No strangers beyond the pictures
The painterly work of Luka Kurashvili (*1985 in Tbilisi) emerges from the dynamic interplay of close observation and fleeting vision. The haunting quality of his paintings derives from contrasting painterly states that unfold in the spectrum between proximity to reality and emotionally driven expression. A fundamental artistic tension between control and freedom becomes immediately tangible when viewing the predominantly large-format canvas works.
In them, a figurativeness prevails that Kurashvili had fixed in fleeting sketches or watercolor drawings on paper beforehand. The motifs stem from casual, everyday observations of banal actions and gatherings of people. The preliminary drawing becomes evident in strong contours, often reinforced with charcoal, with which the former master student of Peter Doig anchors the figure in the pictorial ground.
Kurashvili finds his protagonists in his close environment; they are friends, relatives, fellow artists. Starting from his own photographic templates, on which he captures certain constellations of figures, as well as postures and poses, he selects his pictorial personnel as in a casting and then brings together individual figures in the way of a collage to form the pictorial composition. In his painterly staging of everyday situations, Kurashvili, son of a cameraman, adopts the processuality of film shooting and the freedom of decision of the director, who can spontaneously make a figure disappear from the scene.
Similarly, Kurashvili seeks to allow the randomness of the painterly process to expand scopes of action and explore possibilities of bypassing narrow figurative and narrative constraints. In particular, the dissolution of figurative pictorial areas into pure gestures of painting proves to be an act of artistic liberation.
Sometimes Kurashvili even pours a bucket of paint over a canvas that has already been painted in order to liquefy and transform what already exists, what seems unalterably fixed. In such impulsive actions of painterly improvisation, which sometimes take their cue from masters such as Edvard Munch or Henri Matisse, paint is engaged in its very materiality. Paint swirls out in whirlpools or runs in rivulets across the picture surface.
With the organic flow of colors that, as it were, dissolve under his fingers, Kurashvili intentionally allows himself to be driven by unguided processes of the subconscious. The painter, just as he claims a freedom of decision for himself, concedes a certain degree of independence to the act of painting itself. Kurashvili acknowledges the possibilities painting reveals. By means of overcoming the laws of perspective or narrative congruence, surprise effects allow for unforeseen reactions, bringing forth dream images and shedding light on unknown mental realms. In opening up an experimental level of painterly indeterminacy, the relationship between figure and ground in Kurahvili´s settings often remains ambiguous.
Kurashvili‘s paintings, which always oscillate between a reality-based illusionism and pure imagination, reflect a powerful painterly concern that does not simply disintegrate the planes of the pictorial space in abstract reduction. Instead, issues regarding compositional structures and the organization of the pictorial plane become the subject of a complex artistic interrogation by means of figurative elaboration.
Luka Kurashvili's exhibition is titled "No strangers beyond the pictures". As the name of the exhibition suggests, the protagonists in Kurashvilis latest works are not about fictitious strangers, more about friends and people from the immediate environment of the artist, which he associates with the places and surroundings of his everyday life.
As example there are bar and nightclub scenes such as in "Yellow bar" and "Girl in the nightclub" surroundings that Kurashvili lives in and paints them in his oeuvre. The painting "Rheinpark", which is the place he spends countless time over the last 15 years in his hometown Düsseldorf, poses Kurashvili a large number of people he knows there, spending their free time on a hot summer day. But he also reveals insights into his intimate life as an artist such as in "Before the show". The artist paints himself together with an employee from the bar next door pouring a glass of wine upon his arrival for the installation of the show.
Behind Luka Kurashvili's current pictures there are no deeper statements or social statements. Rather, they are value-free snapshots and intimate insights into his own life as a person and as an artist and all of them together it represents a storytelling like in a storybook.