“People and Imaginary Places”
The PRAXIS Gallery and Thomas Merian are pleased to present for the first time works by Luka Kurashvili in a comprehensive solo exhibition.
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 results from contrasting painterly states that unfold in the spectrum between closeness to reality and expressive expression. A fundamental tension between control and freedom becomes immediately tangible when viewing the predominantly large-format canvas works.
In them, a figurativeness prevails that the painter had previously composed in sketches or watercolor drawings on paper. The motifs come from casual observations of banal actions and gatherings. His subjects include men smoking and drinking, card players, a man sitting on the riverbank, a couple in animated discussion. The preliminary drawing is 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: 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 as in 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 associated spontaneity of the director, who can simply make a figure disappear from the screen.
Similarly, Kurashvili seeks to allow the randomness of the painterly process to bypass the figurative and narrative constraints and expand scopes of action. In particular, the dissolution of individual pictorial areas into pure painting proves to be an act of artistic liberation. Thus, the central figure in “Smoking Figure” appears corporeally in the foreground but lacks integration into a spatial continuum. Rather, she remains strangely suspended. The flanking figures, on the other hand, are pushed back into the background, blending dimly and palely with its pastel undertone, which has emerged from the blanket overpainting of a previous composition.
Sometimes Kurashvili pours a bucket of paint over a canvas that has already been painted in order to liquefy and change what already exists, what is already fixed. In such impulsive actions of painterly improvisation, which sometimes take their cue from models such as Edvard Munch or Henri Matisse, paint pours out in whirlpools, runs in rivulets across the picture surface. Here and there it forms itself, becomes figurative, forms balloon-like accumulations, drop-like formations, which in “Rainy Night in Soho” seem to flow out like a torrent from the center of the picture, a house entrance in London.
With the organic flow of colors that, as it were, melt under his fingers, Kurashvili intentionally allows himself to be driven by the unguided processes of the subconscious. By opening up an experimental level of painterly indeterminacy, the relationship between figure and ground often remains ambiguous. While in “Man by the River” the back figure sits on a parapet on the riverbank and thus has a stable foothold, the left half of the painting becomes a painterly experimental field in which various color fields jump back and forth, creating divergent depth impressions. In the painterly turbulence, the equilibrium of the pictorial event begins to waver. Kurashvili’s paintings, which always oscillate between a reality-linked illusionism and pure imagination, reflect a powerful painterly concern that does not simply dissolve the planes of the pictorial ground in abstract reduction, but makes them the subject of a complex pictorial interrogation by means of figurative elaboration.