Koka Ramishvili | Vacuum
November 10 - December 2, 2022
Vacuum - Visualization of Emptiness in Koka Ramishvili's Works
Koka Ramishvili is one of the central figures in the history of current Georgian painting. His work was shaped during a period of the most difficult changes of the post-Soviet era and was distinguished from the very beginning through the reflexive character, a precise selection of relevant forms and respective mediums of a complex context. All his projects are consistently developed, conceptually sound and executed with the application of a perfectionist drive, making the artist an inquisitive person who always finds original connections between specific problems and abstract reasoning.
In the letter dedicated to the project presented at the Georgian pavilion of the 53rd Venice Biennale (2009), where Koka Ramishvili showed his multimedia installation Change in Drawing Orchestra Viktor Misiano refers to the artist as a "representative of the last Soviet generation". He defines Ramishvili’s creative task as follows: “This is a unity of contradic- tions that came face to face with the "last Soviet generation", which is still searching for a universal solution. In the works, Koka Ramishvili suggested his own way of solving these issues. One feature that is characteristic of many of his creations (both early and relatively new ones) is the designing of works based on a principle of a counterpoint. The binary model, which is so well connected to modernity and is completely reversed in the regional criticism, openly manifests itself, that is, is shown in a way that does not overshadow any of the opposition sides. They exist next to each other."
In the 1990s, an especially critical period for Georgia, Koka Ramishvili was busy with artistic interpretations of the local context and its issues. During these years, he created important projects that are based on the documentation of historical facts later transformed into contradictory messages (War from My Window, Diplomatic Missions/Pronostic Eventual, etc.).
Since the beginning of the 2000s, Koka Ramishvili has been interchangeably living in Geneva and Tbilisi - a fact which led to further delving into the topic of different contexts. In recent works, his interest has been focused on the study of compositional structure, shape and lighting, and the relationship between colour and texture. One of the main works defining Ramishvili’s artistic vision, The Last Gallery, was shown on several occasions in different locations and at different times. Its first version was created in the late 1980s and sounded almost like a manifesto. Of course, the context referred to the changes, which meant deter- mination of worldviews, attitudes towards information, the process of understanding a new reality, as well as shaping of specific artistic tasks and attitudes towards painting.
Koka Ramishvili's works always contain references and, accordingly, a multitude of meanings. The references lead us to the stories of visual experience, which developed iconic pat-terns of emptiness and conveyed the transience, disappearing atmospheres through the marking of copyrighted works such as the films of Antonioni, Wenders, etc. The invisible pro- cesses taking place in space, the exhibition practice or designing of expositions intersected with the history of painting, representation issues and a well-known concept of the end of art. The artist turns to reminiscence as the foundation of the installation. The Last Gallery can be read as an allusion to Marcel Duchamp's wire installation from the exhibition The Emergence of Surrealism (1942) - one of the many interpretations of which says that this work symbolized difficulties that had to be overcome to see, perceive and understand the exhibition. In this work by Duchamp, the net of wires strung in the exhibition space also refers to a visualization of the invisible and indicates the communication between the works and the relationship with the audience.
Koka Ramishvili addresses this topic at a time when Duchamp’s and the Modernists’ statements have already been responded to by numerous post-modernist comments, and many new ideas have emerged in response to the phenomenon of the "image", its “breaking through” the frames, meaning of composition in general. Supposedly Koka Ramishvili selected this topic due to the factor of the space and expanded it with a different, subjective, and specific content. The canvas cut into ribbons and hanging down from the sub-frames interweaves into the space like a wire and completely occupies it. The ends of the cut canvases seem to end up as a pile of ashes in the centre of the space. Later, the same topic turned into an even more minimalistic video work by Reader (2017), whose iconography expresses the often dramatic encounter between a work of art and its "user" through a clear and precise metaphor. A popular message of the Duchamp era about the work's departure from the walls and the end of its existence as an object of aesthetic enjoyment, in Koka Ramishvili's The Last Gallery, continues with another new concept, where destruction is a method and not an end in itself, that indicates more (non)revealed opportunities of painting rather than its exhaustion. Koka Ramishvili operates with emptiness as the main material for constructing works of different formats. His alphabet is based on distance from the matter and an attempt to convey the non-verbal forms of expression. The image that should create an equivalent to such abstract concepts as emptiness or light requires a method of discovery. Koka Ramishvili’s practice develops these methods and shapes his own program. If The Last Gallery connects the concept of the disappearance of an image with the postmodernist discourse of the end of art, his large-scale and multi-work project The Drawing Lesson deals with the topic of mediums while at the same time transforming the non-verbal and transient concepts into a poetic sign. The hand-drawn wave in the video fragment is conditional, and the sound of a pencil touching the paper turns into the sound of sea waves due to associative anticipation.
The Black Sea, which is shown at the National Gallery, expands the conceptual development of a landscape and changes with the change of the context itself. In 2009 the work had a completely different content at the Georgian Pavilion of the Venice Biennale. There the same video was alternately projected on all four walls of the same hall, bringing to life the topos, which were distant from the character. Video strongly expressed mainstream dynamics of the Biennale and only existed beyond the contexts. In the context of the Vacuum exhibition, Black Sea only formally remains representative of a specific topos. Here it intensifies the charge of ephemerality and transience in relation to The Last Gallery and The Light Machines as if it just offers proof of the futility of the world without people.
The photo series The Light Machines (2017) reveals itself through different accents. Accord- ing to Koka Ramishvili, while working on the series, he was inspired by the phenomenon of still life, landscape, light, movement, wider understanding, and sensible relations of these topics. In mentioned works still, lives show compositions built with simple objects or fragments and resemble small-scale constructivist sculptures, where the shapes of geometrically organized compositions change in accordance with the angle of the illumination. They demonstrate constant, continuous rotation, the nuances and variations of light that are inaccessible to the eye and can be perceived only thanks to the high-sensitivity lenses. These architectural "readymades" show communication of their own elements. They look like living beings that agree with each other and obey a shared order of composition. As the whole project aims at turning the invisible into a visual sign of emptiness, the series The Light Machines demonstrates another method of constructing this phenomenon. Here the artist applies the approach of an architect and an engineer who create the transitory "vision" based on the relevant vision. The image is conveyed based on a geometrical order which at the same time disappears in front of a viewer.
Introduction of the theme of deconstruction into the atmosphere of the exposition with the allusion to the “Klavier Intégral", which develops focused on the motif of the myth of Orpheus, increases the tension and makes references to archetypes, the roots of the Greek tragedies and the experiences of catharsis. Transformation of the landscape and still life are turned into a kind of vacuum pressure, where seemingly peaceful images are distributed in space or connected to each other through invisible links. It implies the emergence of a poetic sound, where the initial interest evolves around the research of the relationship between the compositional structures, shape and lighting, colour, and texture.
“In 1987, next to the studio, in the ruins of a house, I found a damaged piano, which I took apart and transferred the shadow of each part to the canvas. For me, this work was and remains Orpheus. letter to Eurydice. - Koka Ramishvili
The central part of the exposition involves the human factor only from the point of view of the eye and the gaze. Here, a person is an observer and a perceiver who tries to convert something transient, intangible, and non-verbal into a shape. The physical presence of humans and their co-existence become part of the show only in the last, spacious hall in the form of a video projection. The thirty-minute video, People Think about Love, with a background of Nika Machaidze’s music, shows the faces of people with closed eyes. A camera joins their meditative state and then slowly zooms out to expand the irrational field. According to Koka Ramishvili, this work is of special importance to him, as working on it showed him a degree of individualism with special clarity. The unique and unappreciated world of each participant is openly revealed in the few minutes when they are left alone with their feelings and memories. Their faces and closed eyes are captured at the moment of thinking about love. The video consists of a collection of pauses and departures from the empirical rhythm and seems to transform the united emotions into one big, positive, life-affirming energy.
Vacuum is a show that is built on complex, invisible psychological and emotional accents. Even though it brings together motifs of several previous projects and new works, it does not imply a retrospective format. In the words of the author, for him working on this exhibition, it was especially important to construct the atmosphere of intimacy, which was particularly well-presented in the video installation People Think about Love.
Khatuna Khabuliani 2022
Music and Sound Installation Nika Machaidze