Bridges Connecting the Hearts

In November 2007 there was a personal exhibition of the artist Murtazo Ergashev.
Ergashev was born in Kattakurgan (Samarqand Region) and now lives in Tashkent where he teaches drawing and painting at the National Institute of Art and Design named after Bekhzad. He is an active participant of republican exhibitions. His pictures are rightfully a success with those who like pictorial art.

The exhibition of Ergashev's works held last November at the Central Exhibition hall of the Academy of Arts was a pleasant surprise for the audience due to its scale and diversity of represented genres;, the artist is confident in realistic manner of painting. T. Kuziev, the Chairman of the Academy of Arts of Uzbekistan, who inaugurated the exhibition, and the People's Artist of Uzbekistan Me-dat Kagarov made an observation to the visitors that the connoisseurs of painting had obviously been missing works performed in the genre of realism.

A significant number of Murtazo Ergashev's canvases are dedicated to Samarqand, which he visits every year, absorbing the many-sided world so dear to his heart and presenting his impressions on canvasses. This year Ergashev's creative journey to his native places coincided with the preparation for the celebration of the 2750th anniversary of the city. He worked on his pictures in hot summer days, but even the scorching sun could not overcome his determination: the painter's mind was preoccupied with an idea that his works would be a kind of creative report before his native town and a gift for its anniversary. During this trip he created pictures such as "Samarqand manzaralari" ("The Sites of Samarqand"], "Shokhi Zinda", "Khazratri Khizr", "Bibikhonim kuchasi" ("Bibikhonim Street") and "Guri Amir" ("The Tomb of Amir").

For Murtazo, Samarqand is not only the city with thousands years of history, but also a fairy land from One Thousand and One Night stories. At times it seemed to him that his palette was short of colours to depict all that richness of diicor of its architecture and the incredulous alterations of light and shade. The artist's attention was drawn not only to ancient monuments that seem to emanate an enchanting, soul-moving music, but also to the crowd of people on the streets, dignified pace of white-bearded old men and the town's youth hurrying to school or work.

This ancient city was portrayed on the canvases of ? the great masters of brush such as Usto Mumin. P. Benk-ov, A. Volkov, Ch. Akhmarov and R. Temurov from Uzbekistan, as well as by many visiting artists beckoned by this oriental pearl... Yet Murtazo sees it differently, in his own characteristic vision. On his canvasses Samarqand is as beautiful, mysterious and wise as Queen Shekhereza-da who has not yet finished telling us her fairy tales.

Interestingly, the Samarqand-inspired theme began to develop in Ergashev's work relatively recently. The artist himself cannot explain why he did not approach the subject of his native ground for a long time. "Perhaps, inside myself I was not prepared to take this step", says he.

Meanwhile, the artist already had some experience in reproducing the image of historical cities on a canvas. As early as his student days in the Department of Painting of Theatre and Art Institute (now the National Institute of Art and Design named after Bekhzad) he went on creative trips to Khiva and Bukhara, as a result of which he created portraits "Dostmurot Ota" and "Gulsa-man>>, and pictures "Saraton" ("Heat"), "Ziyoratgokh" ("The Place of Pilgrimage"), "Khonako Mirakon", "The Bridge", "Bridge Across Mountain River", "Un Dona" ("Ten Pieces") and "Khumsan Village". In his works the author was able to convey, convincingly and accurately, colour nuances characteristic of the landscape of these cities: in his pictures of Khiva sites he used grey hues and in those of Bukhara he resorted to ochre and earthen shades. "Thus it is impossible to mistake any street or monument in these cities with any other, as it is the colours that determine and reveal their true essence", says the artist.

One can say confidently that Ergashev could see with his heart the hidden essence of his native Samarqand. "Unlike Khiva or Bukhara, Samarqand is not a monochrome but a polychrome city. There is plenty of green, blue, pink and red. These colour move me a lot, because searching for the right colour on a palette is the most exciting moment for an artist", says Murtazo and then continues: "And although there are no colours that are not beautiful, I like using these shades, and in my canvases they appear spontaneously".

Samarqand, the theme that moves the artist's soul, calls for continuous search and creative journeys. At the same time, apart from the Samarqand cycle, other subjects can also be found in Murtazo Ergashev's work. For example, paintings "Caravanserai", "Preparation for Lunch" and "The Return of Surkhonbobo" are inspired by the memories of childhood and student years. "When I was a child, I often travelled with my grandfather to the caravanserai in Kattakurgan to buy forage for my grandfather's horses. Every time I visited that place I was amazed at the sight of young and old farmers who came to the market from nearby villages. Colourful dress, cheerful talk, naughty jokes - all these things drew my attention", recalls the artist.

The canvas "Preparation for Lunch" tells about his student years. It is dedicated to cotton-pickers on the fields of Syrdarya. We catch them during their lunch break: there is a wooden table with a whole still uncut water-melon sitting on top of it, and the students are preparing for the daytime meal. The painting breaths sincerity, the love of life, and passion that goes with young age.

For the artist there is no limitation when it comes to the choice of a theme and its implementation; he paints nature and people using colours and shades as his heart commands him - that is his basic rule. At the same time, using an individual approach every time, he remains true to nature and realistic method of portraying reality ("Portrait of a Friend", "Portrait of Akmal"). When creating his portrait characters, the artist gives specific attention to details that help reveal the person's individuality and his or her inner world. Take, for example, "Portrait of Mother". A school teacher is sitting at her desk holding a pencil tip down and watching her students with the corner of her eye; her countenance is attentive and focused. The painting is wrought with great mastery, truthfully and in an unconstrained manner. The canvas "Portrait with the Clock" [часы ручные или напольные?] attracts specific attention of the artist's fans by the accuracy in translating the person's state of mind and philosophic approach to solving the character.

Landscape is the favorite genre of Murtazo that fascinated him from the very first steps in his artistic career. His landscapes are always a good cause to tell us not only about nature, but also about people, their lives and relationships. The artist has been able to find accurate solutions for his imagery, enabling the expression of a deep philosophic implication of his paintings. Such, in particular, are the pictures of bridges, which gave the name for the artist's personal exhibition - "Bridges Connecting the Hearts". We can see a bridge over a mountain stream, a stone bridge, a half-destroyed bridge, a bridge being crossed by a grandmother with her grandson. Painted in different times of the year, they are different in mood, size and colour solutions. The artist believes that bridges symbolize noble people' labour. Through the portrayal of bridges one can express people's lives and emotional state, and, most importantly, relationships of people's hearts. "I am interested in the history of the country's well-known bridges", says the artist. "This fall I am going to paint Iskander's Bridge in Surkhandarya".

Murtazo has yet another theme that echoes with bridges - the theme of big and small roads. In his landscapes we can see mountain trails, narrow village streets, roads going through fields with the scenes of everyday routine work done by villagers. The artist makes his viewer understand that even on a deserted road there is life of its own kind. His dusty little streets seem to emanate the spirit of a cloudless, pure childhood, and his wide streets beckon us into the future, into big time life.

Earth overgrown with grass, lush colours of wildflow-ers - all these unsophisticated themes evoke warm feelings in our souls and an urge to plunge into the world of nature and run barefoot along these roads. All paintings by Murtazo Ergashev are a call for beauty, for love of life and people.

Nodir Normatov


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