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Vazha Melikishvili/ 'Sculpture'/ Special Edition

Updated: Oct 16, 2022

Vajha Melikishvili’s life was full of con- stant search and novelties of forms, deep originality with understanding of things and events and a great talent of generalization. According to the evaluation of art scholars, he was distinguished by the way of thinking and it was channeled towards the visualization of immaterial, which is the sign of the eternity of the arts. Simon-Vajha Melikishvili was born in 1936. He was brought up in the atmosphere of the ancestors of Simon Mchedlidze martyred clergy, which still carried the air of XIX century, the spirit of Georgia of that era and where environment of Ilia Chavchavadze and Akaki Tsereteli was still alive ... where XIX and XX centuries merged with each other.

He received his secondary education in Tbilisi No 1 school for boys, so famous for its traditions, continued his studies in the Tbilisi Academy of Arts under the guidance of such distinguished artists as Sergo Kobuladze, Silovan Kakabadze, D. Gabashvili... His teacher was one of the founders of new Georgian sculpture, Nikoloz Kandelaki. In 60-ies, the diploma work by Vajha Melikishvili, called “the Thirst”, attracted the attention of the society by its professional craftsmanship and the originality of the work. This was a bold declaration of a young sculptor in the field of the monumental sculpture. The main objective in Vajha Melikish- vili’s life was to serve the art faithfully. Despite his altruism and tolerance in everyday life, on a professional path he was a unyelding man of principal, always fighting against what he con- sidered as an obstacle and obstruction to the development of true art. Period when Vajha Melikishvili emerged as an artist, coincided with the crucial breaking point in Georgian visual arts. He became an active participant of this process: he constructed the number of important complexes in Georgia and outside the country: The Stela of Victory (Signagi, 1965), Akaki Tsereteli Memorial (Sach- khere Skhvitory Junction, 1988); “The great me- morial to the “Lost in War”- “The Cube of Glori” (1976-1984) – more than 120 deformed figures which nevertheless abide to the classical laws of form, and which astonish the viewer with the virtuosity of expression of the torture of body and soul in the form of a sculpture, with the high level of professionalism in expressing the global eternal pain of mankind in realistic symbols. Vajha Melikishvili is an author of such series of bas-reliefs as “The Riches” (Tbilisi, 1968); one located in the Krtsanisi Governmental Resi- dence “Motifs of Tbilisi”; the composition built on the Gospel, designated for the gates of Sioni Cathedral – “Mother Mary with the Child”; Among his works are the portraits of famous Georgian figures, among others of Shalva Dadi- ani, Valerian Gunia, Nestor Kalandarishvili... the great sculpture of Mikheil Tamarashvili... In the last period of his life he was pre- occupied with the historical and mythological themes: “The Story Teller”, “The King Aieti”, “The King Tamar” – these of his works were of upmost interest among his colleagues and a society in general and created fierce arguments. This is the extract from one of the published articles re- garding the exhibition held in the Blue Gallery in 2002: “This was rather unusual, non-pretentious exhibition, where the cast molded works of the Sculptor, Vajha Melikishvili were presented: “King Tamar”, “King Ayet”, “Iakob Gogebashvili”, “Paata”, “The Goddess of the Balance”- these sculptures contain, the distinguished individuality on one hand and strong generalization on the other, which is materialized in “wide strokes” typical to monumental sculptures, or in almost filigree craft as in ivory. But each of them is full of a little bit sad, but always very bright emotional spark. These sculptures are waiting to be finally molded, but unfortunately the funds usually become available for other, traditional (stereotypical) projects, with the explanation that the society chooses the ordinary (and it is so regretful that no steps are taken to develop the taste in the arts of such society). But it needs to be mentioned that, these works, presented in various exhibitions, attracted the attention of the society and were highly prized by the viewers. Thus the accepted assumption that the tradition of the round sculpture is non-existent in Georgia, because of which it can not be further developed, is completely diminished by the works of Vajha Melikishvili.” Completely new stage and perspectives of not only Georgian Sculpture but also the book illustration arts are linked to Vajha Melikishvili’s name. Just naming the very first book illustrated by him will be sufficient “Song and Music Text Book” by Jimsher Mujiri, which he created during his student years, in 60-ies. From the graphics point of view the famous book by Irakli Abashidze “In the Footsteps of Rustaveli” is unique by its sophisticated and fine artistry and calligraphy (Publishing House “Literature and Art”,Tbilisi, 1965); Also his illustrations of the book by the king Vakhtang the VI and Sulkhan Saba Orbeliani “Kilila and Damana” (The text was verified by Magali Todua, Publishing House “Merani”, Tbilisi, 1965) – this is a new stage of traditional Georgian miniature art, which does not violate and originally continues the traditions of the esthetics visual arts of middle ages. As for the sculptures, I would recall the reviews which were publish following his last exhibition: “If you happen to be passing the Rustaveli Avenue, your attraction by no means will be drawn towards the sad figure of a woman in front of the Gallery, with the prolonged, “non-esthetic” proportions (Expecting the return home of a missing son from war –“Grieving Mother”): the passerby will slow down near this tragic figure, by this giving their condolences to this generalized spirit of suffering mother.” This sculpture reflecting the nearest past of Georgia and the current worldwide reality has also caused controversial arguments... The sculptures presented during his last exhibition (staging offer) , Vajha melikishvili envisaged to be mounted in Tbilisi, his home city, strolling along the streets of which he enjoyed so much: “I’ll go out, have a look at Tbilisi” he would say and start heading towards Rustaveli avenue...

Damana Melikishvili


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