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20th CENTURY GEORGIAN STAGE DESIGN: TRADITION AND INNOVATIVENESS

MARIANA OAKLEY
George Chubinashvili National Research
Centre for Georgian Art History and Heritage Preservation


The 20th century Georgian stage design occupies an important place not only in the history of Georgian art and theatre but also in the research of stage design in general.
Great historical tradition of Georgian art, Georgian spirit and theatrical nature of Georgian people has determined peculiar character and originality of Georgian theatrical decorative art. From artistic and stylistic point of view, Georgian stage design has always been a leader in our art. Its unique character was determined by the geopolitical location of Georgia: on the one hand, emotional, decorative, “traditional” oriental world, and, on the other, rational, always progressing, laconic and moderate western world. Merging of these tendencies has created the concept of Georgian stage design. Attitude of a Georgian towards life is partially based on theatrical aesthetics, which combines three major notions: personage, place of action and “active nature” of environment, which plays a significant part in his everyday life, penetrates into his mentality and psychological type. Georgian stage design is the firstborn of the 20th century. Over its century long history of development, Georgian stage design was characterized by the existence of concrete or abstractive forms, dynamic and unbridled rhythm of Futurism, vivid colorfulness of Expressionism, which was matched with the emotions, excitement and drama of the performance. The features of Modern style (peculiar mixture of architectonic, romantic and naturalist elements, resulted in unique decorativeness) are clearly noticeable in the creative work of Georgian stage designers. One of the distinguished features of Georgian stage design is accentuation of the color as an independent artistic form, giving it expressive function, which finally, on the stage, leaves an expression of “symphony of colors”. During the hardest times for the country, stage design had become a peculiar “niche”, where artists could freely express their attitude towards the form and essence of art. Theatrical space had become a closed “laboratory”, a shelter for experiments, comparatively protected from the rough reality. Development of stage design art in Georgia is connected with the name of Kote Marjanishvili. (K. Marjanishvili arrived to Georgia from Russia, where he had gained huge experience, working at different theatres and had undertaken interesting creative strivings). Merit of the stage director is determined by the fact that immediately after returning to Tbilisi (1922), he managed to invite young, professional artists to work at the theatre on regular basis. Stage design became actively involved in the creation of general concept and artistic aspects of the performance. In general, scholarly literature on the history of the 20th century Georgian Fine Arts widely shares the viewpoint that Western European artistic tendencies and trends of the early 20th century and posterior period influenced formation of stylistic peculiarities of modern Georgian art. This viewpoint should be taken into consideration, when presenting historical picture of 20th century Georgian theatrical decorative art. It is quite obvious that, from its earliest days up to the present, Georgian stage design has been developing general artistic principles, common for the world stage design and has step by step established “creative thinking” on Georgian stage and finally, the stage design has undergone a considerable transformation from simple decoration to effective, functional scenography. The stage design proper, had diverse importance in the historical development perspective. Initial task was to create place of action. Afterwards another function of stage design – that of “performing” and “personage” – was added. In the first half of the 20th century one more system of a play design – action stage design – was formed. The latter implies visualization and development of the performance action within the stage decoration. It combines creation of action place and elements of performing and personage stage design, which results in the creation of the visual image of stage action. In the 20th century two approaches could be distinguished in the stage space organization: generalized and concrete. Both existed in close contacts with each other, being an aspect of the homogeneous process of artistic strivings. The 20th century art of Georgian stage design fully reflects these general artistic tendencies, but never loses its individualism, uniqueness and charm. Only vast historical past and lasting artistic traditions of Georgian art form the firm basis of the inimitable originality of Georgian stage design school.

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