Paata Merabishvili (b.1964) is a Moscow-based sculptor, painter, draftsman, and designer.
He is a member of both the Georgian Artists Union and the Moscow Union of Artists, an Honorary Member of the Russian Academy of Arts. He grew up in a family of the famous Georgian sculptors and painters, a celebrated dynasty that made a huge contribution to the art developments in the mid-20th and early 21st centuries.
Notions of classical and non-classical art are still present in modern culture and have influenced the landscape of the art scene at the turn of the 20th and 21st centuries. The art movements and trends previously pushed to the periphery by communist ideology are being redefined. At the same time, artists from academic backgrounds can take a new approach to their aesthetic tasks by using new media, innovative materials, and technological advances. Clearly, the tendency to exaggerate the individuality of artists as well as viewers is on the increase. Sculptors focus their attention and emotional experience on the conventional world. A new pictorial language and philosophy of art are being shaped. All these advances allow artists to preserve their highly imaginative ideas and not to subjugate their works to the constraints of salon art or conceptualism.
Art has always strived to immerse the viewer in the artistic space. Sculpture, for instance, "co-inhabits" in the same spatial environment with the human body, creating a certain aura around itself, influencing the viewer. It is common knowledge that the art of sculpture has undergone major transformations. New art forms evolved pushing the borders of plasticity to the limits and fusing various genres. Flexibility in embracing various themes and mediums is one of the manifestations of the artist's creative power. Sculpture going beyond a certain stylistic category shapes the very principle of creating and displaying the work and broadens the possibility of a dialogue with the viewer. All the changes taking place in the art of sculpture today affect how the viewer perceives it, interacts with it, and the language in which the artist and the viewer speak.
The world of the imagination is an important component of Paata Merabishvili's philosophical quest. His work almost always evades any one specific plot: the author expresses his attitude to phenomena and events through subtext and metaphor. Being in the same space with the viewer, his creations enter into a complex relationship with the environment and the individual.
By mastering all the sculptural techniques of antiquity, reinterpreting the imagery of ancient sculpture and the style of classical modelling, Paata Merabishvili has distinctly defined his creative development.
His oeuvre reveals the sculptor's ability to connect the present, past, and future; the transient and the eternal, the real and the surreal. Being fascinated by masterpieces of the ancient masters, the plasticity of African art and that of Aristide Maillol, the artist developed a modernist approach in his own creations. In terms of style, the master has always been close to Jacques Lipchitz, Alexander Archipenko, Ossip Zadkine, who paid particular attention to texture and laconic forms. These reverberations are clearly exemplified in such works as "The Hunter" (1992), "Dance" (1993), "Amazon" (2007), "The Gladiator" (2018).
Although Merabishvili's work is heavily influenced by modernism, his sculptures always use imagery inherent in the spatial construction of forms. The sculptor's creative solution to surfaces is particularly appealing, where the latter becomes a kind of dimension, a "text," containing information about the interaction between form and colour, line and volume. The author boldly experiments with colour, technique, and materials, creating modern and highly figurative works. By radically reducing the form, the master creates a metaphorical image and achieves the desired effect. Using saturated, bright, monochromatic colour scheme for his sculptures, Merabishvili thereby accentuates the exterior, which allows the viewer to explore the plastic properties of his images, their dynamics, expression, and rhythm. The nature of representation goes beyond the notion of time – objects and images sound much more complex than a literal reading of them. Minimalism of pictorial means and meticulous work with the texture results in a rethinking of the figurative imagery.
The effect of the artwork – be it a painting, drawing, or sculpture — conceived by the artist is built on a combination of various factors that entice the viewer into the proposed art space. The viewer won't find a traditional narrative or dynamism in sculptural compositions, pictorial reliefs, magnificent graphics, and paintings. The works' core essence focuses on a deeper meaning. The author finds freedom and inspiration to saturate his inner world through the use of grotesque and exaggeration. Such an approach serves him as a tool for creating plastic materiality and expressing the self-value of the depicted image.
Geometrically shaped, complex sculptural forms are always expressive, dynamic, and full of metaphors ("Bathing," 2018; "Muzachello — The Cellist's Muse," 2019; "Motherhood," 2020). The author skilfully personifies his finely honed aesthetic credo. He is guided by the desire to find a plastic technique that allows the image to be filled with allegorical content and inner tension. Merabishvili does not try to express the form itself, but its inner core, its original meaning. Metal planes seem to rotate, twist, and untwist, trying to explore different ways of existence in 3D space. It is this simplicity and primitivism of form that gain maximum effect in the sculptor's work. In this, he is undoubtedly following in the tradition of the modernists.
Paata Merabishvili does not aim to create some unique extravagant sculptures as his main priority. What matters to him are the plastic techniques based on his peculiar vision of the world. At times, these tools challenge established canons making the viewer pause and reflect on the idea and its implementation.
Merabishvili is a fabulous draftsman. The universal significance of graphics is particularly evident in the sculptor's pictorial reliefs. In his bold experiments the author combines the backdrop and framing with large reliefs and polychromy, thus employing modern materials in various combinations. By using the surface and texture of a painting, the author creates an artwork that evokes tactile and optical sensations rather than visual experience only.
Heavy texture becomes one of the integral elements of these works. The surfaces seem to be stretching out of the background plane, demonstrating various ways of interacting with the environment yet preserving their architectonic unity.
Upon completing a series of relatively avant-garde experiments: in painting ("Triptych," 1996); sculpture ("The Hunter," 1992; "Dance," 1993; "Watering Place," 1993; "Lyre," 1997; "Torero," 1997); and painting ("Autumn," 1991; "Geometry," 2006; "Musical Geometry," 2006), at the turn of the century Paata Merabishvili began developing a special type of composition – decorative and sharply dramatic.
Juxtaposing the early painting of 1998 "Woman and the Decanter of Wine" to the 2007 "White Grand Piano," it is easy to notice how the artist, confident in his pictorial and plastic concept, has remained faithful to it throughout the years despite all the struggles along the way. The objects, intricately joined together through different volumes, form a kind of puzzle that the viewer can arrange. The flat decorative technique of the earlier work gives way to intense expression in the 2007 work. Both works are based on linear perspective with a focus on local colour and rather complex composition. A reduced number of pictorial elements, two or three laconically modelled objects fill the canvas space with rhythmic interweaving on a flat background devoid of spatial depth. Colouration defined according to a mixture of contrasts, exudes the magic of attraction.
It would be a shame not to compare his early sculpture of 1993 "Dance" to the 2007 "Amazon." It clearly demonstrates the most persistent feature of the artist's modelling, when the forms smoothly and organically flow into each other: the space seems to penetrate into the mass of material, forming depths and gaping voids. The sculptor concentrates his attention on the search for a universal, timeless, and meaningful form, its harmony with the surrounding space, and the power of its inner content.
The spectrum of his creativity is, no doubt, defined by depth of thought and breadth of sensory imagination. The fascination with both material and form as well as the spiritual component probably reflects the artist's peculiar mix of rationality and emotions. In his smaller sculptures Merabishvili always thinks in volumes, achieving their architectonic unity.
His works from the late 1990s are remarkable for their closed silhouette, elongated lines, and flowing forms, whereas from 2000 onwards present sharpness, inner tension, and expressiveness of lines and volumes. Merabishvili still uses centuries-old traditions of plastic art despite his drifting away from the realistic school. His easel sculptures indirectly reveal the legacy of such artists as Ossip Zadkine, Henry Moore, and Alexander Archipenko while the graphic works and paintings suggest reinterpretations of works by Pablo Picasso, Lyubov Popova, and Amedeo Modigliani.
His monumental sculpture was influenced by the well-balanced plasticity inherent to modernism. He achieves a harmony of volume and form, which he had already grasped at an early stage of his creative path. Relying on the tactile qualities of Maillol's sculptures and the legacy of antiquity, Merabishvili is largely guided by the formal language of the avant-garde era. Inheriting the tradition, he skilfully intertwines different artistic movements in his works, which form the basis of the sculptor's own creative method.
The human figure is key to Paata Merabishvili's work. He focuses on the study of its expressive capabilities: his sculptures are often characterised by geometrical shape, angularity, and sharp forms. Despite their typically abstract style, his sculptures fit into the context of figurative art just as they did before.
Challenging the tropes of figurative art and following avant-garde sculptors, Merabishvili plays with form and colour, technique and material, thereby creating works that belong to the modern era. Trying his hand at various types of genres and mediums, he stays open-minded to new pictorial trends and formats. The sculptor turns to the most significant art achievements of the past and creates his own artistic formula that not only expresses a new taste but reflects his personal concerns.
Merabishvili's easel sculpture "Pirosmani" (2018) demonstrates his typically Cubist manner reminiscent of the creative experiments of Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso. Complex massive volumes are accentuated by a linear contour that emphasizes the nature of sculpture.
An abstract silhouette, built on the plastic coherence of balanced and multidirectional planes, is a manifestation of creative enlightenment, a sacred theme that serves as a classic reference point for any art. By employing minimal pictorial means, deliberately simplifying the form, and rejecting linearity, the sculptor gets to the very essence of the idea behind the piece.
Discussing his attitude towards Pirosmani's creative legacy, Merabishvili underlines that he drew much inspiration from the unique talent of Niko Pirosmani: "For me, he is a legend of the art world, a self-taught artist who painted intuitively, guided by his inner feeling. Having no artistic education, he masterfully conveyed Georgian artistic authenticity. His strict, somewhat gloomy colouring and the effect of laconicism and alienation, so characteristic of his work, to this date fascinate even the most sophisticated viewer."
Paata Merabishvili is a truly mature artist. Mature artwork eliminates the possibility of fortuity. On the contrary, no matter how unexpected the artistic choice might be, each part of the composition adds to the concept of the work. It is no coincidence that the sculptor's works can be found in private collections across the world: Georgia, Russia, the United States of America, Germany, Israel, Sweden, France, Italy, Switzerland, Canada.