Avto Meskhi

Avto Meskhi, due to his introvert personality and moreover his tragic life is a lesser-known painter in Georgia and abroad. Accordingly, Private Acquaintance, his solo exhibition held at the gallery exactly a year ago is a very important event for the Georgian art scene.

The artist was born in Tbilisi, 1946 and lived and worked in Tbilisi and Rustavi. When Project ArtBeat discovered Meskhi he was 70 years old, he already had lost his home, where he lived with his mother and was spending last years of his life at a shelter for elderly people in the city of Rustavi. At that time, except several people, nobody knew much about the painter. Despite of this, he still had maintained a positive attitude towards life. Due to his introversion he lived a very private life, he never talked about his works, as if, everyday life was not interesting for him.

Avto Meskhi started painting in his childhood years and attends art lessons. Meskhi continued studies at I. Nikoladze Art School in the class of Ketevan Maghalashvili. He failed two times and was not able to pass exams for Tbilisi State Academy of Arts. Later he explained: “I was not able to paint as people liked, I tried to explain that a mountain was a mountain and deliberately left the emptiness below” (photoessay.ge, 2016). 13-14-year old Meskhi meets Avto Varazi and reads foreign literature on modern art. He used to say that Varazi compared him to the most prominent Georgian artists, Niko Pirosmani whose solo exhibition was held at the Albertina Museum in 2018. In 1960s, new information and communication technologies didn’t exist. Artists and art professionals organized salon meetings, artistic talks and worked together. Supposedly, the artist discovered works by Picasso, Mondrian, Malevich and other artists at that time. Meskhi made friends with other artists, but his works were still distinguishable with individual manner and differed even from Soviet non-conformist art.
The artist Mamuka Tsetskhladze draws a parallel with Ilya Kabakov. “I am based on realism, reality and real existence. I reflect life as I see it, not - fictionally. Though, art is not real, it leaves real world.”(Video-interview, Wato Tsereteli, Artarea/TV2.0, 2012). Interestingly enough most of Meskhi’s very abstract works had very specific names.

The artist had a very tragic life. As far as it is known, Meskhi’s mother was a Menshevik and she was exiled. Of course, the artist experienced intense protest against the political regime and established as a non-conformist. Meskhi spent last years of his life in extreme poverty. Although in his last year the artist was able to rent a flat in Tbilisi and live more or less a normal life with the support of the gallery, he tragically died in a car accident in 2016.

Solo and group exhibitions:
Meskhi worked as an ”unofficial”, underground artist in the Soviet Period. Although, from 1968, the artist takes part in group exhibitions: in Moscow (1974), St. Petersburg (1982). From 1990, Meskhi is a member of Georgian Painters Union and his works are presented in Bonn, Germany, the same year. The artist’s works were presented at Art Worker’s House, Baia Gallery in Tbilisi. Archil Darchia organized Meskhi’s solo exhibition at Dzveli Gallery, several times. The artists works were included in group exhibition Reframing the 80s at D. Shevardnadze Georgian National Gallery, Tbilisi, 2013. Video created on the initiative of Wato Tsereteli and Artarea is a documentation of Meskhi’s life and work. His works are kept in several private collections in Georgia.