Igor Tcholaria finds beauty in the everyday, placing porcelain-skinned women within heavily patterned backgrounds, a Modilgliani-esque take on iconography. He plays around with contrasts of volume, changing his mind between two and three dimensional effects, loud and soft colours. Sooty eyes peer from under flattened hats, pale skirts and pantaloons billow out around them. The paintings might be decadent costume designs for an art nouveau burlesque.

Tcholaria’s new exhibition ‘Nostalgia for the Present’ takes its title from the poem by Voznesensky. A difficult idea to grasp at first, this familiar feeling of longing is not directed at the past (or even future) but sideways. It is not about revisiting a place you once loved, but reaching the ideal time- as seen through the rose tinted glasses. It is a wish to be slow when everything else is racing along at breakneck speed. If we could pause this mad spin cycle of the machines, fibre optics and telephone wires, we could step off the world for a human moment, to steady ourselves.

Tcholaria’s images are reminiscent of childhood storybook worlds where bright little birds hide in the branches. They are tapestries of circus performers and harlequins, wooden horses and puppet shows, illustrations from the backs of playing cards. Though chaotic in appearance, the works are precisely arranged. Nothing is there by accident; every colour is given feeling with specific texture and by its proximity to other colours. Frustrations with the randomness of events or unpredictability of time are dispersed by order. The push and pull of the colours create a soothing optical illusion- we drift in and back out of these imaginariums, stirred awake by more than a nod to those old masters who first inspired them.

Igor Tcholaria was born in 1959 in the small town of Ochamchiri on the coast of the Black Sea in Abkhazia, Georgia. During his school days, his teachers noticed his exceptional talent and suggested that he apply to the prestigious Art College of Sukhumi. Tcholaria spent the next three years there studying under the guidance of artist Givi Guergaya. Guergaya introduced Tcholaria to the art of the French Impressionists, Modigliani and Picasso despite the fact that these masters were viewed with great suspicion by the Soviet.

After completing his studies at the College, Tcholaria moved to Leningrad to study at the University of Arts named after Vera Mukhina. He spent long periods of time at the Hermitage Museum copying works by distinguished old masters. He found it more enlightening to study the manner of painting of da Vinci, and the techniques of Raphael, than to attend lectures. Eventually Tcholaria and his professors came to uncompromising disagreements and he was asked to leave.

Tcholaria became a free artist, one of the first in the Soviet Union who earned a living by painting portraits in the street. During Gorbachev’s Perestroika, Tcholaria was noticed by the owner of Cenacolo gallery in Piacenza, Italy. Intrigued by Tcholaria’s talent, the Italian art dealer offered to collaborate with him, the start of Tcholaria’s venture abroad. In Italy he had his first solo exhibition, soon followed by shows in Greece, Belgium and Netherlands, along with auctions and art fairs. Among other commissions, he was asked to paint two four-meter long murals for famous ocean liner, the Queen Mary II. In 2009 he won the gold medal for his aerographics on the latest Volvo C70, exhibited at the Millionaire’s Fair in Moscow.

Igor Tcholaria’s paintings can be found in many well-known collections around the world, including those of Galliano and Pavarotti, as well as many international art collectors. His paintings decorate the entrance hall of the May Fair Hotel in London.