Introducing Georgian Artists to Iserlohn

An exhibition of works by four Georgian artists has opened recently in the German city of Iserlohn. “The King is Female” is the name of this exhibition by a group of female artists, which brings together around forty works by Natela Iankoshvili, Tamara Kvesitadze, Rusudan Khizanishvili and Natela Grigalashvili.

The Villa Wessel Museum, where this exhibition of Georgian painters is being held, is located in the former home of the prominent German artist Wilhelm Wessel which he bequeathed to his home town. Since the artist’s death in 1971, the house has been home to both a museum and a gallery space. This exhibition of Georgian artists will remain in Villa Wessel until 11 November, which will allow the people of Iserlohn, who already enjoy access to plenty of high quality art, to gain some insight into Georgian artistic culture, with its distinct form and aesthetic.

Georgia’s presence as a guest country at the Frankfurt Book Fair has unequivocally re-awakened German interest in Georgia – something which has since been noticed across the entire country. The present exhibition at Villa Wessel is a response to this trend, although it is worth pointing out that Michael Otto, a businessman and modern art collector from Iserlohn, has a decade-long association with Georgia. Michael and his wife Nicole first came up with the idea of approaching the management of their local museum with the possibility of starting some sort of project related to the country.

As soon as Michael and Nicole Otto achieved the approval of Villa Wessel, they immediately contacted Gallery Kornfeld in Berlin, whose owner, Alfred Kornfeld, is a connoisseur and admirer of Georgian art. There are also Georgian artists working in this gallery, and they advised him as to how he should go about presenting Georgian art in Iserlohn. They suggested to Kornfeld an exhibition of female artists and he put them in touch with Nina Mdivani, who has experience in working on such projects. She has even prepared a book entitled “The King is Female”, which is being published in Berlin and will be presented in October at the Frankfurt Book Fair. The Iserlohn museum were impressed with Nana Mdivani’s concept and she was charged with curating the exhibition together with Joachim Stracke from Villa Wessel.

Two of the artists represented at the Iserlohn exhibition - Natela Iankoshvili and Tamara Kvesitadze are Gallery Kornfeld artists and for years now, the gallery has been working on bringing their art to broader audiences, both in Germany and abroad. In the last few years, they have presented pictures by Natela Iankoshvili – a classical Georgian artist - at several famous art forums, where her monumental and original talent has been widely recognized. This year, during the artist’s centenary, the artistic director of Gallery Kornfeld, Mamuka Bliadze, prepared a biographical book dedicated to Iankoshvili, which was published in both German and English

It’s also worth pointing out here, that last year the gallery sent one of its own artists – Christopher Lehmpfuhl – to Georgia, where he stayed for several weeks, leading to the creation of dozens of landscape paintings inspired by scenes of Tbilisi, Mtskheta, Sighnaghi and Kazbegi. After returning to Berlin the same year, Lehmpfuhl presented this Georgian series to German audiences. Together with his paintings, he also presented the viewing public with a book-album based on his impressions of Georgia. Additionally, when Lehmpfuhl was offered the opportunity to create a 2018 calendar of his paintings, he also included some of his selected canvases that featured landscapes of Tbilisi and Sighnaghi.

Although Natela Iankoshvili is only represented by five paintings at the Iserlohn museum, “Portrait of Lily”, “Enigma”, “Springtime”, “Tinatin (an Illustration for the Knight in the Panther’s Skin)” and “Island in a River” are distinguished by the sort of artistic perfection that will stop any well-versed and knowledgeable viewer in their tracks. Mysterious rays of light play on these unusual lines and colors, in which it’s difficult to discern whether it is night or day. This intuition is derived from the “sun-drenched night” of Shota Rustaveli’s poetics and should be considered as a painted version of the same. Iankoshvili’s individuality makes her noteworthy in the history of art, and time will prove her brilliance. She is already enjoying increased recognition and this is in large part due to the efforts of Germans in the art world. Although this is extremely commendable, in the first instance, it is the task of Georgian art critics and the country itself to broaden the audience of the Iankoshvili phenomenon and to fully appreciate the selflessness with which this genius served her art.

Tamara Kvesitadze has already been working successfully with Gallery Kornfeld for the last six years. Thanks to her creativity, she quickly earned a reputation as a thoughtful and tasteful artist. She has a broad audience of admirers, who continue to follow the artist’s progress and the development of her talent with great attention. Her works are always in high demand and for this reason we often find them in museum and private collections. In Villa Wessel, audiences have been acquainted with her sculptures, “Man and Woman” and “Ne Me Quitte Pas”, with her large murals “Any Direction” and “Cave Tellers”, as well as her watercolor paintings on paper, which generally depict human figures and faces.

Here she achieves impressive results with the use of stains and marks. Visually, her paintings call to mind the watercolor works of Auguste Rodin and Marlene Dumas, but if one looks closely at the lines dripping vertically or horizontally – or over each other - from these figures and faces, they attain a deeper significance – as if they are created from physical pain, tears and blood. 

Rusudan Khizanishvili is presented to the audience through a series of collages, which the artist has called “Every Day I’m Writing a Diary”. These works, executed using a mix of techniques, draw attention to themselves through their lively palette of colors, which is created from various media and is startlingly effective. It’s almost as if we hear the voices of everyday life ringing out from these collages. One can perceive the artist’s boundless love for people and for life itself – an artist who has an innate sense for color and composition and yet relishes the opportunity to experiment. It’s this enviable trait that makes the artist so vivacious and awakens an interest in the viewer to see more and more.

Natela Grigalashvili is one of the most important photographers in Georgia, and she is represented at the Iserlohn exhibition by several pictures from two former series: “Book of My Mother” and “Village of the Mice”. These photos tell the story of human beings, their feelings and their emotions and - twenty years later – the artist is telling these same stories to a new audience. These photos, imprinted with human warmth and normality, speak to the modern viewer of moments captured, never to be returned and somehow fill the soul with warmth. It’s completely natural that a photographer with such insight into the human soul as Natela Grigalashvili should emerge from the country of Revaz Inanishvili, Goderdzi Chokheli and Tengiz Mirzashvili. With her own camera, she faithfully follows in their footsteps and is herself constantly moved by human joy and sorrow. 

The exhibition that is ongoing at Villa Wessel Museum in Iserlohn, which was made possible by the initiative and endless assistance of German colleagues, will, over the next two months, give even more people a taste of Georgian contemporary art. I hope that this will give birth to further links and projects that will further strengthen and diversify this important relationship.



Main photo: Natela Iankoshvili - Autumn. 1979

17 October 2018 22:14