Franz’s Panel

Author: Nanuli Tskhvediani

Franz’s Panel

An excellent example of monumental art – the large ceramic panel “Kolkheti” (Colkhis), which has been adorning the center of Kutaisi since 1995 and is referred to affectionately by the city dwellers as “Franz’s Panel”, is one of the last works of the famous Georgian artist Bernard (Franz) Nebieridze (1939-1987). This work is particularly outstanding in terms of genre and scale.

This bas-relief is a unique piece of art, which implies the artist’s intellectual range, professional experience, and patriotic spirit.

People, among them tourists, who pass by this panel, cannot help noticing the history and poetry told in the language of the statue so impressively expressed by the creator, which measures 9 x 10 meters on the wall of the house located at 15, Paliashvili Street.

The Kolkheti panel was created in the 80s of the twentieth century. In 1980-1985, the artist created and completed the sketch in his workshop, carefully elaborating all the figures and details, all the nuances for the panel to be erected on the wall of a house in the center of the city. Unfortunately, he was not able to bring his idea, his biggest and most difficult project to an end – he died suddenly in 1987. Bernard Nebieridze’s panel, all the figures and details of the sketch made by him were successfully placed on the wall (Architect Svanidze). The work turned out to be so impressive that it immediately attracted public attention.

What does the author of the panel want to say? According to his idea, for the relief panel, first of all, location, and environment have been determined to partially connect with the bank of the Rioni River full of life, the clearly visible Bagrati Temple, and Gabashvili Hill. The panel depicts the history of Georgia and makes a continuous chain of epoch-making events. The central figure of the composition is King Aeetes embodying the power of ancient Colchis. The king is positioned in the background a leafy oak with a golden fleece. Georgian Capital Letter Don is engraved next to the king’s head depicting the sun – eternal life. Aeetes was the son of the sun and has remained a symbol of the power of the great Colchis for centuries! The panel features many other interesting figures and movements. The action in the entire space develops logically – the artist uses juxtaposition of conceptual and compositional patterns, they confront each other: good and evil, old and new. Every detail has its own meaning and at the same time, it serves as a connector in terms of art. The idea of the artist is expressed in a plastic language. The panel represents a powerful plastic sculpture. The high relief approaches the round statue. The movements of the figures are depicted as one harmonious movement. One can feel a clearly defined artistic task aimed at conveying the content artistically and impressively. The composition is distinguished by the search for national forms and meanwhile, it is extremely modern and corresponds to the time.

It is noteworthy to mention the weapons, which come from various eras, are interred in the lower portion of the composition. This emphasizes a specific artistic task – the whole world should realize that it is time to bury and destroy the worst enemy of mankind, civilization – weapons.

And finally, Bernard Nebieridze’s panel has another special charm – the figures it features are real, interesting portraits of the citizens of Kutaisi of the 80s of the twentieth century. There is a whole gallery of prominent and honored citizens of the city. Artistry and documentation are merged at such a high level that one can even write a paper on these figures.

This is the impression given by Bernard (Franz) Nebieridze’s panel, which is of interest not only to the young people living in Kutaisi but also to the tourist groups that visit the city every day. This panel has become one of the interesting sights for the city’s visitors and it can become one of the unforgettable impressions of Kutaisi with the help of an educated, qualified guide.

The great desire of the inhabitants of Kutaisi and the request to the Government of Georgia was to ensure the protection of the panel and to prevent imminent threats… The artistic and documentary value of the panel served as a basis for this request. And, indeed, in June 2019, Franz’s panel was granted the status of a cultural heritage monument.