INTERVIEW: Levan Tsutskiridze on Creation & Inspiration

GEORGIA TODAY, together with BI Auction for Art, is introducing a regular monthly feature about famous Georgian painters.

Meet Levan Tsutskiridze, Georgian artist, painter, monumentalist, and illustrator. Expressive, tender, and enigmatic, his admiration for Georgian literature and poetry is deeply rooted in his works, especially in his monumental art.

Tsutskiridze entered the Georgian artistic scene at the end of the 1950s with a unique artistic taste and style formed and influenced by prominent Georgian painters David Kakabadze and Sergo Kobuladze, the latter being his teacher at the Academy of Arts in Tbilisi.

Tsutskiridze truly has an amazing, intense, artistic biography. His works have been exhibited worldwide through the years- in Tbilisi, Moscow, Belgium, Luxemburg, Germany, Austria The Netherlands and the US.

Awarded with international prizes both for his book illustrations (Hans Christian Andersen Award in 1974) and for his works (prize winner of Bogliasco International Foundation in 2002) Tsutskiridze is undoubtedly the influencer himself who brought Georgian Arts to international acclaim.

Yet he is a standalone artist, famous, yes, but with no grandeur, as if he had never worked on some of Georgia’s most iconic cultural assets or imageries. Illustrations for Shota Rustaveli’s The Knight in the Panther’s Skin, Vazha-Pshavela’s works, Galaktion Tabidze’s poetry, and painting the Sioni Cathedral frescoes… all of them gained familiarity through the prism of his talent.

Even now, at 90 years of age, his artistic spirit is still young, as his grandson told us before the interview. When you talk to him in his cozy apartment, surrounded by his paintings, with his family around, you instantly feel wrapped in the charm, layers and layers of wisdom, knowledge and talent of his persona. As his spouse Dali told us, Levan’s major inspiration comes from music, poetry and literature, Vazha-Pshavela, being one of his favourites.

GEORGIA TODAY spoke to Levan Tsutskiridze.

Which is more interesting- the process of creation or the final result?

I usually work long and hard, but when I start, I never like the sketch. Then slowly the work forms and gains character. Generally, it’s both the process and the final result that is pleasurable, if you get to the end of it of course.

Many of your works relate to book illustrations. Do you think the art of illustration has lost popularity?

I guess the epoque itself has changed, the time is different… Maybe younger artists are in search of new ways to express themselves.

What inspires you most when you work?

I’m from a beautiful village in Imereti and it has always been an inspiration for me. It still is, even now. It gave me everything, all through my childhood and youth. Monumental painting, classical painting, the art of Renaissance, and Georgian frescoes; they are all very important to me. I think it is the highest representation of art, and art at its best. Sculpture, impressionism - I greatly admire it all and it defined me as a painter in many ways.

How did you end up doing the frescoes for Sioni Cathedral in Tbilisi?

The Patriarch of Georgia Ilia II invited many of us painters and monumentalists to meet with him. He said he wanted the Sioni frescoes to be done, and asked who would want to work on it. Everyone pointed at me, probably because from the first year of my studies at the Academy of Arts in Tbilisi, my passion for monumental art was known amongst my colleagues.

How do you think time and environment affect an artist?

It is a huge factor, of course. Everything that happens around an artist influences his works. Today, unfortunately, people do not have time for art.

What do you do in your free time, when not working?

I love to read, and I love to write. I often put down my thoughts on paper, as I did for this book [shows me a beautiful book that his family published], which introduces a system of learning the art of painting through Geometric constructions.

Which artists influenced you as a painter?

Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Masaccio, Giotto. I saw Velazquez’s works in Spain… I couldn’t stop looking for hours; I was truly mesmerized And, of course, I loved books- they helped me to enrich my fantasy and inspired me in choosing the themes I worked on in my paintings.

What is your advice for young artists?

Education and lots of practise to master the skill!

Nino Gugunishvili

13 October 2016 19:46