Article by Lauren Ninoshvili

Article by Lauren NinoshviliFantasy, play and experimentation meet a profound demonstration of traditional forms of knowledge in the paintings of Georgian artist-iconographer Lasha Kintsurashvili – one of the small Caucasus republic’s ,most sought-after masters. Fresh interpretations of classic subjects and striking juxtapositions of color, texture and shape characterize Kintsurashvili’s matchless style. The artist’s preferred medium is egg tempera, though he also paints with oil. His works are full of color, texture, motion, striking surfaces and hidden depth. They are upfront and bold, yet full of subtlety.

Kintsurashvili’s subjects range from landscapes, still-lives and portraits to images of village and urban life in his native Georgia, biblical parables and modernist abstract collages. Favorite themes include family, church and the spiritual life, Social relations between family members, generations, clergy and Christian faithfulness. The individuals and society are strikingly portrayed in works like “Small aquarium”, “Little girl in big city”, “Confession at Anchiskhati” and “+/- 50”. The quotidian finds fresh expression in others, like “Road to Samtredia”, “Washing of wheat in Ruisi”, “Hot summer in Ruisi””and “Grandfather prepares firewood”.

The artist’s genius lies in his compelling original attention to detail. Vivid, folk-inspired border graphics are a distinguishing feature of his sacred icons and paintings alike. He decorates many of his works with texts in striking calligraphy. These texts-words, phrases or entire poetic narratives help the viewer to interpret the images they accompany. Their function is at once aesthetic and heuristic, to appeal and to suggest, but never dictate meaning. While most of the artist’s textual ornaments are presented in Georgian language only, English and Russian interpretations are occasionally offered as well. A combination of languages/scripts is frequently used with playful intent, as in the still life “Chair”.

Kintsurashvili’s trademark play with perspective, dimension and form is exemplified in such works as “They are obscuring the metro’s motion”, a colorful, cartoon-like snapshot of traffic on an underground train, and “They’ve thrown the boy’s bag up the tree”, an enchanting depiction of a child high on a tree branch set in a distinctive geometric frame.

Works like “Prayer”, “Holy Friday” and “Kind Angel” reflect Kintsurashvili’s depth of understanding of, and extraordinary competence in Eastern Orthodox Christian iconography. Elongated, somber faces, wide, scrupulous eyes and modest postures evoke the other-worldly images characteristic of this ancient tradition.

Kintsurashvili’s compositions are never dull, but full of personality, imagination and surprise. They demonstrate an exceptional command of diverse visual styles, an untiring impulse for creative, sophisticated interpretation and an uncommon power of human observation.

Lauren Ninoshvili

Columbia University, New York City.