Serdei Paradjanov

9 June – 3 July 1999

“A mini Paradjanov festival in London celebrated the Maestro’s life and works. A retrospective of his films was screened at the Institute Française, an exhibition of his drawings and collages shown at Leighton House and costumes from the Paradjanov Museum in Yerevan, Armenia (where the visitor ‘is occasionally serenaded by recordings of Maria Callas or honoured by a lavish Caucasian feast’) were displayed at Judith Clark Costume. The gallery showed a series of headresses entitled ‘Hats in Memory of the Unplayed Roles of Nato Vachnadze’ (1984-86), from the film Arabesques on Themes by Pirosmani (1986).

Pirosmani was a Georgian painter at the turn of the century whose picturesque landscapes and images of strange animals had a profound influence on Paradjanov’s vision. The hats have a dusty Edwardian opulence, fashioned from painted fans, gloves, embroidery, mole fur and lace. For Paradjanov, the hat lent a distinctive mien to its wearer. He is reported to have given the following strict instructions to a friend for whom he had created one: ‘Whiten your face, paint your mouth bright red and cover your face with a black scarf, tying it so that its ends flap like little wings. With the face thus half masked with black lace with a bitter smile playing on moist scarlet lips and the skin as pale as can be, place the hat on top.’

A selection of costume sketches made in 1967 for The Colour of Pomegranates recall the synthetic Cubism of Braque or Picasso, while their collaging of fabrics overlaid with drawing and mounted on wood veneers – as if they were made in the 20s rather than the late 60s – are reminiscent of Diaghelev or Chagall. The sketches are crude and elegant, but without the Byzantine austerity of the final film.”

Dale McFarland
Frieze Magazine
Issue 49, November – December 1999