Meeting with Irakli Avalishvili

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Tbilisi, January 2019'

On 23 January, at the Institute's office located on the IV floor of III building of Georgian public broadcaster (1st channel), Mattia Baldoni, Gabriele Rota and Tommaso de Vivo, had a meeting with Irakli Avalishvili, physicist and talented painter as well as Tommaso's close friend.

Tommaso presented Irakli as a physicist and painter. Irakly replied this presentation telling that his main interest is by now art, thus if the Institute's members cannot tell at the moment of the writing of the report, how Irakli eventually argumented this shift of his current interests, of whether he just felt himself more comfortable talking with Mattia, Gabriele and Tommaso about art, rather than about science.

Irakli looked around, addressing his glance towards the white walls of the office, and Tommaso took the opportunity to asking him what he thought about them.

Indeed, Irakli was present during the first installation of the Institute at this office, since when it was in bad state, with the walls sprinkled with screws and cartons placed therein in order to soundproof the room, and holes and moisture spots.

Irakli was present in that very first moment, and he provided Tommaso with the help of Alek ...., in turn painter, who helped Tommaso with the renovation of the office in a first moment. Indeed, Tommaso did not delegated completely such renovation, but (as he could) participated with it and now he was proud to showing the results to everybody.

Also, Irakli told something about Alek, the painter (as well as master) who participated and started the renovation work, which once more who now is writing cannot precisely remember.

In his turn, Tommaso pointed out that the general condition of the office, was now "not perfect, but much better" than the initial condition, and he ascribed, indeed, all the imperfections and the amateurish elements of the work, to his own participation.

Irakli looked around a bit more and asked about a print of a painting behind Tommaso's shoulders, and ... Tommaso laughed, having misunderstood the reference of Irakli's interest, to something else. When he realized that he was referring to the printed painting posted on the bulletin board of the classroom, he explained to Irakli that it was a work by a painter living behind the parliament, on the street which ascends from Ingorvoka st., who makes nice, but a bit childish paintings.

Irakli at first did not understand this word, which Tommaso repeated several times, then Tommaso tried to express the concept: these paintings tends to be all "bi-dimensional", they don't have, by definition, a great depth, and so on. At the same time Gabriele tried to use -- with his linguistic sensibility -- other synonyms to express the same word, and likely Irakly understood.

Also, Tommaso presented, or tried to do so, the art of Irakli himself to Mattia and Gabriele, telling that in his opinion his paintings are "really wonderful", and that they have a visionary and dreamlike character, which is very difficult to achieve.

Here, he would add that a visionary and dreamlike character is so difficult to paint precisely because you are prevented to observe it, and because it is undefined by definition: precisely like dreams are.

Then Irakli added that somebody else defined his art ... something that once more who write cannot remind whilst writing down this report, and then he added, with regard to that definition received by somebody else, that in the classic times there were all the styles nowadays considered modern, and he formulated a fairly precise list. [ask to Irakli to remind about it]

Of course that statement was interesting and all of them, Tommaso and Gabriele and Mattia wrote it down in their minds.

Then Irakli started to talk about his sons, Koka and Niko, who also demonstrated a similar, and possibly even greater, talent for art. He presented the first as being very rational and “realist” in his works, while the other, Niko, in Irakli words, is “pure talent”.

Then Irakli did a statement extremely nice and in a way paradigmatic. He said that his own art is in the middle between that of Kaka, and Niko. (his sons)

In other words he explained something that, supposedly, comes first, through something which came later, overturning the usual way of reasoning a showing a deep and admirable respect for his own sons.

Indeed, Tommaso since the beginning presented Irakli to Mattia and Gabriele as somebody to be known namely for his family and his personal history. Besides being (theoretical) physicist and painter, even if objectively his art achieves a greater level of completeness in the first case rather than in the second, he has also been war veteran, and has an high number of children, all different and recently entered in the adult age, with whom he lives as an older brother, rather than as a "father", and sharing with them, probably as a peer, the loss of his wife and children's' mother, occurred several years before.

Tommaso, being aware of the richness of this family, and recognizing a certain similarity between Mattia and Niko, had the intention to let the one get acquainted with the other [or: "to make one another known], as one can find in <a href="" rel="noopener" target="_blank">this history</a>, which had precisely this presupposition.

Who now is writing and integrating such report has also to add that whilst Irakli and Tommaso were talking about the condition of the new office, there was a mention from Irakli regarding a quite big and interesting space, for which both had fairly long negotiations, which indeed was own by the "Georgian Afghan war veterans", or even more precisely (as Tommaso noted) "Union of Georgian Afghan war veterans".

When Irakli mentioned that space, informally named between the two as "Kommissariat", for being the old seat of a commissariat in the upper Sololaki area, Tommaso described it shortly to Mattia and Gabriele, as a space towards which they have interest as a headquarter for the Institute, and to be considered very useful and appropriate for the use during spring and summer (if not well heated during the winter), both for the position, being surrounded by the nature and at the same time located in the city's centre, and for its big size. (this considerations took place, conceivably before talking about art, as mentioned)

Following again the discourse focused on art, many elements of the conversation can indeed be traced back to the <a target="_blank" href="" rel="noopener" target="_blank">original summary</a> written down by Gabriele, with the difference, in the opinion of the writer, that the mention of his sons preceded, and did not follow, such a discourse.

Irakli associated from the beginning the realism in art with his son Koka, an approach for which indeed is necessary a specific preparation and "hard work", and a more unconstrained expression of one's artistic talent to his son Niko (a nickname for Nikoloz, while Nikoloz itself is a "placeholder", a "replacement", a substitute, for the official name, which is ...).

Irakli recognized an extraordinary talent for colors to his son Niko, who indeed preferred to deploy his talent, and to use his time, creating wooden accessories with artistic value, that is not renouncing the artisan and material aspect of art which at the moment, and probably due to his young age and education, he feels as necessary.

Irakli also mentioned something that Tommaso found very significant and in certain way new. He said to prefer himself painting landscapes and nature and eventually flowers, because nature is, almost by definition, a subject where the artist can find more freedom, and which is less saturated, in some way, of conventional "mannerisms", which on the other hand, in some way by definition characterize the human field.

In this sense, Irakli often says about himself to not being "a great portraitist", both in adherence to the statement above expressed, that is that he feels himself in the middle between the realism in art, and an unconstrained expression of one's talent, and because indeed being "a great portraitist" requires confronting oneself with the human sphere, or continuously, or as a requisite, and with all that is conventional, which indeed the dreaming soul of Irakli, does not refuse absolutely, but tends to avoid.

In other words, Irakli defines himself not "a great portraitist" partly for the kind of preparation (he did not have a rigorous artistic preparation, and he came to art instinctively or following biographical events) and partly as an aspiration, and for something indeed intimately connected to his art, which is not such as to be considered "worldly" ("mondana"), not something connected to "man", and his world, but rather as something evocative and imaginary related to, eventually, another world and, still eventually (except that his paintings are in some way lonely, deserts, as lacking of a known presence) -- other beings.

Irakli said that flowers represent, in his opinion, a subject where the absolute lack of artistic constraints almost converges, and in this view he mentioned the overwhelming artistic production on this subject of his son Niko (it is indeed correct the mention of his participation to an exhibition at the National library of Tbilisi, with 70 or 80 paintings on this subject).

To express this idea, the lack of constraints, of mannerism on that specific subject, Irakli used a specific expression, or he expressed the concept in turn in some unconventional way, but I who now write, at a certain distance from the event, cannot remind it precisely. Perhaps he used the word "format", to express the set of conventions related to a specific subject, or some other more significant word and expression, which indeed had the effect to awaken the attention of the interlocutors.

It is possible that, for his predilection for an artistic expression based on colours, he viewed to the flowers, as a subject at the same time place of election, almost of origin, of colours, and of the unconventional in art, a territory and a realm where the human sphere does not dare, or must not dare to intervene or influence: indeed one of the dominant traits of the character of Irakli is delicacy, which is perfectly conform to all this conception.

Whilst Irakli was doing such discourse, he was indeed sliding his long photographic gallery on his smart phone, showing in a first moment, as reported by Gabriele, his sons' paintings, and in a second moment his own paintings.

He therefore showed some hand-made art objects created by Niko, some Koka's painting (of which, however, Mattia will have had -- and he has at the moment of the writing of this story -- a better idea following a visit in the house of Irakli himself), he probably showed some Niko's paintings or drawing representing his artistic talent as painter (a path that indeed he regrets to him) and equally likely a painting which he sold for a discrete amount of money to a Turkish customer: Tommaso did not follow the discourse at this point because he was not interested to the commercial/promotional aspect of the artistic presentation, or he did not feel to be provided by Irakly with all the details which would have made this passage interesting. Perhaps the information of "time" and the "place" of the episode were missing, so that Tommaso was just non able to represent the related scene in the proper way.

Irakli also added that still his son Niko (upon which was focused a good part of the conversation) participated to a street market, with a stand for selling his artistic works. This time Tommaso was able to represent appropriately the scene, settled down in Rustaveli avenue, and asked how much these stands costed during the manifestation. Irakli answered that they costed 300 hundreds GEL for the entire duration of the manifestation, lasting 2 or 3 days, and Tommaso said that it appeared to be a great price, considering that in Europe, for similar activities, one has to invest amounts of money considerably greater. (then one asks himself why home-made products are so expensive, and the answer is that the prices have to cover the bad management of the municipality)

Then it is possible that Irakli showed some of his paintings from his smartphone's gallery. Among many beautiful and significant paintings he had, he showed one representing "Hillary Clinton" (or a figure which he presented as such) in front of the US's White House.

Irakli said to Mattia and Gabriele that Tommaso did, regarding that painting, an observation quite interesting, that is that the subject of the scene ("Hillary") was a little "flat" and lacked of some depth that on observer would expect. Irakli appeared to agree with this information, even if (obviously) to take the subsequent measures requires additional work, and the preparation of an "art studio" which Irakli did not have yet ready at the moment.

Besides that, Tommaso admired of this painting the enthusiastic and elevated look of "Hillary" (the subject of the painting, or the human figure of the painting), and he thought that whatever person will be very gratified of being painted with such look ("sguardo") and that often, elapsed the times of youth, when you cannot distinguish the dreaming upon the world, from the world itself, such look is replaced by something much more pragmatic and "terrestrial", which at bottom does not honor man (and the woman).

Tommaso also said that the dress of "Hillary", in this picture, reminded the dresses of some Bronzino's painting, very elaborated and complex.

Then, it is possible that there was some other mentions to artists. Tommaso, probably in a first time of the conversation (when Irakli was talking about the different styles in art, and about his own style) mentioned Francis Bacon, as an artist to be regarded. (and he described his style shortly)

Then, still in accordance with the report written down by Gabriele, Irakli addressed to Gabriele and Mattia asking more about themselves, and actually about their city of origin. Mattia answered, as always "from a village besides Perugia", and Gabriele as always answered "from a village near Milan" (in the latter case giving a sense of proximity to a famous Italian metropolis of international value).

When Irakli heard the word "Perugia" he had a lightning and told something like "Perugin..." (premised by something that I don't remember) and when Tommaso heard the word "perugin" he laughed perhaps a little inappropriately for the second time thinking to the chocolate producer (for which Perugia is indeed also famous).

But the wise Irakli was indeed referring to Pietro Vannucci called "perugino", as also reported by Gabriele, and following, probably, as also mentioned, he talked about "his school memories" and "other Renaissance Italian artist".

It is possible than then Tommaso asked if he was remembering some other Italian artist, and then Irakli did a note about memory of great interest and acumen.

It was about the different kind of memories, that one can have, and the fact that one's memory is naturally addressed to very specific subjects. But of this note I cannot remind more, and whatever element I would add would be totally arbitrary and not conform to the facts or to the ideas and intention of Irakli, so that I can rightly abstain of striving more.

At the end of the meeting -- during which Irakli, in his beautiful and consistent figure, remained well wrapped in his clothes, because the office was oddly cold -- Irakli stood up with the plan to head to an exhibition (fixed at 17.00 in the city centre) and Tommaso went behind him.

Tommaso, that day, had the soul engaged in some other important task, so, while he was walking with him in direction of the bus stop of Dolidze st., his attention was captured by different and remote things, and he was not able to thank appropriately Iralki Aivalishvili when he went away, or eventually to follow him.