The victim of political pressure
He could have hardly imagined the situation, found on his return to motherland. The majority of his colleagues criticised him, critics attacked him. They did not like “some cubes and glasses” used in his works. Prior to being able to evaluate the situation David worked mainly for theatre and cinema. He also took part in decorating state parades. Georgia of those times was already part of the Communist camp. Some modernist “anachronisms” persisted by force of inertia. But the time was gradually approaching when the Iron Curtain was finally drawn and the Soviet republics were artificially locked from the remaining world. Since 1932 Social Realism was legalized as the only accepted style in art, but prior to that Kakabadze had managed to create in theatre such innovative work, as the design for a performance “Hop-La, We Live” (a play by E. Toller, Kutaisi-Batumi Theatre, director K. Marjanishvili, 1928). In this production he transferred the experiments in the form of collages, conducted in Paris, to the scene space. Fragments of movies, light effects, mirror balls as the source of reflection - all these participated in scenic acting and were the ones to determine conditions of play.
In 1929 David Kakabadze created a design for the film „Svaneti Salt” (director M. Kalatozishvili, playscript by V. Tretyakov). This, certainly, is a black-and-white, silent film, with subtitles. Kakabadze’s work in this film is a real masterpiece of cinema art. Through the dramaturgy of lighting and rhythm of filming objects turn into abstractions, though nowhere are they made dim, no deformation occurs. Everything is readable. This picture, with its abstract-surrealist character, finds parallel with Luis Bunuel’s and Salvador Dali’s “Un Chien Andalou”, created in the same 1929 and considered to be the first Surrealist film. Kakabadze could not have known about it. He, as a thinker artist, followed with intuition and mirrored the epoch.
From 1930’ies David Kakabadze returned to the theme of landscape. He travelled
much in various districts of Georgia. He drew, took photos, even created a film
on Georgian monuments, but the Moscow commission rejected it on the pretext that
it was not based on Marxist ideology. The picture of a great historic and
artistic value was clean gone.
To satisfy requirements Kakabadze included the image of electric power plant into Imeretian “carpet-like” landscapes. They did not like them too on the ground that the builders of Socialism were not represented there. In one of the pictures, under Imereti mountain he painted demonstrators with streamers (“Meeting in Imereti”, 1942). On the streamers there were portraits of Lenin, Stalin and Beria. It is a historic canvas. After the death of Stalin, when Khruschev announced a fight against “personality cult”, on Kakabadze’s canvas in the museum depository Beria’s and Stalin’s portraits were dyed over.
David Kakabadze led a wide educational activity. He taught at Tbilisi Academy of Arts, wrote critical essays, presented papers. But in 1948 the Moscow commission arrived in the Academy of Arts. Subsequently they wrote in David Kakabadze’s work record book, that he was not able to bring up the students according to principles of Socialist Realism. The “formalist” artist, who presented danger for the Soviet system, was dismissed from the Academy. Left without salary he approached various authorities or educational institutions (including secondary schools) with the request to entrust him, at least for three years, with the duties of teaching some discipline, for instance, drawing, drafting, biology, physics or French, so that he could subsequently be entitled to receiving pension. But his pleas met with no response in all echelons.
Deliberations on Socialist Realism and the wish to come up with a rational
solution of the existing situation brought David Kakabadze back to the
avant-garde creative discovery. He decided to make a three-dimensional portrait
of Stalin. In 1950 the artist invented an innovative method of obtaining a
three-dimensional image from photos and other types of flat images. In David
Kakabadze’s workshop both theoretical description, which is published, and
small-size sketches, made by him, are preserved.
The Imereti landscapes, created by David Kakabadze, are simultaneously a concrete and generalized image of nature. Such Imereti we see in reality, but at the same time we will not be able to see in reality the exact points from whence this or that view is accurately represented. Rather than making a copy of a viewable landscape Kakabadze depicts its essence. In this context his “Red Mountain” finds parallel with the series of Hocusai’s Fuji Mountain. Hokusai represents Fuji from various points and in neither case does he depict it as it looks, showing it to us in the way he perceives it. Nevertheless, according to one author, when he is far from Japan and tries to recollect what Fuji looks like, he remembers Hokusai’s sheets. This is how the nature’s inner soul is generalized (The Hokusai Sketch-Books, Selections from the Manga, by J.A.Michener, Vermont & Tokyo, 1971, p. 128-132). The right to do it is given to Hokusai and Kakabadze by their stable, classic thinking. Kakabadze, deep in love with nature, represents it to us with balanced vision and consciousness. Rather than applying outward expressive means and reflecting personal emotions, he elevates whatever he has seen or experienced.
David Kakabadze is a figure of world scale. His art is a great spiritual and
material treasure. If widely represented it will enrich the whole intellectual
world and encourage and broaden the realm of thinking of many artists and
Also visit: Georgian Art. Past and Present