GOUDJI, silversmith’s trade, permanent artist of Galerie Capazza since 1977

“I dream of ageless objects, and stirring images of an indefinite time engraved in my memory, and I contemplate in wonderment beauty emanating from spirituality in art.
A world of mysteries, symbols, legends and myths haunts and defies me. Was I not born in Georgia, ancient kingdom of Colchis, later Iberia, land of the Golden Fleece, and ill-fated love of Jason and Medea where, for having created Man and stolen the sacred fire, From-Theuth of the Scytians, the Prometheus of the Greeks, was chained by Zeus to Kazbek's summit!
Delivered from my past, it is in Paris that I can recall at last the lost civilizations that inspired me, and express my emotion before the magic traces that reveal identical symbols from Sumer to Assur, from the Scythians to the Hittites, the Etrucans to the Celts and Iberians, from the Achemenids to the Sassanians, the Avars to the Abbassidians, from Fayyum to Petra, Phrygia to Lydia, Urartu to Luristan…
The populations migrate and their cultures intertwine to better fascinate me. Drawing from art's sources, I look for the universal, and express myself with rare materials which forever delight us.
Faithful witness of our most distant past, metal defies space and time, and reaches us millenniums later, intact and wrapped in mystery. Noble and enduring, have not gold and silver been dedicated from time immemorial to objects of the table, the Treasury of the Cult, the Divine, and Sacred!
The same is true of stone of which I like the quintessence, the colors, the light, and the harmonious name: lapis-lazuli, obsidian, sodalite, rock crystal, hawk's eye, labradorite, calcedony, carnelian, jade, amphibolite… Ravishing and unreal, you are infinitely timeless, and I like to wed you with the metal I hammer.
Then comes the hand, the irreplaceable, indispensable and inimitable handiwork. Since technique there is, let it be obvious and quickly forgotten. There is no modernity in this craftsmanship, and my techniques are archaic. I forge myself anvils and peens as needed for the piece and shapes I wish to create. Then I work on the material, without any preliminary drawing, guided solely by the metal's specificity and the stone's mystery.
Because I want each object to be unique! Singularity gives the object its marvelous dimension, eclipsing its purpose to leave only the delight of the eyes, of the voluptuous touch. It is also what compels invention and imagination. It is creativity that counts, and I create today a world of shapes and fiction by giving free range to my enthusiasm.
Unique objects, testimony of my love and journey on this earth: ciboriums, rhytons, amphoras, hanaps, ewers whose names I like to sing; fantasy menagerie, bulls metamorphosed in stags, gazelles made equidies, magical characters from another world, I forge you during the day and visit you at night, in my dreams.”
Goudji

Biography

Goudji was born in 1941 in a small Georgian town of Borjomi in a family of a physician and a lecturer of natural sciences; later the family moved to Batoumi on the Black sea coast.

At the age of 17 Goudji enters the Academy of Fine Arts in Tbilissi where he studies painting, sculpture, graphic arts and art history under talented professors, he has learned drawing under Vassily Shoukhayev, a Russian artist of l'Ecole de Paris who lived in France in the twentieth and thirtieth. Goudji devours books on history and theory of art and soon enough is offered a job at a workshop where he is modeling toys and ornaments out of samak - an alloy of zinc, tin and lead - for further industrial production. His competence and creativity are duly appreciated: at the age of 23 he joins the USSR Artists Union thus becoming the youngest member of the prestigious body. Now he is very much in demand, he is getting orders for designing commemorative medals and postal stamps. It all gives him ample opportunities to travel, to spend time in the famous "homes of creativity" run by the Artists' Union for its members, to read as much as he wants to widen his scope of art knowledge. `

After his father's death in 1967 Goudji returns to Georgia. There he makes friends with two old artisans who from morning to nightfall are engaged in manufacturing identical copper trays and kettles to be sold at the bazaar. Goudji watches them at work then little by little starts lending them a hand. This is a unique chance to master a technique kept alive for long ages, transmitted only through apprenticeship. In a couple of months Goudji acquires the skills of copper soldering, riveting, forging, chiseling.

Having come again to Moscow Goudji meets Katherine Barsacq, daughter of the famous director of Paris’s Theatre de l'Atelier André Barsacq and grand niece of Leon Bakst, decorator of the Russian Ballet of Diaghilev, working in the Cultural section of the French Embassy in the USSR. In spite of innumerable obstacles they get married in 1969 and apply for a French visa for Goudji. It immediately turns Goudji into a pariah in the eyes of the Soviet state and society. He is left without any job or orders to wait for five long years for the permission to leave the country. He used the time to discover for himself and learn from artisans of Oussolye (in the north-east of Russia's European part) the delicate technique of finift, a combination of copper and vitriol which is either spread in layer upon layer or put into cells formed by copper mesh.

Thanks to respected efforts of President of France Georges Pompidou Goudji finally gets his exit visa. On January 31,1974 Goudji and Katherine arrive in France. They settle in Paris where the 33 years old artist can freely realize his creativity. On his own he masters the art of working precious metals evolving his instruments as the need arises. In the Soviet Union he was melting a couple of his grandfather's silver teaspoons to fashion some brooches decorated with tiny sea pebbles...

In 1986 the French artist Goudji has become chevalier and in 1996 Commander of the Order of Arts and Literature. In 1998, Goudji receives the title of "Maître d'Art" by the French Minister of Culture.

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Awards

2009||Member of the Catholic Academy of France, Arts and Li department
2008||Chevalier of the Legion of Honor
Officer of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres
2001||Chevalier in the National Order of Merit

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Liturgical work

The name and work of Goudji, sculptor and distinguished gold and silversmith in France and around the world, needs no introduction. One remembers the baptismal fount used by the Pope to celebrate the baptisms in August 1997, in Paris.

Everyone has heard about the silver altar of Chartres Cathedral.

Goudji has been working for the Catholic Church of France for the last fifteen years. Following his creation of the portable baptismal fount, the ewer, and the Easter candelabra for Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris, created and realised because of François Mathey, Chief Curator of the Musée des Arts Décoratifs of Paris, Goudji creates a chalice which will be offered by François Mathey to the Ronchamp Chapel as he was born there and instigated the project of Le Corbusier.   

He was commissioned for the new arrangement of the sanctuary in Chartres Cathedral. Working with Bishop Jacques Perrier from 1992 to 1996, he designed 25 pieces, now officially listed as part of the French National Heritage: the main altar and alter pieces, cross, chalice, paten, cruets; the gospel binding, the seats of the Bishop and his assistants, two episcopal signs, the Basilica Insignia; the basilical pulpit and eucharistic dove, the censer and incense vase, as well as a second cross.

In 1995, François Garnier, Bishop of Luçon, commissioned the new main altar of his cathedral and the reliquary cross, the Bishop's seat, pulpit, chalice and paten.

Between 1994 and 1996, Goudji also designed two staffs for the Benedictine abbots, Dom Jorrot of Saint-Maurice de Clervaux and Dom Courau of Notre-Dame of Triors, pectoral crosses for the Bishops of Chartres and Luçon, as well as a reliquary pectoral cross for Canon François Legaux, Rector of Chartres Cathedral. In 1998, he created the reliquaries of two beatified religious Cisterciens for the Abbey of Sept-Fons.

1999 was a year of ample liturgical work for Goudji: on the occasion of Padre Pio's beatification, he created for the Papal Sacristy, the processional cross and its base, two candelabras for the acolytes, as well as the reliquary offered to the Pope by the Capucin order.

Goudji also designed a pastoral ring for the Capucin prelates. Shortly before Christmas, Monsignor Séguy, Bishop of Autun, consecrated the new altar of the church of Saint-Philibert's Abbey at Tournus, and blessed the choir furniture, pulpit, Easter candelabra, sacred vases, and Saint Philibert's reliquary, all designed by Goudji at the request of the parishioners of Tournus. Finally, to celebrate the solemn opening of the Holy Door of Saint-Peter's Basilica, Monsignor Marini, Master of Pontifical Ceremonies, commissioned Goudji for the design of the Jubilee door knocker and the precious clasp of the Holy Father's liturgical mantle. During the Holy Year Goudji creates a cultual object for the the church of the Trinité de Vendôme : a dove, symbol of the Holy Spirit which has been blessed by Mgr de Germiny, Bishop of Blois, on June 18th, 2000.

Goudji fashions and hammers the gold and silver with his own hands, inlaying the metal with semi-precious and precious stones. More than ornaments, the gems confer upon the pieces a symbolic and sacred character. What strikes us in Goudji's art is the mystical dimension of his work, and the beauty emanating from it.

Bernard Berthod, Curator of the Fourvière Museum in Lyon, France

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Tributes to Goudji’s work

«
Goudji ! With this striking first name alone, that ignites and soars like a rocket, this modern Benvenuto Cellini, with his unique style, made a name for himself. Like Arman, Balthus or César before him, to name only contemporary artists   ».
Marc Hérissé, Monography of Goudji

«
What strikes me most in Goudji's art, is the care he takes in instilling his objects with a mythical dimension whilst retaining their original significance. This art, transcending both time and space, reaching out to us from the depth of the artist's own sensitivity, is resolutely rooted in the world today, which it also reflects. Goudji merges that magical moment, where beauty transforms reality without losing touch with it   ».
Félicien Marceau, Member of the French Academy

«
Goudji's art speaks to the heart of men; because his work simultaneously expresses beauty, wisdom, boldness and balance; because he knows how to enhance everything that elevates man, be it the surreal or the love of one's homeland. Goudji transmutes metal into a poem incarnated in the fantasy menagerie in which he excels   ».
Jean Cluzel, Member of the French Institute

"A mystery of love caught in still metal
…A pure spirit grows under a shell of stones."
It seems to me that Gérard de Nerval's verses, which also legitimate man's reverence for the animal world, could serve as a caption for Goudji's masterpieces…
In revealing the sacred, the artist is literally and authentically "hierophant", high priest or mediator, linking man to what he believes he has risen above, and to what transcends him.
Goudji is this hierophant, the distant heir of the Dactyls and Orpheus.
Robert Turcan, Member of the French Institute

«
No one will be surprised to learn that Goudji was selected to design the first line of jewellery intended exclusively for the Louvre Museum. Besides the fact that several of this great artist's pieces have already been exhibited in museums throughout the world, there is an obvious link between his art, explicitly inspired by the goldsmiths of ancient civilizations -Mesopotamian, Greek, Hittite, Etruscan-, and the French Museum where his work is most splendidly represented.
Moveover, one might say that the Louvre and Goudji share the same goal: the first seeks to celebrate, and the second to recreate beauty that shuns the transcience of fashion, and which we would like to call timeles   ».
Michel Laclotte, President of the Louvre Museum (1993)

«
Goudji's art work is compelling, restraint, timeless. His objects speak of beauty and culture.
I am convinced that Goudji is, and will remain, an eminent artist of our time   ».
Dr. Hans Hartl - Kunsthaus Dr. Hartl, Freising, Medieval Capital of Bavaria, Germany

«
Much has been written already about Goudji and his art, unique amongst all. Who is he? A sculptor? An alchemist? I see in Goudji a man immune to definitions, containing them all, and revoking them, one after the other. He has no likes…. The contemplation of Goudji's art provokes thoughts of the infinite : perfection is not circumscribed by the finite, but goes beyond it. The unique result is the sum of all possibilities   ».
Stéphane Barsacq, Extracts from the Preface, Catalogue des expositions Goudji 1999

«
Goudji's art delights the Pope
Baptising a young fisherman in Longchamp during the World Youth Days, John-Paul II was so touched by the noble purity of the silver baptismal fount from which he drew the holy water, that he expressed the wish to know the hands which fashioned such a marvel. Those hands were Goudji's…
Indeed, this conjurer of light knows like no one else the poetic path to the primeval archetypes. Those archetypes that we find so strangely related from one culture to another, from one period to the next, from one religion to another, the cradle of myths, which always seem appropriate to the time….
It is not that Goudji's art is timeless, it is resolutely rooted in today's world. His balance and generous mind are spiritual, his creativity is rooted in the eternal world of dream and fantasy   ».
Béatrice Comte, Figaro Magazine N° 1000

«
Rader of a lost art
He is like a rock, with a physique à la Picasso : his art is hard labour. Goudji does not draw his objects. He often dreams of them at night, and then makes them himself, in a mood of sheer excitement, cutting the silver or gold sheet, shaping, hammering, and inlaying   ».
Francine Vormèse - ELLE Magazine

«
In truth, Goudji's art is entirely timeless, with a few certainties : the simplicity of his ornemental language, his rare control and astonishing strength suggest a state of grace   ».
Axelle de Gaigneron - Connaissance des Arts Magazine

«
A special welcome to Goudji who has arrived suddenly at the top of a tree which normally takes a life-time to climb. I must have seen thousands of modern jewel or silver shows, and I cannot remember one which has surprised and delighted me more. Goudji's vocabulary of ornament is extremely simple, yet it has an arresting decorative quality. Everywhere you will be impressed by the sureness of his style, his refined and boundless originality   ».
Graham Hughes, Arts Review

«
Delight in works and words

If I had to illustrate what precedes with an example, it would certainly be Goudji. There are a hundred reasons for this choice, starting with my frustration at never having had the occasion to write about an artist and a work that I have "followed" nonetheless since his beginnings in Paris. Goudji, as you know, practices the art of goldsmithery, that very distinctive art that inextricably associates drawing and sculpture, the beauty of materials and the magic of fire, manual work and pure creation.
Finally, next to the pieces, there is the poetry of their names. Custode, hydrie, puiselle, oenochoé, aquamanile, cratère, rhyton, situle, torque : who wouldn't be seduced by these terms?
»
Xavier Narbaïts, L'œil Magazine

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Tributes to Goudji’s Liturgical work




Goudji's work in Chartres

«
This is marvellous work, simple, grand, in harmony with its purpose and with the site which called it forth. For once, an œuvre that one dares to call sacred, so rarely can we use the term without fawning. I understand the enthusiasm of the congregation and clergy who perceived in the depths of their being that true art is an inspired, demanding achievement, timeless in its expression, universal in its materiality. It is an unexpected testimony to our time, and that is how the altar of Chartres Cathedral will be perceived in art history.
François Mathey, Head Curator of the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris

Goudji works for the Pope

«
The name and work of Goudji, sculptor and distinguished goldsmith in France and around the world, needs no introduction…The artist, who comes from the Orient, has put his talent at the service of the Church of Rome, as did once the monks of Byzance driven out by the iconoclast emperors   ».
Bernard Berthod, Curator of the Fourvière Museum, Lyon, France

Letter from the Vatican to Goudji, September 8, 1997
«
Grateful for your time, the Pope has asked me to express his profound gratitude to you. He appreciated the fact that, for major celebrations such as the baptism of ten neophytes from five continents, the nobility of your objects helped to manifest the fundamental sacramental signs to a fervent assembly of such magnitude   ».
His Excellency GB Ré, Deputy to the Pope

Letter to Goudji following the opening of the Holy Door, The Vatican, January 5, 2000
«
I write to thank you for the "Jubilee door knocker" that you designed for the Holy Year 2000 at the request of the "Office of the Pontifical Liturgical Celebrations". It will be placed in the "Papal Sacristy".
I take this opportunity to congratulate you for the "clasp" of the liturgical mantle worn by Pope John-Paul II on the evening of the Holy Door's opening in Saint-Peter's basilica. It was admired by all.
Monsignor Piero Marini, Master of Pontifical Ceremonies

Letter to Goudji, March 9, 2000, State Secretary of the Vatican
«
Touched by your thoughtfulness and the manifestation of your affection, the Pope has asked me to express to you his gratitude. He is delighted that your goldsmithery and jewellery, profoundly inspired by the Scriptures and the liturgical spirit of the Church, illustrate the "alliance established between the Gospel and art", as he indicated in his Letter to the artists (N. 14). May the beauty of your art and the creative inspiration that animates it help men marvel at the mystery of the Incarnation that we celebrate particularly in this Jubilee year !   »
Monsignor G.B. Ré, Deputy to the Pope

Consecration of the altar at Chartres

Homily, May 30, 1992
«
Before opening this celebration, I would like to express my gratitude of course, but also my admiration for the work of Goudji. Installed only yesterday, it has already won the acclaim of the people of Chartres. It combines strength and exquisite details, restraint and magnificence, tradition and modernity, reflected symbolism and instinctive sensibility   ».
Jacques Perrier, Bishop of Chartres

Consecration of the altar at Luçon, Homily, May 21, 1995

«
When we decided upon the realization of this magnificent work, we wanted it to be a sign as well as an opportunity. A gift of beauty offered to the beauty of God…   »
François Garnier, Bishop of Luçon

Following World Youth Days in Paris

«
The powerful simplicity and beauty of your creations have impressed all the participants, starting with the Pope himself. Your work possessed the same degree of aesthetic and spiritual quality as the event itself   ».
Cardinal Lustiger, Archbishop of Paris, Letter to Goudji, August 29, 1997

Church of Saint-Philibert Abbey at Tournus, Arrangement of the new sanctuary
A dominican communicates his emotion:
«
According to some, Beauty is a transcendental, that is to say a reality capable of expressing God. The work that Goudji has designed for the sanctuary of Tournus' Abbey is a testimony of Beauty. It is an expression of the divine that we will endlessly contemplate   ».

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