MAMUKA DIDEBA T H E M A G I C O F I M A G I N AT I O N
MAMUKA DIDEBASHVILI T H E M A G I C O F I M A G I N AT I O N
Foreword by Katrine Levin
The Magic of Imagination by Irene Kukota
Katrine Levin Gallery
FOREWORD Katrine Levin, founder Katrine Levin Galleries
The art of Mamuka “Dideba” Didebashvili, who is dubbed “Georgia’s Bruegel”, is a unique expression of the wonder, subtle humour, and the often surreal and warm philosophical outlook that is quintessential of the small but wondrous country of Georgia. A rare master of the figurative and the abstract, Dideba paints in exquisite Renaissance imprimatura technique that lights up the canvas from within. This process requires enormous skill and patience and is the same technique used by Leonardo da Vinci. Inspired by the Old Masters, Dideba creates nuanced characters who seem to walk off the canvas while remaining fixed in their own world, at an indeterminate time and place. Dideba completes a painting only when he senses the figure is alive, as if about to start a conversation. You can almost sense the touch of wine on the Sommelier’s lips or feel the wrinkles on the Gladiator’s face. Altering the figure away from classical proportions, he highlights the essential character. Yet all of his characters have one irresistible thing in common: no matter whether serious, playful or surreal, from the Sommelier to the Gladiator to the Soap Bubble Seller, his characters are kind. Their unconventional forms convey their essence with gentle humour and dignity.
My chief goal is to transform the mundane and the realistic into something special and elevated. Dideba alternates between figurative and abstracted works, each of which taps into a different part of him. Of his abstracted paintings, he says that they are a practice in “absolute freedom”. There, he creates an enchanting melody of colour that lures us inside a richly contemplative world. Dideba lives and works in Georgia, an ancient land of inspiration and artistic mastery. Born in 1968 in Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, Dideba studied at the prestigious Nikoladze School of Art and the Tbilisi State Art Academy. Widely exhibited internationally, Dideba’s first solo exhibition in London was with Katrine Levin Galleries at Shapero Modern in Mayfair, in 2019.
THE MAGIC OF IMAGINATION
By Irene Kukota (Art journalist and contributor to The Art Newspaper and Russian Art & Culture)
Each artist is a universe in his or her own right. Like magicians, artists conjure up whole new realms and make them visible. Some of these realms are the utmost delight to explore! This can be undoubtedly said of the Magical Worlds of Mamuka Dideba (Didebashvili) and the characters who dwell there: engaging, determined, quixotic, stern or serene, occasionally pompous, they nevertheless remain playful, naïve and somewhat childlike. The artist’s fantastic world is inhabited by multiple eccentric characters, such as wandering vagabonds, philosophers, warriors, revellers, jesters, house-keepers and all possible human types represented with love and gentle humour. Sometimes they may even invite you to join their feast of Georgian wine and home-made cheese. Even though life-like, they are generalisations, an artist’s meditation on the human condition and human character. As Dideba himself points out, “I strive to present them in such a way, so that their essential character could be glimpsed from hints at their occupation and descent. I also display their personal accessories, because they are informative and add to our ability to understand and interpret the characters.”
When looking at Dideba’s figurative compositions and portraits, one cannot fail but notice his intrinsic connection with the Renaissance, both Italian and Northern. His Sommelier (2016) is as regal as Bronzino’s Cosimo di Medici or Quentin Matsys’ Portrait of an Old Man. A double portrait of husband and wife is iconografically related to the famous Uffizi diptych of Federico da Montefeltro and Battista Sforza by Piero della Francesca. While the female image of the Key Keeper (2015) is reminiscent of Rogier van Weyden portraits or of some 17th century Flemish genre scenes, his Water Seller (2015) almost directly points to the bodegon by Velasquez of the same title. His Old Warrior (2015) is introspective and contemplative, while the Gladiator (2018) turning towards the viewer has something Brueghelesque in his features and bearing (it is not by chance that Dideba was dubbed “Georgia’s Breughel”). And the artist’s Self-Portrait (2014) somehow reminds one of Pontormo’s Castiglione.
We may infinitely continue this intellectual game and keep on finding more and more art-historical parallels and prototypes, without establishing any direct source. No work of Dideba’s is an imitation of the Renaissance portraiture, but a visual synthesis, supplied by memory. The Tbilisi-born artist must have also been inspired by everyday scenes from Georgian life. Although pointing to the Renaissance, Dideba’s paintings possess an unmistakeably Georgian quality: cheerful, philosophical and celebrating life. These visions, memories and impressions have been transformed and elevated by the artist’s imagination. As he once himself acknowledged, “my chief goal is to transform the mundane and the realistic into something special and elevated”. As a result, each painting turns into something mythical, monumental and replete with visual allusions. Dideba does appropriate visual idioms of the Renaissance and Early Baroque art, but he also displays extreme technical mastery in adapting the imprimatura, a multi-layer Renaissance technique, requiring skill, patience and knowledge of pigment properties, to his artistic and expressive purposes. Dideba displays same mastery in his non- figurative compositions to an astonishing effect. His geometrically and colouristically complex abstractions take on new contemplative and expressive dimensions. The painterly surface radiates light, adding to the mysteriousness, emotion and depth of the artwork, as can be seen in the Autumn Prelude (Night), (2017). Being so steeped in the history of art and Georgian culture, Dideba is, nevertheless, no stranger to present-day life and contemporary
culture. His works are capable of stirring a completely different set of visual associations in European viewers: with all their painstaking technique and elaborate finish, they may surprisingly resemble of Grant Wood paintings! Think American Gothic (1931) or Parson Weem’s Fable (1939): similar proportions, facial expressions and a comparable deal of eccentricity! We would probably leave it here, encouraging you to enjoy the works and make up your own mind.
Mamuka Dideba’s first solo London exhibition, titled The Magical Worlds of Mamuka Dideba was organised by Katrine Levin Galleries at Shapero Rare Books Gallery, 32 St George St, Mayfair, London W1S 2EA, in June 2019.
SOMMEL IER 2016
Oi l on canvas 127 x 71cm
SOAP BUBBLE SELLER 2019
Oi l on canvas 125 x 80cm
Oi l on canvas 68 x 55cm
EVENING MELODY 2018
Oi l on canvas 1 12 x 105cm
INVISIBLE CITIES 2018
Oi l on canvas 1 10 x 105cm
THE DEAL 2016
Oi l on canvas 150 x 100cm
OLD WARRIOR 2018
Oi l on canvas 82 x 59cm
TRIUMPHANT 2014 Oi l on canvas 104 x 56cm
CHEESE AND WINE 2016
Oi l on canvas 130 x 80cm
THE MISSION 2015 Oi l on canvas 122 x 82cm
Oi l on canvas 104 x 64cm
Autumn Pre l ude ser i es , captur i ng l i ght at d i f ferent t imes of the day
AUTUMN PRELUDE - MORNING 2017 OI L ON CANVAS 1 10 X 105CM
AUTUMN PRELUDE - AFTERNOON 2017 OI L ON CANVAS 1 10 X 105CM
AUTUMN PRELUDE - EVENING 2017 OI L ON CANVAS 1 10 X 105CM
AUTUMN PRELUDE - NIGHT 2017 OI L ON CANVAS 1 10 X 105CM
EXTRAORDINARY ARTISTS FROM PLACES LESS EXPLORED
Katrine Levin Galleries is not a place, it is a destination to experience extraordinary contemporary art from places less explored. Our promise is art and beyond. In our pursuit of unique masters, we immerse ourselves into their cultures, intimate stories, and places that inspired and informed their art. Katrine commits long-term to a small selection of masters of diverse styles. Her focus is on art of enduring value that brings joy through originality, inspiration, and depth. We believe that such artists are rare. It is our privilege to discover and share with you their art and beyond, currently in Southwest China and Georgia.
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Born as Mamuka Didebashvili in 1968 in Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, Dideba studied at the prestigious Nikoladze School of Art and the Tbilisi State Art Academy. In the interim between Art School and Academy, at a time when Georgia was still a republic of the former Soviet Union, he was drafted and served with the elite airborne Special Forces unit in Afghanistan, charged with rescue missions. His life is incredible not only in that he survived, but that he returned to art, creating works filled with light and warmth, and indestructible Georgian optimism and joie de vivre. Widely collected internationally, Dideba’s first solo exhibition in London was with Katrine Levin Galleries at Shapero Modern in Mayfair, in 2019. His works may be found in private collections across Georgia, Turkey, UK, Germany, Israel, France, Italy, Spain, Canada and the USA.
Cover image: The Deal 2016 Oil on canvas, 150 x 100cm
Graphic design: Martina Poiana
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reprinted or reproduced in any form or by any means, without prior written permission from Katrine Levin Galleries
Ka t r i ne Lev i n Ga l l e r i e s www.katrinelevin.com
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