By Neeta Lal

Georgian artist Zurab Tsereteli

Georgian artist Zurab Tsereteli

Georgian artist Zurab Konstantinovich Tsereteli’s exhibition -- "More than Life” – being held at the National Museum of China (NAMOC) in Beijing from September 3 to 26, showcases the octogenarian’s impressive oeuvre encompassing oils, sculptures and ceramics.

The show featuring 80 art works, is the first largescale display of Tsereteli’s works in Asia and underscores the artist’s profound philosophical insights into life, art and the world. Neatly divided into themes, the lavishly mounted display includes works such as My Magical Charlie Chaplin Series -1 (oil on canvas); The Premiere (oil on canvas) Good Night (enamel); Old Tiflis Series -1, 2 & 3 (oil on canvas); The Circus series; In the Wine Shop (enamel) among others. Sculptures include The Silk Road (bronze); The Townsmen Series depicting men and women going about their daily life and more which are also part of NAMOC’s permanent collection gifted by the artist to the museum.

Sculpture By Zurab Tsereteli

Indeed all the showcased works reinforce Tsereteli’s art that is distinguished by a pictorial and energetic environment akin to “magical realism”. The centuries old folk culture, national variations of the traditions of buffoons as well as humor that are constants in the maestro’s works are present here as well, many of them finding representation in the Charlie Chaplin series.

Artworks By Georgian artist Zurab Tsereteli

A Charlie Chaplin fan, Tsereteli has depicted the tramp in his works across a variety of mediums including enamel, oil and sculpture. “I consider Chaplin to be a genius and a paradox. There was something sad about him, and yet, I can’t think of any artist who gave so much joy to people,” the artist told this correspondent.

Charlie Chaplin By Georgian artist Zurab Tsereteli

The thoughtfully curated exhibition has received enthusiastic praise from Chinese art critics, including the highly respected Shang Hui, who has drawn comparisons between Tsereteli and Picasso. “Tsereteli’s style is exuberant and diverse and captures the world in an interesting way. He has a refreshing and unique artistic vocabulary and the exhibition presents the public with a new and interesting viewing experience,” Hui said
According to Wu Weishan, Director, NAMOC, who has worked closely with Tsereteli, the artist’s artwork features incredibly vibrant colors, providing a strong visual impact, and evokes deep emotional responses, making one want to view his pieces again and again.

Interestingly, this is the first time NAMOC – which completes 60 years of existence this year — is hosting a solo exhibition by a foreign artist on such a grand scale and. The museum contains an extensive collection of more than 130,000 pieces of artwork, which encompass a wide range of antiques from various eras in Chinese history, representing a diverse array of styles and generations.
The honor is indeed another feather in Tsereteli’s well-plumed cap. He has headed the Russian Academy of Arts for nearly a quarter of a century; is a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador; a member of the most prestigious academies of art in the world, including those of France (Institut de France) and Spain, and taught at reputed schools for decades.

The octogenarian’s epic bronze and copper art works pepper cities like New York, Italy, Spain, Great Britain, France, Uruguay, Israel, Japan, Greece, the USA, Serbia, Canada, and, of course, the master’s homeland – Georgia. Hugely successful commercially, Tsereteli has also sold his trademark monumental sculptures far and wide — from the St George presented by the Soviet Union to the UN to the 100-foot “To the Struggle Against World Terrorism” (or Tear Drop) memorial in New Jersey and “The Birth of a New Man” in a 150-feet egg-shaped dome in Seville. There is even a much smaller-scale statue in the City of London, “Break the Wall of Distrust”, erected in 1990 in Cannon Street.
In 2016, a 268-feet statue of the Italian explorer Christopher Columbus was unveiled in Puerto Rico. Tserteli crafted it from 2,500 pieces of bronze and steel manufactured in Russia and some 2,000 sq. ft of copper sheets.
In Moscow, Tsereteli is the undisputed superstar of Russian modern art. Born in Tbilisi, Georgia in 1934, and initially just a painter, his horizons broadened after moving to Paris in the 1960s where he hobnobbed with Picasso and Chagall. As time passed, additional influences subtly made their way into the maestro’s work, continuously refining his abilities and molding him into a globally acclaimed artist who is admired worldwide.
According to Russian art theorist Tatiana a. Kochemasova, Tsereteli’s art has an endearing childish quality, a dash of naivete and simple-mindedness that finds expression in the moving and funny image of a Georgian artisan or in the image of circus clowns jumping over one another, an amicable animal or a bird soaring into the sky.
“In Tsereteli’s artistic world, there are people who dance, play musical instruments, merrily celebrate together and talk to each other inadvertently revealing the impressive folk traditions of Russia. The tense and busy daily life is a passionate and unrestrained melody while leisure a romantic and dynamic rhythm,” she elaborates.
Well-known Russian art historian Viktor Vanslov wrote that “Tsereteli’s work attracts the viewer with its highly unusual treatment of the blooming cultural heritage, the scope and character of the interpretation of images, and their originality – an individuality of artistic vision. The artist’s oeuvre includes several remakes, which compel the viewer to re-evaluate some well- known works, as well as events reflected in them.”
Deeply fascinated by India Tsereteli says he wants India to be his next destination for a personal exhibition. “I am planning to show in India next year. Indian culture has found strong representation in my works such as the supersize interactive sculpture called The Apple through which visitors can walk. It is in Moscow and there’s a replica of it in Tbilisi, Georgia as well.”
The engineering marvel is embellished with 145 bronze reliefs and traces the history of human passions from the fall. The sculpture’s enameled walls are awash with murals of men and women standing in Kamasutra-like poses which is my ode to Indian culture as depicted in its ancient scriptures. The Apple’s perimeter is embellished with monumental reliefs based on Biblical imagery of spiritual rebirth.
“Working on it was deeply fulfilling and spiritual,” sums up Tsereteli

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