Lost Landscapes



Opening speech by the curator of the exhibition Jörg Bader
(Director of the Centre de la photographie Geneve)

Afterparty in the private rooms of the gallery


Opening: 2. November 2017, 7pm
Exhibition: 3. Nov - 24. Feb 2018


This exhibition is organised in the framework of
"2017 Germany - Georgia Friendship Year"
with the support of
the Ministry of Culture and Monument Protection of Georgia
& LEPL Creative Georgia.

Lost Landscapes is the name given by Koka Ramishvili to his second solo exhibition in Berlin*. The artist from Tbilisi, today based in Geneva, has already exhibited in Germany, several times in Munich among others, yet the title Lost Landscapes could hardly apply better to any other German city. Even so, the title of the sole blue monochrome painting in the exhibition refers not to the sky above Berlin, but rather to the sky over Damascus (Blue sky over Damascus [Lost Landscapes], 2013, oil, amber, canvas, 160cm X 120cm). Another monochrome blue painting belonging to the series is called Blue Sky Over Libya. The artist refers to countries that have lived through the “Arab Spring” and which are today predominately governed by weapons. A noted photo series from Ramishvili called War From my Window shows, in images taken from his window in 1998, the bombing of a district in his hometown Tbilisi. “That is, for example, a Lost Landscape,” the artist notes. For him, a migrant, Lost Landscapes are those landscapes of an elsewhere, conceived in a small workspace in the district between Eaux-Vives and Champel. For Ramishvili, Lost Landscapes are landscapes which have been lost in memory, in war, in the collective imagination. They follow the ‘flight path landscapes’ which interested him in the years 2010/11 and which he brought forth in greens and browns. As evinced in the oil painting Aerodrome Baltika (2011), they are abandoned runways, framed in fallow grass and pallid light, and with a faint horizon lying above the center, recalling Flemish painters like Vermeer.

Ramishvili’s old, self-taught amber technic brings his play of light to action in paintings like Blue Sky over Damascus and finds its most intense elaboration in small wooden blocks painted on one side, some of which are placed upon the floor. The reflective color gradients may recall the engagement with light of California artists such as John McCracken, Robert Irwin, or James Turell, but for the exiled artist relate much more to the icon painting which is so present in his home. Koka Ramishvili presented one of the wooden blocks in a cardboard box that could only be open by gallery workers. The blocks are nicely fitted in the box and the facing portion occupies nearly the entire interior with the soft color gradient, informed each time by domineering colors – red, blue, green, etc. Three of these Lost Landscapes are comprised of a space corresponding to Ramishvili’s workspace. In opening the cardboard box we have a virtual view into the artist’s atelier and, because the art object is so well protected, we could take it with us on a trip – entirely in the sense of Duchamp’s La boîte-en-valise, except that he was not a political or economic migrant.

The wooden block, painted in fine gradient, stands in the discursive realm of painting despite its sculptural aspect. Ramishvili’s entire work follows this manner, where the power of meaning shifts from one medium to another. Such is the case when, for example, he indicates cinema through the medium of painting by using the means of painting, the canvas, to indicate the cinema screen without painting it, but simply by painting around it. And as such, with Ramishvili, sculpture takes place in photography as in the Moving Architectures (Light Machine) from last year. 

The history of modern art knows this displacement well, since Medardo Rosso or Brancusi, both of whom augment the meaning of their work in sculpture through photography. This history is a hundred years old. Ramishvili introduced me to an entirely unanticipated concept of time when he spoke casually, in discussion about this series, of a modernity lasting 2000 years.

Notably, the Lost Landscapes have no perspective and no depth. What is to be seen, rather, are landscapes of souls. Thus it is not astonishing that the sky at dusk also belongs to this collective title, captured as by a photorealist painter, with its north star shining brighter than all the other heavenly bodies. This ‘inward turning’ is informed by Ramishvili’s predominately isolated life in Geneva, a city of 500,000 made up of 60% foreigners, where the different communities ignore one another and most Genevans keep to themselves.

Three videos set side-by-side describe a sort of inescapable confinedness, where to the left a woman and to the right two men endlessly pour coffee, tea, and milk into overflowing glasses without ever getting their feet wet. A man in a black scarf does not even attempt to make the cup, pouring the milk directly onto the table. The melancholy is inescapable.

A similar blues is communicated in the 2005 video work Platform for event. The line-image animation of a cold-seeming rain, integrated in photo reproduction, is again a displacement, in which it is not about video but rather about drawing. Without exaggerating, it is entirely clear Koka Ramishvili is a stalker of images, from the 20th century into the 21st. He breaks the convention of one medium with another and, with this, speaks of today’s wars, which are no longer center stage (a keyword for such a concept), which blaze like forest fires over the entire earth. His work speaks of exile and social isolation, of strife in relations, and the wish for infinity. 

Joerg Bader

Direktor des Centre de la Photographie Genève




 *The first solo exhibition was held at Haus Der Kulturen der Welt in 1991.