Destiny of the famous Karakalpak artist Alvina Andreevna Shpade is amazing: her ancestors came from Germany, she was born in 1935 in Bairam-Ali town, Turkmenistan, and her artistic biography is connected with Karakalpakstan.
Creativity of the artist is many-sided. She managed to combine different fields of activity: scenography and applied arts, painting and restoration. Alvina Andreevna told: “I do not need to divide myself – everything is of great interest. Meeting with very interesting persons – the founder of museum of arts I. Savitsky and theatre artist K. Saipov gave me opportunity to try in such different directions”. In 1957 A. Shpade finished Ashgabat Art College by S. Rustaveli. For several years she had taught drawing at high school of Bairam-Ali and worked a cartographer at geological expedition.
I960 became turning point in her life – she first came to Nukus and, working at the Karakalpak branch of the Academy of Sciences of Uzbekistan, got acquainted with I. Savitsky. The meeting with this outstanding person determined her further biography. She said: “His creative plans interested me very much”. In Nukus, A. Shpade began her active artistic carier – she studied carefully Karakalpak folk art, ancient history of local peoples, illustrated I. V. Savitsky’s book “Woodcarving”, the first art critical study of the Karakalpak applied art, and A. V. Gudkova’s “Tog-qala”. In the same period (I96O-I96I) A. Shpade made the first sketches of suzane and carpets on motifs of Karakalpak embroidery. She dreamed of revival of this art. However, twenty years had passed before her dreams became true. Association of folk masters “Usto” was established in 1978, where several suzane were made by her sketches.
In 1962 A. Shpade entered Tashkent Institute of Theatre and Art by A. N. Ostrovsky, faculty of pattern designer. On the third year, she was transferred to Moscow Textile Institute where she specialized in “art decoration and modeling of textile and light industry products”. In 1969 I. Savitsky invited her to work for Museum of Arts in Nukus as a restorer, where she has already worked for thirty five years, first at the department of fine arts, then at the department of applied arts.
She has restored huge number of weaving, embroidery pieces and clothes. A. Shpade worked at Theatre of Drama and Comedy by С Stanislavsky (nowadays, Karakalpak State Musical Theatre by Berdah) due to acquaintance with talented Karakalpak artist and chief artist of the theatre Kdyrbai Saipov. For five years, she had decorated the plays of “Guiding star” by С Yashen, “Botfly” by E.-L. Voinich and others. Each time she tried to find the original solution and to develop the idea of the author more deeply. New work developed skills of the artist further. Many sketches to theatrical plays are in collections of the museum, they were exposed at many exhibitions.
In addition, A. Shpade is a good costume designer (film “Rebellious” on T. Kaipbergenov’s novel “Daughter of Karakalpakstan”).
Creative diapason of the artist is wide and various: since the early 1970s she has worked as a painter and graphic artist. Her works “Still-life with felt”, “My childhood” and “My grandmother” got high estimation of experts and showed the main feature of her artistic style – decorativeness. “Still-life with felt” organically synthesizes tangibility of subjects and decorative painting solution. Golden-brown color and generalized drawing give unforgettable folk color and expressiveness to the still-life.
All genres A. Shpade works in – still-life, portrait, landscape and thematic compositions are closely connected with history and modernity of Karakalpakstan.
Numerous landscapes show the Karakalpak nature with great love – “Silent street”, “Djampyk-qala”, “Landscape with djugara” and others. Interest to this genre was not sudden. According to academician D. Lihachev, “landscape of the country is a component of national culture… Not to preserve the native nature is the same that not to preserve native culture. Nature expresses the soul of the nation”.
Alvina Shpade created many portraits. Historical characters and contemporaries are equally interesting to her: “Portrait of Beruni”, “Portrait of Berdah”, “Portrait of archeologist E. Nerazik “, “Portrait of Tamara”, “Portrait of the old man in shugurm”, “Portrait of art critic G. Saipov” and “Self-portrait”.
“Portrait of the old man in shugurm” was done in one scoop from memory. She saw the old man in the street and her imagination was struck by wit national character. “Portrait of Beruni” was also done quickly as the idea grasped her totally. Karakalpak artist Kdyrbai Saipov became a prototype. The portrait is solved in dark brown – lilac colors. The light accents spiritualized face and thin artistic hands of the scientist which are a dominant in the portrait.
Portraits of contemporaries are simple and convictive. They are free of idealization and effects. The models are drawn on a neutral background, so accenting inward of the person.
Many thematic pictures are devoted to life and labor of Karakalpak women: “Weeding”, “Lunch”, “On the balcony”, “Mothers” and others. These clear and simple compositions with a few figures amaze by their monumental character. Female images are filled with calmness and inner spiritual force.
The plots are clear and close to spectators, they as if came from everyday life. It is so. Alvina Andreevna observes these scenes at her house, on trips and in streets. Surprising is her ability to find poetry and heart warmth in trivial phenomena. Simplicity of plots determines simple expressive means: decorative effect of color and generalized drawing. The canvas of “At the cooker” exposes a combination of bright local spots and successful compositional solution. Here are no excessive or trivial details, so the scene shows importance and poetry of woman’s daily work.
The picture of “People, be reasonable!” (1989) stands apart from the other works. The picture was actuated by complicated events of the late 1980s. This canvas is a voice of the artist which warns against consequences of national and religious intolerance. The canvas shows absolutely new principles of composition: the subjects seem chaotically heaped and strongly deformed in comparison with previous static and monumental images. A. Shpade achieved especial expression and the temperature of human passions. The picture hardly can cause quiet observation because it makes spectators to think and empathize. It is symbolic that a new museum book of visitors was opened with the record done by visitors from Tashkent (2002): “Let the name of the picture “People, be reasonable!” be a motto of this museum”.
For many years, A. Shpade had been dreaming of revival of national art traditions. It was an idea by which I. Savitsky attracted her in the 1960s: “… we are planning to establish the experimental workshop at the museum which will promote revival of national applied art of Karakalpaks on the basis of our collection studying” (2, p. 53). This dream came true almost forty years later. In 1997 Association “Cultural heritage” was established at the Museum of Arts by I. V. Savitsky. Its primary task was revival of carpet weaving. Rescue of traditional forms from oblivion or disappearance and their revival is really noble task for any country and state.
According to famous scientist D. Lihachev, “care of the past is simultaneously care of the future…”. Carpet weaving shop started with copying of museum samples (karshins, essikkas, etc.). Now the shop manufactures twenty three items: carpets, bags, pads and oriental carpets for yurt interior. Sketches of all products are done by chief designer of the shop A. Shpade. She told about her work for the shop: “Creating sketches of carpet products, I go from Karakalpak art. To make better than carpet weavers of the past did is impossible. This is well polished art which has been developed by many generations”.
The products of the shop got high estimation from experts. The carpet “Great Silk Road” was recognized the best. Composed by A. Shpade and performed by skilled carpet weavers according to traditional technologies, the carpet is a sample not only of revival, but further development of traditional national culture. The carpet was given to the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan I. A. Karimov who highly estimated skills of Karakalpak carpet weavers.
Today’s skilled carpet weavers keep poetry of hand working and local national traditions. The most advanced machines will never compensate the need of people to create by own hands. Traditional folk art and warmth of human hands in each subject will be always a criterion of taste and skill.
A. Shpade herself tries in traditional Karakalpak technique of applique. She created the panel of “Tree of Life” from numerous fabric pieces where each stitch is hand made. The plot bases on a fragment of Karakalpak carpet. Traditional art has taken a special place in modern art culture. It gives understanding of beauty and aesthetic ideal having formed for centuries to our contemporaries. The artist loves the Karakalpak land and culture of people living there what is reflected in her art. Exhibitions of the artist often become discovery for spectators. That happened with a guest from Ethiopia who visited her exhibition in Tashkent in 1991: “I have lived in Tashkent for five months. I could not learn for that time more, than have learned today from your exhibition about Uzbekistan and its culture. Thanks a lot!” Famous Uzbek artist Chingiz Ahmarov left review about the same exhibition: “Thanks for interesting many-sided exhibition. I wish creative successes to the artist”.
Alongside with painting and applied arts, A. Shpade restores museum pieces, reviving many painting works.
1. Лихачев Д. С. Письма о добром и прекрасном. М., 1985.
2. Савицкий И. В. Понять друг друга… (Записки директора музея)
// “Советский музей”, 1984, N 2. 3. Архив ГМИ РК им. И. В. Савицкого.