Tora Aghabayova is an Azerbaijani multidisciplinary artist based in Berlin.
Formally trained as a painter with a Master of Fine Arts degree from the Azerbaijani State Art Academy, Tora has experimented with performance and video art at the onset of her career. Her performance piece in a format of a video installation entitled ‘Mood’ was on display at the first Azerbaijani pavilion exhibition at the Venice Biennial in 2007.
In her early paintings, Tora applied her academic style inspired by social realism to a more contemporary context. Her series ‘Oil and Dreams’, a whimsical antidote to the heroic glory of the Soviet-era industrial propaganda paintings, was exhibited at the Phillips de Pury auction house in London in 2012.
With her later work Tora has taken on a more subversive tone with which she challenged and scrutinised the accepted narratives of femininity and female representation in classical paintings. While upending these traditional narratives, the subjects of Tora’s paintings inhabited a setting imbued with magic and melancholia. For example her voluptuous male mermaids depicted languishing in lush vegetation or picturesque swamps are reminiscent of Rubenesque female nudes of the Baroque period, yet here, their traditional gender roles were inverted. These paintings were on display at the Triumph gallery in Moscow in 2019. In the words of Russian art critic Valentin Dyakonov: “Tora’s version of feminism is a radical departure from the accepted norm in her country. In her work one feels an attempt to break away from inertia.”
In her most recent series of paintings entitled “Nonexistent Myths” Tora revisits and reinvents scenes from biblical mythology. While incorporating elements of surrealism and dark humour, Tora is subtly mocking the piousness and religiosity of the Renaissance epoch art. For example in her own rendition of Jesus and Mary in Michelangelo’s Pieta, a grieving woman (self-portrait) cradles a tardigrade, a micro-sized eight-legged animal, normally inaccessible to a human eye, but here rendered sinister in monumental proportions.
Golden Orange in Antalya Film Festival for best production designer. 2012.
2011 ‘Double Meaning’, KicikQalart Gallery, Baku
2011 ‘Oil and Dreams’, Royal Opera House Arcade, London
Selected group exhibitions
2019 “Off The Velvet Chest” Extension project, Triumph Gallery. Moscow. Russia (curated by Asli Samadova)
2019 “CAFE AVARICE AND GENEROSITY” GalerieDix9 Helene Lacharmoise (curated by Azad Asifovich)
2019 ‘Kibris Modern”, Cyprus Museum of Modern Arts. Lefkosha. Cyprus.
2018 ‘Fo You’ Voluntary Art Liaison, Berlin, Germany
2015 ‘Candy Mountains, Oily Sores’ Museum of Contemporary Art, Perm, Russia
2012 “Fly to Baku. Contemporary art from Azerbaijan”, Hotel Salomon de Rothschild, Paris, France
‘Fly to Baku. Contemporary art from Azerbaijan’, Phillips de Pury & Company, London, UK
2011 ‘On Soz’, Alternative Art Space, Baku
“Big Caucasus” “White nights of Perm” Festival, Modern Art Museum, Perm, Russia
2010 ‘USSR Remix’, Tou Scene, Centre for Contemporary Art, Stavanger, Norway
2009 ‘BakUnlimited’, Cultural Days of Azerbaijan, Voltahalle, Basel, Switzerland
2007 ‘Omnia Mea’, Azerbaijan Pavilion, 52nd Venice Biennale, Venice
2003 ‘Caravan Sarai’, International Forum of Visual Art & Art Events, Tbilisi
2000 ‘Wings of Time’, Khagani Trading Centre, Baku
1999 ‘Sex 2000’, Art Manege, TheManege Central Exhibition Hall, Moscow
1998 ‘The Brain of Galapagos Tortoise’, performance, Benevolent Foundation for Aesthetic Development, Baku