Thursday, April 9, 2015

Eternal East

 “OH, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet,

Till Earth and Sky stand presently at God’s great Judgment Seat;

But there is neither East nor West, Border, nor Breed, nor Birth,
When two strong men stand face to face, tho’ they come from the ends of the earth!”

Rudyard Kipling

                                                                    Portrait by Van Gogh's shows his atelier with Japanese prints on the background .

The 19th century was a period when the East and West started communicating in new ways. The Paris World's Fair in 1878,1889 and in1900 allowed artists and intellectuals to become more familiar with oriental art and culture. If we look at trends in the art of this period, we will see how Japanese style graphic art had taken over the European way of painting, dominated by the Sfumato (soft transitions of light and shadows in the style from the time of the Italian Renaissance). Perhaps Van Gogh’s painting can be used as the best example of these transitions whose art changed drastically after he moved to Paris. Light, shade and space had become increasingly less important and he focused more on the bright color and contour, thereby becoming more and more like those Japanese images, which he collected and hung on the walls of his studio.                                                           

                                                                                                              After Rain. 2014. Oil on Canvas.

It happens like this: what you like, you observe for a long time and enjoy its esthetics, and ultimately whether you want it or not, at the end it is reflected in your art.

A year ago, some ideas had come into my mind from where I had no idea, and I then created a new series of paintings called Rain. These pictures have intrinsic variations yet they depict no representational form and there is no space between applied paint. Like a hand-woven carpet has plaited different colors, which do not blend with each other but, are applied next to each other. Only then when man looks from a distance they repute to be one whole. To put it in a nutshell the series looks just like a carpet.

Only recently I realized from where the Rain Series ideas derived….

In my childhood I often spent summer holidays in the village at my grandmother, Olga Nadareishvili’s summer house. It was an old traditional wooden home. An identical representation of this style house is in the Ethnographic Museum of Tbilisi. By the way, the museum exponent was brought from the same village. In the room where I slept next to the bed on the wall - hung an old rug. It was beautiful. It had some strange shapes and colors of the ornaments that kidnaps a child's imagination and, takes him somewhere far away, to some fairy worlds.

As every child, I did not want to go to sleep early. I preferred to stay on the balcony listening to the adults, but who would allow this?! They forced me to bed and sleep. I had no other choice - I had to obey. I went to bed, turned to the wall and pretended that I slept. In fact I had eyes wide open looking at the rug, not because I wanted to watch it, but to show my grandmother that I was sleeping. Who knows how many hours I had spent watching it ...

Years passed and one day my grandmother sat me to her side and told me the story of how she had purchased the rug. It turns out that, in fact it was in Tbilisi during the Second World War period. She said that it was very expensive, but she liked it so much that she had to spend all the savings she had to acquire it. Anyway she did it. “I want to gift this rug to you and if you need money for some good purpose, only in this case you can sell it and use the money.” she said.

Some time after I had a very good purpose. In 1994 I decided to go to Germany to continue my art studies. So I was in need of money. I did some research about the price for the rug and just then, when a collector from Tel Aviv took a special flight to Tbilisi to buy it, I learned the real price and the cultural value of it. It turned out to be the old traditional Shirvan rug. Shirvan region is the southernmost part of Caucasus. The Shirvan region is in geographical proximity to Iran and thus was always subject to the great Persian cultural influence. This fact has lead to the development of a unique tradition, as it is a Shirvan rug. They combine Caucasian ornament and the art of Persian carpet knitting. The most mysterious pieces of those rugs are figures and shapes you see there. They reflect all those different cultures, which were passing through the Shirvan part of the Great Silk Road. Everything from Tibetan swastikas to Pictish stone curves from the British Islands. Confusing! – Man can ask: Britain, Tibet and the Caucasus? How can they come together? But the fact is that the East-West cultural dialogue existed much earlier then the Paris World's Fair and it made considerable artistic impact on both sides throughout history.

Here I am sitting in my studio in California, in the extreme west of our planet, looking at my paintings; which as it turns out were painted under influence of my grandmother’s Shirvan rug - or maybe under influence of The Eternal East!

Written by Mirza Davitaia
Edited by Nicole Borgenicht

Post a Comment