"Stories mainly come themselves. I do not see them, but my body feels that something has already ripened – when this feeling makes me fidgety, I go to a blank piece of paper and start drawing. Then, at the paper, my heart prompts me what lines to draw and in which way to draw them."The paintings and drawings with which Gela Jincharadze enlivens his stories are created on the floor of a narrow 16th floor apartment in Kvemo Ponichala: "You will have noticed that children like to sit on the floor to play. I somehow failed to get used to painting on an easel – my hand shakes when I try to draw on it, while I can fix [a picture] on the floor better. It is not a whim, but it is easier for me to draw on the floor."
Gela Jincharadze is a self-educated painter – a real artist, full of stories with an unusual biography and an even more unusual intellect and sense of humor. The dramatic life of Gela may remind you of those stories surrounding several great artists; his works too would remind you of some of the masterpieces that can be seen in famous galleries. You try to remember where else you have seen works of such emotion, those conveying similar pain or works similarly bright and sunny – parallels with other works emerge naturally; however, once they are seen, you will never confuse Gela's works, his signature, with those of other artists. He is a genuine, unique artist.
"I do not remember how I started drawing. It happened in my early childhood. My first exhibition was in the hall of a kindergarten; then another at school, and so it continued.
"As regards choosing painting as my main occupation in life, that happened stage by stage: some year and a half ago, I entered the third stage – I felt bad physically, it was difficult for me to swallow, to breathe, I thought I was about to die. I have never experienced a shortage of fantasy, but it was my body that failed, as if it was telling me: 'can't you see? I am dying whilst you are forcing me to paint.' That was the moment when I pondered whether painting was my life or just a temporary phenomenon. Although I have other things to do, I feel that I cannot give up painting."
As regards his biography, at various times Gela worked as a journalist and was the editor-in-chief of the Iveria newspaper. After graduating school, he entered medical university, but dropped out after the third year because of mental problems. Gela never shuns speaking about that:
"It started because of poverty. Poverty made me ill. My friend told me the other day that one can hardly find a normal, sane person nowadays. I responded that I am neither normal nor abnormal – I am paranormal. Let everyone understand that as they wish."In the 1920s, when the United States was struck by poverty, they labelled that period using a psychiatric term – the Great Depression. Poverty can cause heavy depression in people. Although there is another extreme – children of millionaires also kill themselves. [Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia] Ilia II once said in a sermon: 'do not put up with poverty.'
"There were other factors aside from poverty. Watching the society around me, I had a feeling that society was living by itself, while I was living by myself – I did not have a sense of being a useful part of my country and felt estranged. That was painful for me. I now understand that that was all imagined; that society was deceiving itself that they were all doing a great job. Thank god I have lived to see the demise [of the Soviet Union]. The interesting thing now is to see how the current society will handle the same problem. It is regretful that the majority of people can live for an indefinitely long period with false nourishment, even without god – they will have money, jobs too, but will not have the main thing and there will again be spiritual emptiness.
"Sufism has a notion which can be translated as instilled ideas; ideas which we are instilled from birth. Of course, each and every such idea implies either a prohibition or an obligation. In principle, an obligation can also be a prohibition of personal freedom if it is a coerced and not a conscientious obligation. In short, various strata of society separately try to instill these ideas in you simultaneously – law enforcement bodies, the street, the Church, school teachers, your mother and father – this is a disaster, everyone tries to lure you into their slavery. No one teaches you freedom. A child who finds
him/herself in this huge misunderstanding, one who is sensitive and most vulnerable to injustice, gets broken apart bit by bit. Once, I counted eight Gelas and understood once again that things went wrong – I have heard about double agents, Mata Hari was said to have even been a triple agent, Lilya Brik too, but I have never heard of eight souls. But I understand that I am not an exception."
The drive towards freedom is so strong in him that in response to my question whether he regrets not undertaking academic schooling in painting, he replies:
"No, I am fed up with instructions from others; I went though that. I was doing well at school – once I did everything I was required to do, I understood that they were crushing me. Academic schooling is in itself a great achievement and is important, and the independence which one achieves [in painting] is, naturally, the result of the findings of those who went through it. But I am happy to be absolutely free, I draw what I want and have no restrictions."
His colleagues and those well aware of Gela's creative work often say that given his findings, the lightness of his graphic lines or the expressiveness of his paintings, one can say without exaggeration that he is a genius:
"That is something similar to when a woman is glad to hear others say that she is pretty. Every person likes praise. But come on, genius is too much. There are such great artists! For example, just recently I was browsing the Internet and discovered Egon Schiele – I am 47 years old and only discovered him now!
"Every soldier dreams of becoming a general, of course, but I am still at the level of a first year student at primary school and am in no hurry to move to the second year. In short, I am still drawing like a child.
"Osho once said that every woman giving birth to a child thinks that her child is Buddha. The feeling that you get when you go to a blank surface with nothing on it and make something of it, you give birth to something new that comes out of you, something which did not exist before you created it – this is happiness. It is an especially pleasant feeling if that something proves to be good – not depressing and heavy, but something beautiful, warm, joyous.
"There are people who like that. Often, absolutely strange people have come to like my painting so much that they contact me to tell me that. This is, perhaps, the sweetest feeling. And moreover, when someone in our poor country likes your paintings so much that he/she pays money earned with great toil to buy one; that is the peak of happiness.
"The impression that artists and poets are chosen ones is something which should be advantageous to me, but to tell the truth, they are no different from any other person."
Text is a very important element of his creative work. Gela feels words just as perfectly as he feels lines and colors. One can easily understand that from the titles of his works:
"It is said that everyone must write at least one book in their lifetime. I have told you about my entering the third stage – recently, I have been writing all the time and then tearing it up. I may create paintings like placards, with text on them. That happens by itself. You can see hieroglyphs on the majority of Chinese and Japanese paintings – they have either a poem, or a story inscribed on them, plus a painter's red seal. I understood that they did so because their heart prompted them to do so and I seem to be going in that same direction."
His drawing materials are usually not expensive. He often draws on used paper and construction materials:
If he had money, he would buy a two-storey house and arrange a studio on the second floor, and would travel around the world to make new discoveries. He has one more dream – to see his drawings as the heroes of animated cartoons:
"When I look at my drawings they seem to be ready for animation and I think that a film director could easily turn them into moving cartoon heroes and use them in various stories.
"As regards traveling, if anyone were to finance me, I would go to India with my friends. One of our friends has been living there, in Goa, for more than a year now. He is an ethnic Russian from Tbilisi – Oleg Gavrin, a cameraman. His mother died two years ago and he was left all alone. Within several months his 14 year old Rottweiler died too. So, he sold his apartment and made his dream since childhood come true – he moved to Goa. My arrival to see him would be an unexpected, pleasant surprise. He would be extremely glad about that. I would also travel to Ecuador. We also have friends there, two brothers – Wilson and Sandino Burbano – film directors. But most of all I am fond of the European Mediterranean coastline and Scandinavian fjords, though I would also gladly go alone to Antarctica to the first Georgian polar station - of course, I would take photo and video cameras and a notebook for sketches everywhere I went."