One can hardly imagine a modern country without sculptures. Sculptural compositions add not only aesthetic but also social dimension to an area, city, region. The image of a country or an epoch is, in the end, shaped by culture and artistic monuments.
Until the mid-Eighteenth Century, the visual arts in Georgia were considered a sacred pursuit – creative processes revolved around and evolved from strictly religious themes. In this regard, the Orthodox Christian canonicity played a pivotal role in aesthetic processes and the development of various techniques. Despite rich traditions in architecture and smaller plastic arts, sculpture “in the round” never flourished in Georgia because of religious restrictions. In classical terms, three-dimensional sculptural works either belong to the ancient period – uncovered at the Vani archaeological site – or are associated with Iakob Nikoladze – the European school beginning at the end of the Nineteenth Century.
The modern history of three dimensional sculpture in Georgia starts with the art of Soviet Georgia – Socialist Realism. Many genuine examples – assorted interpretations of historical heroes or ethnographic-poetic themes, various portraits of public figures and countless ideological monuments – today stand as grotesque reminders of the past epoch, its ideological failings and then aesthetic vacuum.
Modern Georgian sculpture, after numerous conspicuous mistakes, is finally developing with creation of a new, contemporary urban, public space. The most obvious and worthy example of this trend is the sculpture in Batumi created by Tamar Kvesitadze.
Tamar Kvesitadze is a sculptor in the best modern meaning of the word. She is an independent Georgian artist who is creating her own world through very hard work. The secret of her success lies in her uncompromised creativity and strong judgment. An architect by education, she started to make dolls in Tbilisi to make a living in the turbulent 1990s. She then left for the United States, where her work attracted the interest of art dealers and galleries. She clearly grasped the business of making unique dolls for collections and challenged elaborate Western technologies with individual methods of high artistic creativity. In childhood she had discovered an old French doll in a drawer of her beloved grandma and many years later the recollections of her childhood were reflected in the stylized, porcelain baby faces of her own dolls. Practical considerations prompted her at that time to create miniature features – it was much easier to remove a tiny head from the cast.
Each Tamar Kvesitadze doll was a microcosm of a whole world of childhood reminiscences. For six years, she created, exhibited and sold her dolls. Then she bid farewell to this sentimental genre. She began mulling over deeper, modern sculptural shapes and their dynamics, plasticity. At that very time she met Paata Sanaia - soon to become her artistic partner and now responsible for creating the complex mechanisms for her kinetic sculptures.
Tamar Kvesitadze manages her own artistic career. She is a successful world-class artist, with the bulk of her creative works shown outside Georgia. In 2000, together with Paata Sanaia, she founded TamaraStudio, a workshop in which she creates her art and which cooperates with various exhibition halls and large companies that produce limited series of her artistic works.
In 2007, Tamar Kvesitadze participated in the 52nd Venice Biennale as a representative of Georgia. There she displayed her moving sculptures with their elaborate mechanisms. It was at that time that her symbolic “Man and Woman” started its life cycle: a small-scale version of the composition was sold in Italy; then it was displayed at an exhibition in London; today, the seven-meter-high sculpture nicknamed “Ali and Nino” stands outdoors on the seashore boulevard of Batumi. It is not linearity but the sea that perhaps most perfectly suits this composition - figures of a man and a woman meeting and parting. This is not a literal illustration of “Ali and Nino: A Love Story” or any other literary work. Rather, this is one of the best monuments ever dedicated to any love story or abstract romance. The artist herself shies away from concrete associations and leaves room for spectators to interpret the work for themselves. Her sculpture is at once pure and erotically charged. If the earlier small-scale version looked somewhat like an animated amusement-park exhibit, the increased scale and impeccable technical performance of the Batumi sculpture adds significance to it. Slowly moving mysterious figures in an open space perfectly fit the modern urban or mental landscape and represent the best example of modern Georgian sculpture.
Future plans of the sculptor include new exhibitions and new works. Tamar Kvesitadze has been invited to various locales but she cautiously chooses a place and space where people can best become familiar with her artistic works. She has been invited to China but refrains from going yet; she knows that she must arrive there very famous – otherwise, it will be difficult for her to control piracy of her works.