallowed NYC institution. Any artist inspired by horticulture must at some point take a visit to the New York Botanical Garden!!
Is that understood Fidan Bagirova?
FIDAN – I will definitely go there! You know how Manhattan gets, once you come here it's nonstop.. it's definitely on the itinerary for the next time.
GW – Talk about how this latest work all came to fruition. Your search to find the perfect material and how a Williamsburg metal factory became your Nirvana. Talk about all that…
FIDAN – I was very lucky to find a working metal factory in the middle of Williamsburg that accepted me to create my flower sculptures. Apart from its great location the team is like a family to me. There's always someone to ask for technical advice. Everyone busy doing their thing while I am bending and spraying my flower sculptures in very saturated colours. Latin ameican music playing all day in the background. It's wonderful! Right outside there's a bunch of restaurants and coffee shops. Very buzzy and charming area.
GW – Zuza Mengham is another increasingly buzzed about conceptual sculptor based out of South London. Her work is borne from crystals and natural stones however. Where as you work in light metal. But its wonderful the see the art world zeitgeist celebrating you both thoroughly modern conceptual artists.
FIDAN –I adore her work. I am a very visual person and it doesn't matter what material is used as long as it speaks to your soul. Her works make me want to look and dream. I also find inspiration in Dale Chihuly's glass sculptures. They are different to Zuza's and glass is a medium I've never worked with yet.
GW – Of your peers in the modern contemporary art world sculptors whose work would you admit to being a HUGE fan?
FIDAN – Ugo Rondinone's Magic mountain sculptures are so inspiring and happy. Love them. Anish Kapoor and his engineering maneuverings, convex mirror works are amazing. Teresita Fernandez her public sculptures where she uses unconventional materials creating a striking illusion of a waterfall is magical. Jeff Koons, his sculptures take me back to childhood and put a smile on my face. I love it. Jean Michel Othoniel, his sculptures are so delicate and beautifully recognizable. I enjoy artists who have their unique styles. Rafael Barrios colorful geometric sculptures. He manipulates the eye into seeing depth in his sculptures. I enjoy his public art pieces around NYC. Faig Ahmed he disassembles the traditional Azerbaijani rugs and rearranges them with contemporary sculptural forms. Incredibly original and beautiful works.
GW – Tell me about the adorable fourteen-year-old girl at boarding school in Switzerland. What were your dreams and thoughts as an adolescent locked away in a Swiss boarding school in Geneva?
FIDAN – As an adolescent, I wanted to be an actress it was my grandmothers wish she wanted to be an actress too she never had a chance instead pursued a career in medicine. After the first world war it was a very dark place and movies offered an escapism that my grandmother cherished and she wanted to be a part of that world.
Attending a Swiss boarding school offers a lot of advantages and some disadvantages. One of the disadvantages is that you are very sheltered. Movie production and acting offer the way to be around the world and I wanted that. Growing up watching movies set in NY and LA I always felt like that was where I wanted to live.
GW – You once told me you grew up wanting to be a world chess champion.
FIDAN – When I was 6 and 7 years old I was lucky enough to win two Chess tournaments and receive the title of Moscow Chess Champion of my age group. While enjoying the strategies of chess it was very stressful for my age and shortly after I moved on to ballet and singing…Where I didn't ace as in Chess.. Chess taught me how to strategize and plan which is crucial in life.
GW – You were never restless nor home-sick for home back in Azerbaijan?
FIDAN – I was born and bred in Geneva, Switzerland my family is originally from Azerbaijan. I lived in Russia when I was very young for a few years. Azerbaijan was where my grandparents and extended family lived. I feel very patriotic about it but at the same time I don't feel homesick. I don't like to be attached to one place I love being on the go to explore new places. As a child I travelled quite a lot and I studied with kids from all over the globe, it made me very comfortable with people from very different cultures. Nowadays I can call almost anywhere home.
GW – What part of New York City inspires your work the most ? Why?
FIDAN – Downtown NY I love walking around West village, Soho. In the summer Battery park is so lovely and windy I quite enjoy the views there too. There's so much to do in Downtown NY. The little corner delis selling flowers, the busy streets, individualistic fashion, the smells. the people. Essentially my work was inspired by people in NY who arrived here full of dreams of a better future. We all have dreams and in our minds those dreams are always much more colorful and beautiful than reality. It inspired me to see how people in different areas achieve their success story yet when talking about it they focus on the end result which is beautiful. That's why I used bright colors for my sculptures, to portray their dreams. At a closer look the smashed metal represent the struggles that are part of the end result achievement and ultimately make us who we are..people with a story and depth.. Imperfection is human and that is beautiful.
GW – What did you think of the floral arch canopy comprised of thousands of white
garden flowers that was the sublime back drop for the recent royal wedding at
St. George's Chapel in Windsor?
FIDAN – It took my breath away. It looked splendid. The arch had the right amount of garden flowers that made it look wild and luxurious at the same time. It was a gorgeous soft spring royal wedding arch.
GW – All those garden roses and peonies and foxgloves…it was magical.
And what would be your favorite flower?
FIDAN – I love peonies because of the way they bloom. With their lush, full, rounded bloom it's so pretty. No matter their presentation they always look gorgeous.
GW – And why…?
FIDAN – I like that when you get them they are closed and day after day they open up into a shape of a tea cup…Almost like a cupcake… I like to make parallels between things I see around and food. At times a white building looks like a vanilla frosted cake, or west village brick buildings remind me of ginger bread cookies, tall skyscrapers look like ice lollipops. I am a big foodie and I like to amuse myself with fun thoughts like these.
Perhaps its somehow inspired by all the Roald Dahl books I've been reading as a child or maybe I am just hungryJ
GW – And while on all things flora….have you ever spent a long weekend at the iconic Georges V Four Seasons hotel in Paris? It is of course known for its grand lobby entrance filled with more than 12,000 floral arrangements which is replaced every week. If you love flowers you really need a long weekend at the Georges V in Paris!
FIDAN – I've seen the floral arrangement at the George V..Its gorgeous!
I also enjoy walking around flower markets around the world and exploring new flowers and presentations. In Paris my favorite one is Marche des Fleurs Reine Elizabeth II with all its scents of flowers it really immerses you in a sensory journey.
In London the Chelsea flower market is absolutely exquisite. I am not a talented gardener; I try to keep some plants around my homes but too often they don't survive that is why I respect all the patience and meticulous work gardeners and flower experts put in to their chef-de-oeuvres.
Flowers since all times have been a symbol of love, hope friendship and I find it incredible how all over the world flowers put smiles on people's faces. It beautiful really.
GW – After all you have claimed yourself …."I come from a very cultural upbringing…" So what does that mean to you personally?
FIDAN – Azerbaijan is a unique country. It has ancient roots to Sumerians, had one of the first Christian churches in 3rd century, been part of Ancient Albanian Empire, Persian Empire, Russian Empire, Ottoman empire, Soviet Union and finally since now an independent republic. Like a filter for so many different cultures that conquered the region. For instance, there are myths that the ancient female warrior Amazons, the epitome of strong women, came from the region too. Also, it must be noted that Azerbaijan is one of the few countries where there are Muslims, Christians and Jews living in total harmony. There is a lot of respect for others and great hospitality.
I like to think of myself as an international person because I was blessed to be from such an interesting country with such a culturally rich history.
GW – Talk about the zen room installation that is also part of your latest one-woman show. You call it a living, breathing installation…. even though it clearly isn't. So what do you mean?
FIDAN – The zen room is essentially a space where one can come in from a busy day and recharge from the city buzz. It's a space for contemplation, day dreaming and pure relaxation. We are all living a very busy life and NY can make you very overwhelmed and in a rush at all times. I wanted with the help of my artworks and the video installation to create a sort of an indoor garden and give this illusionistic escape. Think of it as a childish fantasy where one can relax day dream and smile. Emphasis on the smile.
GW – And what are you trying to say with the video installation aspect here?
FIDAN – Video installation is a layering of New York city views juxtaposed with flowers. I want to take the viewer on this journey of "what if?" for instance the yellow cabs we keep seeing…what is they were yellow flowers. When you look at them from the highline at times the yellow may in an abstract way look like that. I am taking it a notch higher. I like to play with color to emphasize my message as an artist.
I remember in school often I would zone out and day dream, it wasn't great for my grades but that feeling of being able to imagine anything and amuse myself with those thoughts that's something I like to share with the audience who comes into the zen room.
GW – I get the feeling that you are very keen astrologist too. Talk about that..
FIDAN – I find astrology fun. It started as a hobby. Now I had read so many books on astrology that at times I have to stop myself and judge people by their sign and ascendant. Although I find it very difficult not to try to guess their signs. I don't know if it's all accurate but I like to pick up on the positive aspects and believe they are true. For instance I am a Taurus with an ascendant is Sagittarius. Two quite contradictory signs. One is very stable and hardworking the other is very adventurous and on the move. It's true that I love beauty, food and all the earthy things that a Taurus would enjoy but mostly I adore travelling and find it challenging to sit in one place..always ready to go out there and explore!
GW – Where in the world would you consider your own personal Shang-ri-la?
FIDAN – Anywhere by the sea side. I love water. A beautiful view of the sea or ocean or being on the beach is my little paradise. In America I fell in love with Malibu sunset time. Absolutely divine energy and unbelievable colors…so magical. A part of me wants to live there one day and experience these magical views everyday! What a dream.
GW – "The flower will always be a symbol of poetic reflection.." Those are your own words. In closing – expound a bit on that particular topic.
FIDAN – I picked "the flower" per say not only because I love flowers but mainly because I find its one of the few things that can actually unite all people no matter where they are from, what sex they are, which religion or not, age etc..Everyone relates to "flower" in a positive matter. It brings us together. I like everything that brings people together. I find that there is too much negativity and divisions in today's world. From my part I'd like to create artworks that will unite and not divide. At core we humans are all the same, we feel the same love, pain, perhaps fort different things but it's still the same. A flower just like a beautiful melody can put a smile or uplift one's feelings and hence it's a symbol of poetic reflection.
GW – Your abstract sculpture defines the term artisanal in more ways than one. Your thoughts on that thought….
FIDAN – I would call my work instinctive. I shape the metal according to how I feel and not necessary as planned. It's very much fun, at time it feels like I'm hugging the metal sheet to give it a rounder shape. Sometimes I'm dealing with a stubborn sheet that doesn't want to bend as I'd like it too so I change the shape and let the sheet unravel into something completely different than what I had originally hoped. The end result is my favorite part because every time I am surprised by how every "mistake" I thought was actually a great new addition or twist to the flowers.
GW – Thank you Fidan! You are sheer master-class. Keep on keeping on and inspiring the world!!
FIDAN – Thank you George it was such a pleasure and honor to chat with you!
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GEORGE WAYNE MANUSCRIPT