Redefining the City – Artist Guela Tsouladze Launches Art Workshops in Batumi

On Georgia’s Black Sea coast, Batumi’s identity is full of historical juxtapositions. Luxury concrete resorts stand beside wild bamboo forests, the neon lights of the Boulevard reflect onto the calm sea, and modern casinos tower above Soviet “Khrushchyovka” apartment blocks. From corrupt leader Aslan Abashidze’s playground to Sakashvili’s ‘Las Vegas’ on the Black Sea, the city’s identity has been in constant shift.

Helmed by French-Georgian artist Guela Tsouladze, a group of Batumians is hoping to move the city away from its previous narratives, through art. This summer, they are launching art workshops in the city to promote artistic expression and encourage new talents to take to the canvas. Called the ‘Guelaxi Gang,’ the art workshops held an opening night on July 2.

Tsouladze has been a driving force in Batumi’s art scene for many years. Since returning to Georgia from France in 2009, he has created artistic bridges between the two countries, organized the Batumi Grafikart Street Art Festival, which brought artists from France and Belgium to Georgia, and opened the first art center in the city.

His sculptures, dotted around the city, have become symbols of Batumi. Many Tbilisians will also be familiar with his work: the bicycle statue on Rose Revolution Square is one of his.

Tsouladze grew up in a surreal artistic universe somewhere between France and Georgia, inspired by artists such as Niko Pirosmani, the Zdanevitch brothers, and Salvador Dali, whom he once met.

Born in Tbilisi in 1959 to a French mother and Georgian father, Tsouladze went on to study at the Tbilisi Academy of Fine Arts before moving to Paris at the start of the 1980s: colorful and wild years in the Parisian art scene. Here, he joined the Art Decoratifs and Beaux-Arts movements before becoming the assistant of renowned French artist Christian Boltanski.

This period was defined by rebellion, as traditional art broke free from its constraints and pop culture thrived. Tsouladze found himself in an artistic playground at the center of the Free Figuration Movement, sharing a Quai de Seine squat with artists Remy Blanchard and Vincent Scali.

His art took him around the world, from Ibiza to Barcelona and to New York in the 90s, when Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat were shaping the Free Figuration Movement. In New York, he spent several years at the legendary Chelsea Hotel, where he painted Georgian letters on the walls and furniture. This is when his love for simplistic, black figures was born, which have become his recognizable trademark.

Batumi is emerging from the shadow of its ‘Las Vegas’ image and is creating new artistic waves. Some young locals who moved to Tbilisi in the past for its bigger creative scenes are returning to the city. Its unique juxtapositions, diversity, and peaceful seascapes, give it creative potential in abundance.

“The youth here have no meeting place to get inspired, perfect their skills, explore their talents and create together,” Tsouladze said. “Guelaxi Gang aims to support local talents and develop a more active creative community year-round.”

The Guelaxi Gang art workshops will take place on Tuesdays and Fridays at 5pm on the 39th floor of the Orbi Beach Tower on Sherif Khimshiashvili Street. Tsouladze will guide participants to explore their own creativity, painting on Georgian newspapers. GEORGIA TODAY made a donation to this project, proud to see its pages being recycled into artwork. Sessions are held in English, Georgian, Russian, and French. Locals and visitors are both welcome. For more information, visit

By Amy Jones

02 July 2020 19:13