People’s Artist of Russia, Active member of Russian Academy of Arts, Laureate of I. Repin State Prize
There exists no art without miracle. I have hardly ever noticed this precious thing in my own graphic art, except of a couple of times in some drawings maybe. But I have always felt on top of the world when I have met miracles in other artists’ paintings or graphic works or other kinds of art. This cheerfulness only grows when you meet an artist of your time. It often so happens that we live very close to people of that kind not having even a slightest idea of that.
Here it is the meeting!
It happened on a wet cold autumn day in my flat in Podolsk. The bell rang and I opened the door. There he was standing — a tanned, well-built and not very tall man in his early forties carrying a meter long folder. He was looking at me calmly with a shy smile.
— My name is Guram Dolendzhashvili, — his answer to my question was. — I would like to show you my works.
Feeling my hardly, if at all, hidden embarrassment he explained that we knew each other as our works had been published in Gaphics-77 annual magazine issued in the USSR.
I recollect: an artist from Georgia, Sanitary Day, Belomorie series. An unusual motif solution stuck to my memory. All inhabitants of a small northern town are busy laundering. The author takes a look at it from the highest point as if through a bird’s eye. This allows him to expressively show a lot of scenes and people occupied with a common business. A humoristic coating could by no means lower the artistic value of this pen work. Somebody sometime might have already applied this plastic vision technique but I have seen it for the first time and envied the author’s skill.
We found a suitable place in a small room. The author of the works and the owner of the folder slowly and with a visible anxiety opened it. And I saw graphic sheets from Tchukotka series. I personally have never created such a big etching. “How easily he coped with engraving and bite of the etching!” — I thought. But when I saw pencil drawings I had a feeling that could be expressed in the following words “It is impossible!”.
My excitement could surprise somebody. Great many techniques in etching, and in stroke manner especially, have been tried and brought to perfection in my studio. A lot of techniques have been used in my pencil works, which I devoted many years of my life to. Long experience allowed me to write an article What a Pencil Can for Yuny Khoudozhnik (Young Artist) magazine. It is also mentioned there that with a pencil, hard and sharp especially, you can draw in dots so that your work will look like velvet with different tonal depth. Sometimes this surface seemed to resemble a photograph and I was afraid to hear the viewers’ reaction, those of artistic sphere in particular. As there is nothing more insulting than to hear that your drawing looks like a photo.
What I saw in Guram’s drawings let me speak about a super new artistic manner. I understood that this master worked in his cosy studio to bring his creative aims to life and not to show off or follow modern “trends”, the essence of which was to attract the viewer’s, or better say, customer’s, attention to your works by thinking over crafty ways of design and work.
This disease and huge misfortune of our native and other arts seemed to pass Guram over… His physical state of a beautiful Georgia’s inhabitant and his passion for traveling around northern parts of Russia, not around tropical countries, formed a unique outlook that could be expressed only in that manner and technique which I was admiring now.
It was an unforgettable experience for my eyes, soul and heart to hold etchings and drawings of a large-print format, examples of a remarkable talent. And their author, extremely excited and proud for each sheet we looked at, stood beside explaining in a low voice that in this part of the drawing dotted treatment of the surface was not yet finished, initial strokes were seen somewhere, desirable texture of fluffy snow with velvet surface was not yet achieved…
I was delighted and astonished at how it all was designed, seen and reproduced.
At that moment I did not think yet that the etching and drawing I was looking at belonged to as if two authors. This belief went on growing. The artist’s emotions are so acute and various that he addresses philosophical topics, the most difficult problems in human and nature lives, the brightest and clearest lyrics in Georgia’s everyday landscapes and still life. Guram is a brave and staunch justice seeker and frontline fighter. He clearly and persistently keeps showing the viewer his life and creative stance, his thoughts and doubts. With an exact language of etching he tries to express all dark and tragic that there is in our life and enlighten it with kindness and love.
The diversity of topics the artist touches upon is amazing. He creates series of, as a rule, three sheets of large-printed format in etching, stroke and deep saturated bite technique. Warning; The World Has Been Created for Centuries, the War will Destroy it in a Blink; For Intellect and Freedom; Alarm Bell; Comet. In my opinion there is more talent and brightness in works on the topics he found while traveling around the White Sea, Arctic, the Lena River, Tchukotka, and Far East. What forced an artist from a sunny Georgia to set off for vast lands of Russia’s kingdom of cold? “When I was little I liked Jack London. Romantic atmosphere of his works might have given me a thought that all real things are achieved through hardship. That is why I went canoeing to cold sea together with Eskimos to hunt walruses and whales. I took risks just like they did. I went down an active volcano crater in Kamchatka”.
The artist has a gripping ability to see and feel the infinity of the sky, to reveal the world of hardly seen small objects and to combine those feelings into the image he has in his mind. A walrus or a polar bear bone in drawings turns then into the basis of compositions about Tchukotka, a bird market, whales or walruses’ cemetery, or endless world of birds and vast expanses of the ocean.
Somewhere there, in invisible worlds the artist discovers something that nobody could have seen or done before. Working extremely hard on each sheet of a drawing Guram creates really outstanding works of art.
It is not so easy to retell a motif from the moon series of drawings. And that is great! It is a sure sign of the precious quality of art, grand and true, presence in his works. A drawing is born from the delight in white snow, its eternity, in dazzling and mysterious moonlight. You cannot see the idea, the motif of the work at once. But when you finally capture it you are convinced that this part of Guram’s art done in pencil may be much weightier than his etching series with clear implication.
- I understand beauty in connection with silence, conciseness, firmness and white-and-black spectrum, — Guram says. — In the 70-ies German Democratic Republic Minister for Culture Dr. Lotar Boltz wrote to me, “In its outer side art should be silent. I have seen a lot. I have seen Rembrandt’s Return of the Prodigal Son in Hermitage and I can say that it is the most silent work of art. But what passion and strength of a person’s mind there is behind this seeming silence!”
Guram understands that perfectly. He is a splendid master of silence beauty.
Dear reader! Maybe you will manage to learn what there is behind a trembling cloud come down on a snowy landscape of a moon night in Imeretia (Imeretia Moon Nights series, # 4). The moon is not seen, but all space on both sides of the brook with queer snowdrifts wallows in shining whiteness. The brook with spots of glittering splashes calls you from the front part of the drawing deeper inside it. Take a short rest. And then a cloud of odd, fantastic forms and contours invites you further to the dazzling whiteness, closer to the moon. Something indescribable is surely happening there. The author might know everything about it, but being of a reserved and wise Georgian character does not want to disturb you and deprive you of the charm of invigorative, extremely sonorous, and exceptionally bright silence. This feeling of joyful perception is intensified by perfectly portrayed snow hummocks and hillocks, fence pegs with a small gate in the water and branches of the trees in some transparent sorrow. The author loves queer, streamy shadows of the world of objects. And an incredible thing — in all these restless surroundings a lonely house and a stack of hay can be seen in the distance, somewhere at the skyline… This work presents all talent of the artist, all his feelings expressed in a high artistic performance to the viewers’ evaluation. What I mean here is a unique ability of the author to see life in pictures. No matter what landscape or object, be it a small snow-covered bush, a cloud or a snow panorama, gave an impulse to his pencil work it would surely become a picture in Guram’s telling original treatment. The artist arranges the motifs, finds solutions to the topics he has in mind in a prominent, powerful, monumental way transforming everything with the silver of his beloved pencil into the most beautiful lights and darks and silent sounds of music.
He managed to hear the delicate music of silence and magnificently reproduce the texture of snow with the help of an unseen moon light in a monumental composition of such an ordinary drawing as a snow-covered alley of old trees (My Native Land, Winter of Imeretia, series, #13, 1997-1998). And the most unbelievable thing — there is no sky with usual fabulous clouds, but there is a strong feeling of it! How expressive the plastic of a sheet is!
Two thirds of the drawing surface are occupied with a thick grey snow mass. Falling flakes of snow flash here and there on this background. And the track of a passed bullock-cart streams and shimmers like a smart string of pearl beads.
This shimmering light leads you not very far away but to the world of tangles of branches and fluffy snow caps. It is already a huge diamond in a thick grey silver snow setting.
That is what can be said about the two drawings in a couple of words. And more than two hundred works were displayed at a recent exhibition in Moscow. Each sheet took more than a month of hard work in a dotted manner plus creative effort to find a theme. Moreover, huge work had been done in the sphere of etching. The artist’s toil is felt in every element of the drawing, in the texture reproduction, in lights and darks and, of course, in sizes. For example, a lot of people, and even artists, take clouds as something fickle and ephemeral. In Guram’s view they are sculptural constructions. He seems to hold them in his hands and bring them from the sky closer to the earth. With pencil dots he treats them until they become perceptible and odd-contoured.
I do not think I can recollect such a unity of space life of clouds, moon and sun light and life of flora, human beings and the artist’s adorable winter either from the history or from our contemporaries’ works. The artist shows a new vision of realism, which, owing to him, is sure to prosper! The artist has been trying to achieve this for many years of his beloved and anguished work. While familiarizing with some of his creative fulfillments in etching and drawing I thought that this man did not seem to have anything more in his life apart from difficult and dangerous expeditions around endless northern and eastern areas of Russia, his native Caucasus, work at his creative country house in Tcheluskinskaya. Now when I look at him with admiration I see a man with no signs of haughtiness but with visible majesty and modesty at the same time. I still cannot make out how he managed to create this diverse and great art in graphics. No doubt, the source of his physical and spiritual power has always been his original talent with features of a Georgian outlook. And ahead there is such a long life with such long roads and huge work awaiting him.
Good luck and good health to you, Guram!