Friday, April 8, 2016

The Artist Pridon Nijaradze

Above our bed 

     This is what I know and with barriers well beyond language, it is hard to foresee a breakthrough. We spent 10 days here at the home of Temaraz Nijaradze last winter. We will be here this year for almost three weeks, eating his lovely and ever-cheerful wife Leila's delicious kubdauri, khachapuri and lobianni (and of course drinking cha-cha), while enjoying their hospitality before and after our daily forays into the mountains to ski. Brother Fridon lives here as well, in a sense. A closer look reveals a separate reality.
Fridon Nijaradze

      From Temaraz, who speaks Svanish, Georgian, Russian, a little German and almost no English, I've learned these few facts. Fridon was born in 1944 in Svaneti- he is 72 years old now. He's been an artist and craftsman all his life. After a spell in the Russian military in the 80's in what was then the Soviet state of Kazakstan and a spell in a Soviet mental hospital he returned to Ushguli.


      Pridon's work is not unknown to the outside world. There have been magazine articles, short films and profiles written. Though his art has not been shown outside the small "gallery" in the room adjacent to our guest room. His time in the hospital, which I can only guess included electro-shock therapy and heavy doses of lithium (again, this is only my guess)- has left him shielded behind an almost impenetrable shell. I write "almost" because I believe he has shone me some light.
Inside the shell

     Mornings, after doing his exercises - 10 push-ups, 10 deep knee bends and few minutes with a hand strengthening tool, are when he is most lucid. No sentences for me, only words. Sometimes Russian, sometimes German, sometimes English. "Cosmos! Apocalyptico! Einstein!" And sometime a smile. After breakfast the ziplock bag of medicine comes out and used and empty syringes appear. Then a cigarette.

Self portrait with a Svan hat juxtaposed with Vincen van Gogh

      Pridon is fascinated with the picture I carry of the Dalai Lama as a child on my iPhone. "Dalai Lama! Tibet! Revolution!" Not so, other photos. When I tried to show off my captures from a day of skiing he only shakes his head and points to the sky. "Only interest Cosmos!"


  1. Thanks for posting your blog again! I love reading your thoughts and seeing your pictures. Nijaradze"s art is really moving. I especially like the colors and shapes in the pieces you shared. What an amazing experience for you all to be able to find ways to communicate with so little shared language. As important a part of your trip as the skiing! xoxox Mom

  2. I see cosmos in your pictures John!
    It's hard to believe Pridon made all those paintings. There are so different in style. Pridon is free, free of styles :)

  3. Thanks for checking out our blog, Tomas. Look for more as we head toward Armenia. I look forward to getting out in the mountains with you when I return!

  4. Great to hear from you. We are following with grat interest--Dad and Mabe

  5. Nice stuff;)
    Hope you guys are doing good. Waiting for the BG story


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