Tashkent and Its Artists
(Continued from SAN'AT, 2010, N 1)
... The city was changing and changing rapidly. It is worth looking back on the pictorial record of it. Dense thickets of shrubs and trees were disappearing, and new buildings were replacing apricot tree groves behind the courtyard walls. Times when frightened swimmers could hear the voice of a man with a painter's case calling from in the green river bank: "Don't be afraid of me! I am an artist Volkov", or he could say, "Karahan", have become history.
Tashkent was developing suburbs. The number of artists was growing. Blending with the city, they conquered it, subordinating it to the moments captured on cardboard, paper, and canvases. The pleading intonation of someone painting from nature - "Don't be afraid of me" - changed to a commanding one of a man who is in control and aware of the brush stroke value. Once, when passers-by playfully pulled at the branches showering each other with freshly fallen snow, a window flew open and an authoritative voice rolled through the frosty air: "I am artist Charyev! I'm painting now! You are disturbing me!"
Ruzy Charyev (1931-2004), whose name immediately brings to mind sultry colours, created quite a few paintings on winter subject, which extend the Tashkent theme with pictorial-plastic solutions: "Our Street", "The Snow has Fallen", "Roxana's Morn"; "Winter Still Life" and "Winter Portrait" were also created during the same period.
Ikram Bakhramov (b. 1944) was born in Katartal village, which is now one of the main streets in Chilanzar residential district of Tashkent. It kept its poetic name, which translates as the "line of willow trees". Tranquility of the evening - the lamp, the bird, the new moon; or the goodness of the day - clouds of dust churned by the sheep flock, the woman milking a cow, the buckets, the plough-land… Patriarchal scenes show continuity of memory and are lovingly painted with pining heart. Experienced genre painter and portraitist I. Bakhramov often pictures the interiors of mud houses, silently sheltering a bird in a cage; the adobe walls are illuminated by an old lamp; a man is walking stealthily, lest the silence of the evening be broken - the motive reveals a secret tenderness harboured by the artist.
Some point of gravity remained constant: Sheyhantaur, Urda, the Sunday market that was later on replaced with a square with a fountain and the Opera and Ballet Theatre.
An art school has long moved from Sheyhantaur. Navoi Street was being gradually occupied by a film studio, publishing houses, a television centre, schools and design institutes.
The new main street has evolved. One teahouse still remained in Sheyhantaur. The artists who have grown older gathered there for their boys only parties, made jokes, and dismissed the burden of age. Grigoriy Shevyakov (1905-1982) painted his wonderful watercolours there: "Ash-trees of Sheyhantaur". A lot of them. They are part of Shevyakov's Tashkent - the Tashkent of many colours, full of life and joy. They have everything: spring blossoms and tender greenery of trees, rich colours of autumn, the city's foundation pits and new buildings; there may be no city yet, but the artist's colourful promise says it will be there. Shevyakov's Tashkent is a separate substantial chapter is the pictorial history of the city. He likes large sheets with lots of air and opportunities to wield his brush liberally to communicate water colour shades.
It was their city. They walked along the highway of memorable years. V. Ufimtsev used to rent a house in Ukchi neighbourhood (mahalla) in Urda area, where he lived and worked; to the right was the Milk Bridge; artists M. Kurzin and Gulyaev also lived in a mahalla. At that time it was indeed an old city left intact, except for the pictures of new leaders and posters in a tea-house.
In Urda the artists painted a bridge across Ankhor River, eventually translating their sketches into another material. The "Urda Bridge" is known from lithographs by A. Osheyko and V. Kaydalov, watercolours and pastels of G. Shevyakov, and gouaches of K. Cheprakov.
Ankhor is a cross-cutting theme. Works of the 1920s-1950s are complemented by those created in the following decades. Adylbek Babajanov (b. 1955) would come to the banks of Ankhor to develop his ideas. "The Seasons" would fill four canvases with the same composition and different colour expression: the river, the majnuntal willow, and a boat. River flows, and so does the time. Babadjanov is one of the first Tashkent artists who would want to bring together the lessons of observation from the Chinese painting on silk and the plastic of miniature painting through the vision of a contemporary artist.
It was their city ... They sketched its roofs and windows, the trees, the pedestrians, the tram lines; they drew on album sheets, scraps of paper and wrappers that happened to be handy when they purchased food from a grocery store. A never-ending Tashkent reportage was being born. Among the painters were R. Levitsky, A. Chitkauskas, K. Nazarov, A. Venediktov, L. Abdullaev, S. Malt, V. Kedrin, V. Kaidalov, D. Sinitsky, A. Nazyrov, G. Shevyakov, V. Budaev... Columns dedicated to Tashkent sketches appeared in newspapers and magazines.
Navoi Avenue is pictured by K. Cheprakov, G. Shevyakov, and G. Shpolyansky. The way they represent it reveals the desire to emphasize the natural entry of new things into the city life. The romanticism of novelty will be shown later in the works of artists of the 1970's. The sound presentation by Grigoriy Shpolyansky (1914-1974) carefully shows the street perspective, its houses, and globular street lamps; a frequently used composition shows the street washed by rain, and the glare of puddles on the pavement. A rainy day has no gloom, and a light flavour of academic painting is akin to grisaille.
The dome of Abu Kefal Shashi mausoleum crowns the part of the city that appeals to K. Cheprakov and B. Kotlov. The area of their interest lies behind the place known as Chor-Su. Rather than painting the market-place with its many people and its bounty, they choose the streets behind Kukeldash madrassa. To communicate the specific appearance of Tashkent without resorting to the outward ethnographic features is a challenging task.
Landscapes of Boris Kotlov (1923-1996) are valuable component in the art of Uzbekistan. These include some large-format pictures of the city created in a well-balanced colour. The author aspires to integrity of colours and objects. Perhaps for this reason both artists give preference to tempera as it enables a combination of transparent light and fastness. The voice of adobe walls dominates, and the painted ochre planes seem to be breathing.
Artists do not feel strange in these neighbourhoods and streets where their images are born. The Old City pictured with and without its monuments appears deserted yet filled with a sense of human presence. Paintings by Konstantin Cheprakov (1907-1972) usually have only few images of the neighbourhood elders. The artistic content is characterized by good nature in the painter's friendly vision. "The Artisans of Tashkent" is not a repetition of the same-name paintings made by Cheprakov's colleagues. Large canvases are not burdened with details; the image of a master absorbed in his work dominates. The image is reduced to typical features and plastic solutions, and is akin to a colour outline.
Sophia Finkelstein (1904-1988) took a long way to Tashkent. She left behind Bessarabia and Belgium - the Brussels Academy of Decorative Arts. In 1930s she moved to Russia, Moscow, and before the war - to Asia. After many trying experiences she first landed in Buka (Tashkent Province), then in Tashkent, in its Old City quarter. Finkelstein's Belgian works are suprematist, and later in the sketches for textile factories she kept using the method of geometric abstraction. Her Tashkent landscapes are finely wrought with a pencil with watercolour tincture. In her early drawings she also employed graphite and an old shading technique.
Georgiy Sokolov (1907-1960), a well-known master of the original book graphics style, ended up in Russia, and later on, in 1952, in Tashkent, when Russian artists left China in 1949. "The Garden Path" was painted in Tashkent. In his easel works Sokolov turns to oil paints. Yellowness of the fallen leaves and brown stonework on the pathway are painted on a square canvas in realistic manner.
Winter landscapes with figures painted by Pavel Gan (1894-1967) show the alleys near Gospitalniy Market, where he lived with his large family. His sons worship them as they worship their father, his painting skill, and the comfort of the motives. This is a school of the Russian artistic tradition they came from, and this spiritual source will never run dry. The sons of old Gann, whose eyes witnessed more than one architectural downfall, are monumental artists. The basis of their skill is constructivism - something that Pavel Gan knew firsthand. They see and paint the city in a different way: Victor Gan (b. 1947), "Night" (canvas, oil). Tashkent themes of Arnold Gan (1928-1999) form a group of pictures with subgroups, such as "Teahouse. The Blue Domes", "A Game of Chess", "Dastarkhan", "Quail Fight", "Along the Banks of Ankhor", and "Conversation", with many typical and psychological characteristics of the city residents.
The 1960s were the forerunners of the growing momentum of the following decade. High emotions, dynamism, the scope of socio-cultural outlook... The Earth is whirling in a global cosmic project. The authors' individuality is more clearly outlined, cognitive content is going deeper and the subjects are going broader; technically daring experiment is manifest. Generalizations will come later, leading to pictures of a comprehensive content. Thus, in Tashkent M. Tokhtaev painted his "Crossroads" and S. Alibekov his "The Forest of Categories".
Spatial solutions for J. Umarbekov, M. Tokhtaev, B. Jalalov, S. Alibekov, A. Nuriddinov, and L. Ibragimov are the way for historical and cultural exploration. Akmal Nuriddinov and Fayzulla Ahmadaliev bring together the magnitude of heartfelt emotion and spicy oriental flavour.
In a series titled "The 30 Sites of Tashkent" by J. Umarbekov Tashkent is revived as an ancient town in "The City of Zoroastrians", and the same river banks, ravines, and the flowing water of the Boz-Su canal, known from landscape of S. Yudin and M. Yantsyn, are presented in a different key of artistic solution.
Maskhud Tokhtaev (1947-2004) was noted for his the desire to get an insight into the mechanism of rotary revolutions and combine his immediate observations with a focus on world's masterpieces. Let us recall his quince fruit from Uzbek orchards, which was transformed into a celestial object. Tokhtaev's experience is characterized by daring concepts; devoid of alienation from the modern world, a silent terrain rolls down behind the horizon representing fragments of the planet: a white cube is firmly entrenched on a golden surface painted with an optical effect. "City", says the master casually in the quiet of his workshop. His explanations are brief as he demonstrates canvases that did not go to the exhibition.
Expositions from the capital of Uzbekistan, besides the all-Union program of exhibition activities, presented their own themes. Already traditional motto definitions, such as "Tashkent - the City of Bounty", "Festival Tashkent", and "Tashkent - the City of Peace and Friendship", received some additions: "My Home is Your Home", "Uzbekistan is a Home We Share"… Exhibitions marking the anniversaries, tributes to ancient heroes and scholars, poets and cities, were sifted through the "Tashkent screen".
The extremes of creative explorations uncovered a wide-ranging palette of the Tashkent group. When Alisher Mirzaev (b. 1948), pursuing his interest in the traditions of monumental solutions, turned to suzane, the national embroidery of Uzbekistan has revealed itself as a pristine force.
Tashkent is present in the minds of artists V. Akudin, B. Babaev, A. Yunusov, D. Mursalimov, Y. Salpinkidi… The list goes on, turning into a voluminous catalogue of names. Let us look at some individual examples. Nadezhda Kim (b. 1941) whose name is mentioned in the article, created her first work titled "Lunar Landscape in Mahalla" in the town of Kirguli near Fergana. In Tashkent she creates watercolours inspired by traditional architecture, and, in her capacity of a ceramic artist she reproduces them in decorative lagan platters.
The 1920s-1930s artists who paid tribute to the 'Tashkent - of Tashkent - for Tashkent' theme are joined by the painters of the decades that followed. Lev Reznikov (1928-2003) keeps up a rare old school manner of applying many layers of oil paints; his skill in using the technique exposes the flexibility and luminous quality of the paints. "Big City Lights. Late Evening" is a conventional name for pieces painted in the centre of Tashkent, where nowadays Sayilgoh Street runs. Impressionist freshness of a complex multi-figure motif makes Reznikov's paintings distinct.
The list of achievements is complemented by Mahmud Ahmedov's picture "Igorchi Mahalla in Tashkent", Yuri Taldikin's "City Greenhouse. Tashkent", Mir Hegai's "Autumn in the Tashkent Sea", Abduhakim Turdyev's "Tomorrow is Navruz" and "Before the Earthquake".
A light, freely painted "Sunday" by Imyar Mansurov (b. 1947) is an overpowering joy. A crowd of passers-by is "crossed over" by snowflakes. Rhythmic organization of a major painting is to become key in the art of I. Mansurov.
Davron Mukhitdinov (b. 1940) conceals the city features behind a skilful blend of green trees, blooming roses and the warmth of clay soil. The specificity of a palette knife technique is intensified by the flowing smoothness of female figures in loose-cut traditional dress. The compositions are united into a series titled "The Legend of the Pomegranate City".
The city at night inspires Ulugbek Usmanov (b. 1969) to create fantasies seen by the observant and good-humored artist; these would come near the domain of ufology, if not for their exact address - Tashkent.
Among the works of other authors we also find amazing dedications. Shakhnoza Jamilova (b. 1958) and her "Sounds of Night" series; or Ahmadaliev Junior with his "She-wolf and the Gate". Ancient tribal notions enter the minds of contemporary city dwellers with immutability of traditional order, asserting an important aspect of a multifaceted idea of Tashkent: Home and peace.
Some empathic works are characterized by pensive elegy, rather than by minor intonation. This kind of poeticism shows in "The Last Trolleybus" by Yuri Vyaltsev (b. 1964), and in a sad "Portrait of the Poet Rauf Parfi" by Shuhrat Abdurashidov (1950-1979). A dog running along a solid concrete fence down a gray sidewalk that is just as indifferent, towards a distant glow of the setting sun - this is also Tashkent in Marina Bogatyryova's (b. 1961) "Urban Landscape before Sunset". The artist's compassionate intonation has many different shades which can be experienced in the urban environment.
There are few more names among the adherents of the Tashkent theme. The insight developed by Grigoriy Zilberman (b. 1938) went from external knowledge to in-depth study and recognition. His attitude to his new homeland is well exposed in his Asian canvases: Samarqand and Khiva had been pictured before; Surkhandarya and Baysun were developed parallel to Tashkent, and Tashkent was on increase. Tashkent works are given the character of a comprehensive autobiographical cycle. It consists of progressively developed subjects: from childhood years ("Tashkent - the City of Bounty") to analytical overview paintings with broad semantic content, such as "Tashkent Turns 2000".
Zainutdin Fakhrutdinov (b. 1951) develops similar subjects in a climbing progression: from deep inside to visual revelation. Nuptials, holiday celebrations, scenes of everyday life are the same. Yet his pictorial and chiaroscuro solutions are different. Tashkent, the capital city, is pictured in the triptychs of Sagdulla Abdullaev (b. 1945) "The Young People of Uzbekistan" and "Young Architects". The artist sources his inspiration from the renewal of Tashkent. The characters in his canvases are his age peers living in the times when Tashkent was being built in the 1970s.
But the image of Tashkent will be incomplete without pieces such as "Solo for the Quail" by Muhtarhan Isanov (b. 1959), "The Balcony" by Larissa Davats (b. 1937), "Down Nikitin Street" by Tatiana Lee (b. 1965), and paintings of Yigitali Tursunnazarov (b. 1941).
The city takes up what is given and is menacing in its uncompromising and obvious expansion. The big city grinds events, experiences, somebody's lives… Subconscious gravitation towards living nature has become more acute. Some enthusiasts, namely Yuriy Strelnikov and Yuriy Chernyshov, set up an environmental section in the Union of Artists of Uzbekistan, which was eventually transformed into "The Artist and Nature" programme, but it was not an escape from the city.
Yuriy Strelnikov (1937-1996) who revered the older generation artists, dreamt of becoming a historian of the movement, and started record-keeping from mountain excursions undertaken by famous masters in 1935-1937. The organizers built a team; activities of the section contributed to the expansion of spatial objectives, helped strengthen the role of plein-air in painting, and reconfirmed the unity of man and nature. A kind of a moral field was created.
Quite interesting is the easel painting of monumental artists Y. Chernyshov, V. Burmakin, V. Chub, V. Gan and their colleagues. Yuri Chernyshov (1944-2007) builds a vertical of a panoramic view upon the capital city, preserving the pieces of living nature, which are so important to him, in the changing seasons. Vladimir Burmakin (b. 1938) subjects his impressions to semantic labyrinth that goes from the geometry of traditional refraction in girikh - the art he learned from Usto Tashpulat Arslankulov. Thanks to girikh, the creeping monster - the growing city - is organized in a plastic unity. The concept of the city as organic creature is intensified through charcoal drawing and thick enamel painting; artistic content shows tension in the concealment of the labyrinth.
Colour-bearing pulsation characterises paintings of Florida Gambarova (b. 1950). She is the one who presents scanty-coloured graphical series dedicated to the city. The outline structure is rigid, the constructions are bursting to reach the heights and freeze over a street below. Yielding to the configuration of the new city, the warm living note is concealed. Until a certain moment - to sail again over the city like a fair cloud in chromatic stretches, filled with the joy of contemplation, or maybe like the domes of spring-time bloom?
No one can be indifferent to the works of Yuriy Strelnikov ("Welcome!") and Anvar Mahkamov ("My Orient"), which have similar compositions featuring the moon, a woman and an oven.
Erkin Nazarov (1948-1991) pictures houses wide open to the world, which appear in the air stream, and the space the bears the house with open doors and windows is friendly in its own way, although an acute sense of the artist's elitism is ever present. The fact that his art is in demand is made clearer through the simplicity and spirituality of his ascetic habitat. His intuition saves the massive image from the chaos of conglomeration. Silence comes into painting - silence that is somewhat guarded, at times meditative, one that intensifies inspired observation.
Artists who ventured into the expanse of light-and-air environment, pursue the objective of showing a recognizable Tashkent. From being in touch with the bulk, they discover incredible solutions, up to myth-making: "Winter" drawn by Jamol Usmanov (b. 1961) is distinguished by an exquisite ethos of plastic junctions. Staying true to the city, S. Alibekov, G. Kodirov, E. Nazarov and A. Turdiev create the picture of the universe and the marriage of the two worlds.
A persistent trend makes apparent the fact of the existence of a separate, isolated world. It grows through all creative conditions, donating its warm light in equal measure to the city mass and bringing the sense of the necessary equilibrium. The situation is illustrated by two personal exhibitions run simultaneously in 2003 in adjacent halls, marking the anniversary of the two artists: painter Pahritdin Tahirov (1933-2006) and wood carver Artyk Faizullae (b. 1933). Two different kinds of art were juxtaposed in an unhurried advance, resting on the elegant islimi pattern - the interpretation of harmony of the universe.
A reference to genetic memory seems appropriate. The art of Zayniddin Mirzaev (b. 1949) can be attributed to the categories of mnemonic persuasion. Compositions originating from the walls of his home breathe the warmth of the hearth, adobe huts, and quilted blankets made by his mother, whom, in fact, all his art is dedicated to. Some of the compositions are structured following the principle of kuroka, the traditional patchwork, which, in their pictorial version combine independent outlined subjects on one canvas, and Mirzaev's "Tashkent" is one of the examples.
Big city intensified the everlasting and volatile opposition between dreams and reality. Artist is a trigger point in conflicting sentiments, responsible for finding harmonious interaction. The city presented an opportunity to refer to the wide range of issues and provoked daring generalizations. And yet something perpetual and constant still retained its appeal.
The artist moving ahead of his time and the artist with a consistent typology of imaginative thinking - both are the guardians of experience gathered over thousands of years, which prompted them to take the path of creative experiences. Perhaps Zayniddin Mirzaev was that very link that opened the way for a stand-alone phenomenon, namely the young artists of the 1980s. It cut through the established picture the country's artistic diversity like a lightning. Powerful insight, surprising in the laconism of artistic language - that was not a loner's path, but a new stylistic manifestation.
This cultural phenomenon is now being scientifically justified, but it would be better to quote the words of artist S. Alimbekov as he explained his painting called "The Statics of the Dynamics. Nostalgia" (1997): "The noose of memories tightens instantly, bringing you back again and again to the ever inaccessible past".
Nodir Imamov (b. 1959), Shavkat Hakimov (b. 1958), Gafur Kadyrov (b. 1958), Murad Karabaev (b. 1963), and Timur Akhmedov (b. 1968) set a new horizon for entering into the world of imagery. Declarative position confidently dwelled on mastery; the signs of devotion to the world captivated with its irresistible combination where a little bit of mystery, a little enigma, a little bit of fragrant roses, and a little bit of evening intertwined in a magnificent floral arch, through which there appeared a bright night, a traveler wearing a wreath of cornflowers, a talking bird, Bibi Mariam, Buri's daughter, and Margarita from Pirosmani's painting. Pensive alleys in their paintings absorb the colour of petals. The well-versed in terms of professional training, in one aspect of their art they deliberately chose a method somewhat akin to the art of naivety and primitivism, bringing expressivity back to the forms of basic communication.
The last piece worth mentioning among the paraded names is a large-scale installation by Vyacheslav Useinov (b. 1962), "The Shadow of a House that Does Not Exist". Let us highlight its main and starting component: the large canvas with figurative painting: a man is sitting in the shade with an air of aloofness about him. The picture is mentioned here not for the purpose of linking it to the topic with literal interpretation of the story, which would be impossible anyway, as the character is ambivalent and timeless. The main idea that comes to mind when one encounters the range of cold, shimmering paints is how responsible the artist is for the way of expressing confessional contemplations about the transient. The shadow of the haunting presence of the invisible...