As an Artist living in Tbilisi Georgia, I have found many more exciting surprises than I expected.
After living overseas for the past 10 years, the tropics had become imbedded into my psyche. Staying for long periods, 2-3 years, in far off places such as Dhaka, Bangladesh and Angoche, Mozambique, has inspired me in ways that I thought would be hard to change. The intensity of light, for example, the contrasting shadows of midday, all these things I thought I could not do without
. Marie my wife, who works as a development worker, and I were discussing new places where we could move, we were due for a change. The options were endless, East Timor, Ghana and Madagascar to name a few.
These were all on the top of my list, places like Bosnia, Kosovo and The Caucasus never even entered m
y mind.
DOMESTIC - 2002 Mike Woodcock
165 x 165 cm acrylic on panel.
But then the unthinkable happened, a job was offered in Tbilisi, Georgia that was too good to pass up. "Hey, what about my light intensity?" I was reluctant at first, with no beaches, and warm sunshine to spoil me, what could Georgia offer? In my heart I knew as an Artist I had to be flexible and adapt to anything life threw at me, so I accepted the change with an open mind.
I had never really painted seriously in Canada, so I had little from my creative past to compare to. "Would Georgia be similar to my own country?" I asked myself. We arrived in Tbilisi mid January and it was similar, cold, windy and wet. I immediately started looking around Tbilisi for things to inspire new paintings, and I found it at every corner. Ol
d brick buildings with rusty tin roofs, wooden windows with peeling paint, huge untrimmed trees lining every street, old churches and monasteries dotting the hillside. I said to myself, "this place has potential". I had always been drawn to the old and tarnished,
OLD HOUSE - 2000 Gogi Chagelishvili
and found inspiration in the way time age's things.
In my first week I met a well-known local artist by the name of Gogi Chagelishvili, his style, although much more avant-guarde and mature than mine, had a kinship with my own way of thinking. We hit it off instantly, and sat for long hours talking about life. We decided to hit the road and show me some of th
e Georgian countryside. The next day we were off to the wine region of Khahetia. It wasn't far outside Tbilisi that the rural landscape kicked in and we were stopping every few miles to observe an interesting scene or scenario. The natural beauty, the grassy hills, pine groves and pure white sky, forested valleys and old monasteries struck me.
At one point I just started to wander in a vast field of wintery yellow grass. The wind was gusting, the sky was threatening rain, and the serenity was breathtaking. I sat in the center
MEADOW - 2002 Mike Woodcock
38 x 100 cm acrylic on panel & old window.
of this sea of ochre and started to feel the luminescence of the colors. Without the presence of sunlight, the colors jumped out at me, the intense sunlight of the tropics would have drowned out these colors. It was like the colors were singing all on their own without the aid of the tropical sun. I started recalling some of the expressionist paintings that I have seen, where every color glows, and even the shadows have color glowing through. I was starting to realize, it's not so much about contrasts and well-placed shadows, but the feeling and the colors of the place. Now if I can only figure out how to take what Georgia has given to me and put it onto my canvas.
GUISE - 2002 Mike Woodcock
60 x 105 cm acrylic on panel.
After driving for several hours we came across the village of Sighnaghi, perched high on the edge of the ridge overlooking the Telavi region. This little untouched village had it all. Narrow streets lined with old buildings in
various states of decay. Hills and cliffs with buildings perched at all angles.
The angles of all these rooftops here and in Tbilisi was star
ting to inspire me.
PUDDLE - 2002 Mike Woodcock
67 x 78 cm acrylic on panel & iron bed
Almost abstract in form, the various squares and triangles of rusty red tin and orange ochre tiles was something new that I hadn't noticed before.
Also the way the locals recycled old household goods I found interesting. A garden fence may consist of old bed frames, rusty bedsprings or scraps of tin and wood. Adding to this the textures of the old brick and stone homes and churches was motivating me enough to want to go home and paint.
Back in Tbilisi, with Gogi's guidance I secured an early exhibition date for early May at Rustaveli's TMS Gallery. I thought to myself "whoa" I have only been here two weeks and now I've got to fill a large gallery in three months time. For some strange reason I also thought about changing my medium. My past several exhibitions had been almost exclusively watercolors, and I was due for the change. What a great opportunity, new country, new visuals, new paint and new technique. My wife thought I was crazy, "take it slow
TMS GALLERY - Tbilisi, Georgia
Mike Woodcock exhibition May 2002
, it takes time to adjust". With all my new inspiration I just flipped my traditional way of working and thinking on it's back, and it was the natural beauty of Georgia that helped me do it.
One day, go out to a special place, I know you all have them, it may be in a park, on the roof of your apartment or in your own backyard or balcony, and just look at some single object for an extended period of time. Don't judge it or think about anything but it. Study its color variances in the sunlight and in the shade, look at reflections in glass and how the color is altered from the reflected object. Look at an old stick or stone and feel the texture and feel the colors, wet the stone and see the changes. I hope to get a few of you to inspect your own surroundings and appreciate the natural beauty that exists at every level of life.

Mike Woodcock
May 22, 2002
Tbilisi, Georgia