New Trends in Uzbekistan Painting. Quest and Achivement in the Work of Kamoljon Babaev

Issue #1 • 1353

On January 17, 2008 the Fine Arts Gallery of Uzbekistan, with support from “ISTE’DOD” Foundation, hosted a personal exhibition of Kamoljon Babaev titled “On the Sunny Side”. The year 2008 in the country has been proclaimed to be the Year of the Youth, and the presentation of the young master’s creative work is particularly relevant in this regard.

Of yore, the East has been the meeting place of different cultures that engaged in a dialogue with one another, generating various forms of symbiosis and developing a common language of communication. As a result, a unique culture evolved, the essence of which was expressed by Academician N. Konrad in his metaphoric and capacious statement: “In the East the basic idea of the humankind -universalism – is evident” (1).
In the late 1990s, when stylistic and graphic priorities in Uzbekistan art began to change, the theme of interaction between West and East became increasingly prominent.

Among the young generation of Uzbekistan artists, the idea of multicultural interaction is most vividly presented in the art of Kamoljon Babaev. Babaev was born in 1978. In 1996-1998 he studied at the National Institute of Arts and Design named after K. Bekhzad, at the Department of Monumental Painting. In 1998, being awarded the Umid grant instituted by the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan, Kamoljon entered the Aldo Galli Fine Arts Academy in Como (Italy) and graduated from it in 2002, having earned master’s degree in painting. During his four years of study the artist held several personal exhibitions in the cities of Italy such as Milan, Siena, Como, Erbe, Cassina Rizzardi, Olgiate Comasco. He also participated in a number of international graphics and painting contests, winning awards.

Not only tree has deep roots. If oriental art did not have metres such as Bekhzad, A. Nikolaev (Usto Mumin), P. Benkov, A. Volkov, Ch. Akhma-rov, R. Akhmedov, R. Charyev, B. Jalalov, J. Umar-bekov and A. Mirzaev, and in Italy Alessandro Savelli, Pierre Antonio Verga and Togo, then we would not have seen the achievements of our hero whose world-outlook developed under the influence of his great predecessors.

Babaev was lucky to study the artistic experience of different schools: realistic and vanguard, oriental and occidental. His education provided a good foundation for searching for original ways in art that would be consonant to the trends of the 21st century art.

Today Kamoljon works in painting, drawing, photography, sculpture, ceramics, design and installation. His works stand out with their peculiar colouring and gravitation towards creating original collages; they are characterized by being monumental, of large format, by non-standard multilevel compositions and surprisingly bold solutions. He assembles, combines and creates an integral image or composition from different segments, triangles, rectangles, squares and rhombuses. The artist aspires to go beyond the limits of a canvas surface and into a three-dimensional space and create new reality. The main theme of his works is aspiration towards harmony, beauty and love. He does not support deep philosophic implications; rather he is keen on relaying emotion, the instantaneity of impression caused by a vivid image or event, and on expressing his experiences by means of accessible and clear pictorial solution.

The artist says: “Often, in search of an ephemeral truth we forget the most important thing – the Human Being. Yet a painting, an opera, a film, a poem, a play and a sculpture are not an expression of any trendy concept or an item with a certain market price, but are in the first place a manifestation of a spiritual human depth of a creative personality. Works are filled with the sentiment of their creator, they carry his energy. Of course, art has traits of tendentiousness and market value, but these aspects come second, for one must not forget that art is not a job or occupation, but a manifestation of a true harmony granted from above, here and now”.

Exhibition activity of Kamoljon Babaev in Uzbekistan began with a personal exhibition called “Dream” in the CEH of the Academy of Arts in 2004; year 2005 was marked with a personal exhibition called “Dimension” held in the Ikuo Hirayama International Caravanserai in Tashkent. The young artist also participated in the first, second, third and fourth International Biennales of modern art in Tashkent (2001, 2003, 2005 and 2007).

In January 2008 the Fine Arts Gallery housed Babaev’s personal conceptual exhibition titled “On the Sunny Side” that presented the artist’s quest in painting and photo collage. The artist named the new direction of his creative search “ICONS”. It involves the creation of peculiar collages of several canvases, some kind of “puzzles” that allow each viewer to participate with the author in understanding creative impulses of our subconscious.

Many say that they see in the shape of Babaev’s works a cross as a sign or a symbol of a human figure. These intuitively discovered outlines of a silhouette with open arms greet everyone who enters the exhibition space – “icons” called thus by the artist because they are alive; these icons are the images of the world, the people, the nature, the images of harmony and integrity of everything that lives.

The artist aspires to fill his works with active energy, to draw the line of dialogue between the works and the viewers, as, for example, in “Motherland” (canvas, oil, 2006) or “Nostalgia. Autumn” (canvas, oil, 2005). His fantasy and imagination are vividly reflected in the colouring that helps generate new reality (“The Snow Has Fallen”, canvas, oil, 2005; “Horses. Heat. Lovers”, canvas, oil, 2005; “Red City”, canvas, oil, 2007), as well as in non-ordinary art forms and combination of bright colours (“Mommy”, canvas, oil, 2006; “Childhood”, canvas, 2007; “Labikhauz”, canvas, oil, 2007). The plasticity of structure in the artist’s works goes with the innovativeness of compositional designs, as, for instance, in “Labzak. Childhood” (canvas, oil, 2006), “Before the Wedding” (canvas, oil, 2005), “Under the Tashkent Sun” (canvas, oil, 2007).

The peculiarity of Babaev as an artist is in that he, on the one hand, develops rich decorative trend in Uzbekistan painting, and, on the other hand, boldly rejects the standards of easel painting, striving to go beyond the boundaries of plane presentation into a three-dimensional space. He is very harmonious in colouring that is associated with bright modulations of suzane rugs and mysterious shining of satins. Simplistic motifs communicated through a conventional language of patterns turn into a sunny, harmonious and happy world in the artist’s works.

As any contemporary artist of post-modernism era, Babaev’s art shows elements from the great diversity of traditions. These elements are boldly interpreted, and although not very evidently manifested, they pulse implicitly, giving his art its national peculiarity.

The “On the Sunny Side” exhibition also presented an exposition called “FOTO ICONS”. Kamoljon’s interest towards photography emerged as early as during his years in the Italian academy in Como. Thinking of painting and of what new say he could have in it, the young artist turned to photography at the same time. This is not an ordinary photography, but a kind of a photo-collage: many strokes that ultimately generate a wholesome composition. This technique is akin to a children’s mosaic. For example, such are his works “Granny Munawar” (2004) and “Mom, I Love You!” (2007). The artist shapes his compositions by putting them together by piece-fragments; it is a meticulous operation that gives the effect of a piece assembled of separate frames.

The exhibition displayed about twenty photo-collages on different domestic themes: “Granny Jamila” (2007), “The Teachers” (2007), “Vinogradnitsa” (2004), “Heavenly Makhal-la” (2007), “A Day in Mitrofanov” (2007). Among his works of this group the most interesting one is “The Uzbek Family. Chingiz and Nigora” (2004), where we can see the artist’s brother and his spouse bearing a child under her heart, and next to them a fruit composition of pomegranates, apples and grapes – classic symbols of fertility. At the same time, “Western” theme is also resonant in his works, as an echo of his European travels: “3 Panillani Street” (2006), “Gen-ova. Sea” (2004), “Genova. Sea. Dream” (2004), “Paris. The Eiffel Tower” (2008), “Basilica of the Sacred Heart” (2008)…

Babaev’s collages are a kind of photo-painting where every frame functions as individual brush stroke. It should be noted that computer-based Photoshop treatment and montage are either absent, or used only partly where it was absolutely essential. All compositions are assembles manually, with maximal keeping of the sense of time and place. Characteristically, the artist’s signature is recognizable both in photography and painting.

Kamoljon Babaev is a modern intellectual who feels equally at ease in a subtle oriental world and in the context of pragmatic western culture. One may call him an all-round artist, and that is the uniqueness of his artistic personality. His dynamic creative activity and multidirectional search have resulted in his offering a new trend, having created a kind of a synthesis between photography and painting.

According to Kamoljon Babaev, his device is the words of a great Russian writer Andrei Platonov: “It is not the talent but humaneness that creates Art”.

Dildora Umarova

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