A Perfect Match: TBC Bank and International Festival for Painters

On May 18-28, the non-governmental organization ‘Voice from Georgia’, with the support of the Georgian Ministry of Culture, Mtskheta Municipality, TBC Bank and Chateau Mukhrani, held the 4th international painting festival ‘Paint for Georgia’ in the historical town of Mtskheta. Fourteen painters from different countries participated, making it once again an international event. The festival aims to promote and spread culture. Lucky for Georgia, TBC Bank is involved in the promotion of quite a number of cultural events, as culture is a priority for the bank. The painting festival was one of its most recent successful projects.

The final exhibitions and events took place on the 26th of May in Mtskheta, the ancient capital of Georgia, near the main cathedral, Svetitskhoveli. The following day, the final exhibition took place at the National Library of Georgia in Tbilisi.

This is the fourth time the festival has been held. The organizers claim that this event is equally important both for Mtskheta and rest of the country. The festival’s reputation has increased abroad, as the number of participating artists grows and international coverage of ‘Paint for Georgia’ increases on the websites of famous foreign artists.

This year, artists from Canada, England, the Netherlands, Australia, Japan, South Korea, Poland, Iran, India, Syria and Georgia (17 in total) took part in the festival. For ten days, fourteen famous foreign painters worked alongside three Georgian painters, who created large format (1.5 m X 1 m) artwork. As per tradition, the festival was widely covered by the media. The painters also held master classes for different age groups.

The goal of the festival is to highlight Georgia as the region’s cultural hub, as well as its challenges, the role of art in the social life in general, and Georgia’s unique culture and wine as an inseparable part of our identity.

GEOGRIA TODAY had a chance to interview Colleen Kerr, an experienced Canadian painter who remained in Georgia longer than other participants in the festival. Colleen learned about the festival when she read a social media post about it written by her acquaintance, who had already taken part in ‘Paint for Georgia’. Colleen’s colleague praised Georgia and the project, and encouraged other artists to also participate in the festival. Colleen applied and was an immediate success. “I first came two years ago. It was all so new then. I had met a Georgian woman in Victoria and she told me a lot about Georgia. It is so very different from where I come from, but very beautiful.”

Georgia proved to be full of fresh emotions and impressions for her. Colleen’s first most vibrant inspiration was the Argonauts. The second visit drew her to Georgia even more, as she became more aware of the life of the country, its painful recent history and much more.

“The residency program was very good. The organizers made everyone feel very welcome. I’m very grateful,” Colleen said. The agenda also included tours around the country. However, during the working process, the painters were not obliged to paint any particular subjects. Quite the opposite: they were encouraged to explore all ideas and styles.

Colleen sees Georgia as a country of great joy and sorrow, which has a resilient culture. In her paintings there is abstraction as well as concrete form. Georgian architecture − first and foremost, TBC Bank’s historic building, which is a cultural heritage monument − the grapes, as the ancient wine culture and the color of the sky, have had an impact on her. “Thanks to TBC Bank, we went to Chateau Mukhrani and learned more about Georgian wine, the landscape and history. Everything from going to buy tomatoes to listening to history can inspire me.”

Colleen’s favorite thing is story-telling through art. Had not she been a painter, she would be a writer, she said. Symbolically, she sees and elaborates objects into her prism that are not necessarily similar. She is more inclined to tell a story, which makes her persona and creativity even more nuanced. “The Georgian project has changed my art, made it freer. I was so full [of inspiration] that I couldn’t stop painting even after going home!”

GEORGIA TODAY also interviewed Giorgi Tabliashvili, the festival organizer: “We think it a very important project, with real potential for the future because, in this way, we can bring many famous foreign artists to Georgia whose lives and art will then be connected with Georgia. Therefore, it is essential not only for art, but also for the country.”

The foreign painters are like ambassadors to Georgian culture. An example of this can be seen in one of Colleen Kerr’s paintings which will remain in the TBC Bank Gallery. Others will join private collections or hang in galleries. Colleen is also determined to come back to Georgia as a tourist. So, a thousand thanks to the organizers and participants, and congratulations, Georgia!

Maka Lomadze

02 June 2016 20:09