Gifted and Versatile Painter (On the Art of Vasiliy Zhuravlyov)

Issue #3-4 • 1118

There are artists, the significance and meaning of whose art is not revealed at once, but only with time, and sometimes only after their life on earth has ended. This, for example, was the fate of the great Vincent Van Gough. Here in Uzbekistan the heritage of an outstanding artist Alexander Nikolaevich Volkov was not immediately recognized and appreciated by critics. This article tells about a remarkable, already deceased yet little known graphic artist, painter, sculptor and applied arts master, mechanic and poet Vasiliy Ivanovich Zhuravlyov. He was born in southern Kazakhstan in a rural family. His father participated in the Second World War, and his grandfather was a Cossack officer who perished during the Civil War that broke out in Russia after the 1917 revolution. Vasiliy Zhuravlyov’s father, then an eight year old boy left without his parents, was sheltered and raised by a Kazakh family.

The impressions of the artist’s childhood and adolescence years spent in Kazakhstan produced a decisive influence on all his subsequent life and art. Vasiliy Ivanovich graduated from Alma-Ata School of Theatre and Art, worked as stage designer and the teacher of drafting and drawing. In 1962 Zhuravlyov entered Graphics department of Arts faculty at the Tashkent Institute of Theatre and Art. As a student he participated in republican and subsequently pan-Union art exhibitions. During one of the pan-Union exhibitions in 1970s Zhuravlyov’s composition performed in the technique of linoleum engraving was acquired by the State Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow.

Zhuravlyov, a highly professional painter, mastered not only the art of linoleum engraving, but also watercolour technique. He created a series of remarkable landscape canvases with great insight into the spirit of each area, reflecting different states of steppe, foothill and village environment in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. These canvases are quite unique, both in their colouring and emotional/lyrical content, and in their distinctly personal manner of performance. Seemingly ordinary objects of Central Asian nature – steppe sunsets and moonlit nights – by will of the artist come alive on a canvas in a realistically romantic transformation. One can look at them at length – they are completely free of any flat and dry photographic representation.

Participating in creative journeys of a Pan-Union group of watercolour painters, Zhuravlyov diversely presented the nature of northern parts of Russia – Taimyr and Norilsk, in his large format watercolours. Yet his favourite themes remained the landscapes of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. With special loving feeling he depicted steppe saxaul plant, seeing in it one of the unique phenomena of Central Asian environment, and vividly portrayed its plastic beauty and vitality in his monumental paintings.

In his work, the artist avoided short-tem topics, although he, no doubt, responded to the developments in social atmosphere in the country where he lived. But he was mostly preoccupied with mysteries of nature and its earthly beauty linked inseparably to Cosmos.

Living conditions of artists changed after the disintegration of the USSR, and the emergence of an art market prompted Zhuravlyov to engage in decorative and applied art as well. Lately he lived in a steppe district near Sary-agach in a hut of a “hermit” (as he called himself) that he built with his own hands; there he grew pumpkins with elongated neck that served him as basis for decorative painting. These items embodied all that same Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan nature the sights of which we find in his easel and monumental painting. The artist sold his exquisitely decorated painted pumpkins through souvenir shops or presented to his friends as gifts.

Zhuravlyov was really a jack of all trades. I remember being quite amazed with a painter’s case he enhanced. This remarkable artist was also carpenter, mechanic and designer. Besides, Zhuravlyov was also an original poet. His lyric reflects the unrepeated charm of Central Asian nature, and at the same time one can sense the spirit of Russian traditional poetry. Verses by Zhuravlyov are akin in spirit to the works of such poets of name as Koltsov, Yesenin and Klyuev. Vasiliy Zhuravlyov dedicated a poem to Uzbekistan, the land he loved, which contains these verses:

Ах, беки, вы беки, родные узбеки! [Oh, beks, my dear Uzbeks!]
Дастархан ваш богатый на вечные веки. [Your table is ever so rich.]
Ничто не грозит вам: ни голод, ни плаха. [To you neither famine nor scaffold is ever a threat.]
Вы преданно чтите молитвы Аллаха. [To Allah your prayers are devoted.]
У вас теплые руки – теплей не бывает. [Your hands are warm - can never be warmer.]
Хлопок всегда золотым вырастает. [Your cotton ever grows golden.]
Нет в мире нигде превосходнее края – [There is no better land in the world - ]
Это щедрое место вселенского рая. [Than this generous corner of Eden.]
Ах, узбеки, узбеки, вы – добрые беки! [Oh, Uzbeks, the good beks you are!]

Vasiliy Zhuravlyov has left a rich artistic heritage, but unfortunately, there was no single personal exhibition held during his lifetime. So it is the duty of our public and the Academy of Arts of Uzbekistan to organize such an exhibition before all his works have ended up in private collections or been taken out of the country.

Rafail Taktash

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