Eventual Worlds of Zurab Tsereteli’s Art

     “The art can not be real without a little of the irreel. I have always sensed that the beauty is double-sided. I do not know how to explain it to you… Remember how our planet looks like. We are hovering in the space but not falling. What is it? A dream?” – Marc Chagall

     To form images through playing with elements of various styles and trends, to find and expressively reveal the universal scale of everyday life in small forms, to sink into labyrinths of mythology and then after rising to project fantasies on a thick surface of a canvas, to create eventual worlds – these and many other peculiarities of an artistic method can be attributed to the distinguished features of Zurab Tsereteli’s art.

     The combination of antipodes, the merge of fantasy, the texture of dreams and visual observation of usual reality, stable structure are constant for the art of Zurab Tsereteli. Mysterious codes of the Caucasian culture sometimes sounding as an absolute reality, sometimes as a legend, for example the poem “The Knight in the Panther’s Skin”, the Russian epic and of course the Biblical history serve as a powerful source of inspiration and self-knowledge, they become a theme for the artist’s creative work. Of major significance is his general tendency to turn to images of the nature, proto human being, to the beauty without pathetic and false glamour, to the beginnings that should symbolize the truth.

     It is often through contrasts, during the feeling of some discord that the main topic  unexpectedly appears being the essence of something very global, the very beginning of all for which a man has been possibly created. Thus, a sad organ-grinder, fiddler, kinto, bath-house attendant – this multi-colored crowd represents characters of the old Tbilisi. The scene of everyday life full of the folklore gaiety is replaced by another absolutely different story hidden behind the notional and visual multi-layer depiction. Here, we can remember the well-known film “Do Not Be Sad” of the renowned film director and his close friend George Danelia, where  the characters also experience laughter through tears and the joy of life turns into a tragedy in a second. 

     The art of Tsereteli  is distinguished by the presence of a pictorial and energetic environment inherent to the so called “magic realism”. The past contrasts with the present, minor details become significant, it is the process of returning the almost sacral value to the most simple things. The visual vagueness in his work gives  a viewer an opportunity to understand what was more truthful in the world construction – fantastic or real. In Zurab Tsereteli’s works there often appears an unexpected combination or sometimes a transmutation of  various objects, human figures, animals, birds, fish and architectural constructions that forms a unique plastic image of a canvas as a whole.  Every canvas or a sheet of paper has many dimensions and spatial outbreaks which go out of the sheet’s limits and at the same time stay in harmony with these limits. Nevertheless, the quasi chaos, juxtaposition of various plans and hypertrophy of the form’s interpretation produce a general impression of harmony in life with its sharp “angles”, “agnails”, “pot-holes”, all its  intrinsic texture. 

     Paintings by Zurab Tsereteli are metaphorical, they always speak the language of a parable as if being a part of a full scale picture of the universe. The topics seem very simple, they narrate the life in its trivial manifestation but are expressed with some epic significance. Always big and sorrowful eyes of people, dogs, horses, birds look like a painted space of life with deep accords of emotional experiences. It is hard to define a style or some concrete trend for the artist’s artworks. Everyone will always see something private in them. In their compositional structure his canvases are similar to color dreams coming to life. It is difficult to say which technique is more preferable for the master, it seems to depend on his mood and availability of this or that material capable to visualize the images that appeared in his mind.   

    At the same time, the principle goal of his creative work, the most important task  is a presence of some gene of the positive, there is no escape from the charm of his hearty characters open to people.

     Tsereteli creates his own artistic reality. The composition, usually complicated and multi-pronged, almost lacks the narration which turns into a plastic event. The master often covers and creates the entire space of his canvas.  His composition is apt to have some refined complexity that simultaneously is sensed as very organic. In his pictures one can see several points of view, the composition is dynamic, it is united “in the singleness of diverse moments”, as Vladimir Favorsky said about such an approach.             

     Transforming the tradition and relying on the national roots Tsereteli strives for the synthesis of the reality and myth, its interlacing into artistic “texture”.  The world of fantasies is a world of emotions containing many shades, an integral, living and multi-sided image. The emotional implication of the image can be interpreted both as a concrete thing, as a symbol and as a supersensitive metaphysical phenomenon.  The game with the time and extraordinary reality saturated with the ideas of good and love of people  - this  is a method of revealing of the world’s existence through the “magic realism” and the most obvious creative trait of Tsereteli.

     Practically in every painting or drawing by Zurab Tsereteli one can see the centuries-old folk culture, national variations of buffoons’ traditions, return to the very beginnings through the grotesque and humor for the discovery of the hidden but not less real world. The romantic fantasy merges with everyday life and sometimes triumphs over it confirming the faith in good – these are the most important tasks of the magic realism and they organically coincide with  Tsereteli’s art concept.

     Grotesque is one of the characteristic features of Zurab Tsereteli’s art. You will not find his portraits where the artist, as he puts it himself, does not “exaggerate”   a real model.  At the same time the person’s recognition in the majority of his portraits is almost absolute. “Every talented portrait – said Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres – should contain something of a caricature”. The artist creates an image of a real man, but the evident similarity for him is not an end in itself. The true satisfaction comes from another feeling which he formulates as “to catch a character”.

     The master is eager to understand the plastic nature and metaphysical sense of the objects depicted by him. He builds a complex system of hints, associations, uses a direct and allegorical meaning of things to “narrate” about the human existence, different fates, the beauty of the life’s moments. Many characters and things in his drawings act like in a kaleidoscope – each movement of a hand on the sheet gives birth to intricate compositional variations.

     Some images are close to visual codes, among the most frequent are cards, candles, fish and many other “signs”.  A careful viewer sees a succession of them,  they obtain a possibility to break through the limits of an ordinary genre painting.  Implanted into the texture of a canvas such signs bring the diversity of themes, characters, types and perspectives into a single whole, send off to some universal Biblical scale. If we speak about themes in the artist’s creative work these are “God and Man”, “Man and Nature”, “Man and Woman”… These global topics also uniting the Biblical history and folk wisdom of sagas and legends, enrich the creative work by Zurab Tsereteli and continue the amazing line which as a result unites the art of practically all epochs of the world. There is an invisible line of heart that connects worlds and continents showing the world as a huge creative workshop where any topic and any personality is of interest because he lives in this world.

     There is a hypothesis, that the creative life of every major artist has a special motif which the artist tries to uncover in all his works. In order to express himself Zurab Tsereteli went on different roads, his life lines have been tightly interlaced with one another in a single knot the name of which is art. Which theme can be considered the main one? Can it grasp all the space of his life and creative work?  Someone will say – the theme of Love, Faith, Good and will be right. However, when you see the master’s works it becomes evident that his main theme is the life itself in its momentary sketches and monumental canvases of the eternity, in its seclusion and grandiose scale. And every day filling the palette with a portion of fresh paints the master once again starts opening eventual worlds that become accessible to others only with the help of artistic dimension
Tatyana Kochemasova
Art Historian