One of the most provocative and original contemporary artists of Uzbekistan, Seiran Kurtjemil is a painter not only by training, but rather by vocation and outlook. Kurtjemil’s early works displayed at the national exhibitions already attracted the attention of art critics and artists. Showing a wonderful painting culture, searching for unique manner, and experimenting with form and colour, the artist, most importantly, revealed his refined inner world, very light and warm. His works became immediately recognizable in the art shows, and he always ranked among the most talented young artists of Uzbekistan. Clearly, Seiran Kurtjemil was a gifted painter with distinctive style, free expression and great innovative potential.
Kurtjemil’s career in art is similar to that of many other artists of his generation. He was born in 1967 in Yangiyul town and studied at the Graphic Art and Design Department of the Tashkent State Pedagogical Institute named after Nizami, in the studio of Yanis Salpinkidi. Salpinkidi can take credit for raising a whole galaxy of artists who now work in painting, drawing, and actual art, as well as for encouraging his students to carefully explore and study West European and Russian avant-garde art, and to search, experiment, and strive not only for high professional standard, but also for the unique expression.
Kurtjemil’s personal exhibition held at the Fine Arts Gallery of Uzbekistan in December 2011, allows tracing the evolution of his art, yet the artist himself believes that his creative inquiry is still ongoing. And it is wonderful, because when an artist is searching, his art is alive: it evolves, changes, and absorbs new ideas, emotions, and images.
It is quite logical that one’s art evolves, because art changes with life. Improvement in a master’s formal and plastic language is not just an experiment, but a response to the changing reality. Although one can sense that the core of Kurtjemil’s art remained the same, his art may have become deeper and subtler; his painting can sing, rise above the world, or make us muse or feel blue… It is pointless trying to find value in Kurtjemil’s painting, if one relates it to the world around. His works once again prove that “the significance of the work of art is in the work itself, rather than in suggested comparisons with reality” (1).
In the fine art of the twentieth century – and now in the art of the twenty-first century, too – in the diversity of stylistic quests, four key trends become apparent; these trends interact and can infiltrate one another. The first one is “romanticism” that upholds poetic ethos; the second is aspiration for continuous form-making; the third requires interpretation and exists “only in a dialogue, in the plasma of discourse, exposition and verbalization”, and the fourth maintains traditional figurativeness and lifelikeness (2, p. 19). The art of Kurtjemil is that rare phenomenon where all four trends are present. Do his works uphold the ethos of poetry? Yes, they do. Is the artist drawn to form-making and experimentation? He is. Does his art require interpretation, explanation, or verbalization? It certainly does. Are the lifelikeness and figurativeness preserved in his painting? They surely are.
The artist paints landscapes, still lifes, portraits, mythological scenes, and decorative compositions. He is selective in terms of themes, giving preference to chamber motifs. Yet Kurtjemil is one of those artists who can elevate a chamber motif to the level of something significant, meaningful, and highly professional. In Kurtjemil’s works one can feel the influence of post-impressionism, avant-garde, and post-modernism, but most importantly, one can sense his inner world – the world of rich spiritual culture and real art; the world of searching for self and one’s place in art.
The first impression one gets from the artist’s works is akin to attending a sacrament, when the world before your eyes is assembled from coloured particles, paints, rhythms, and brush strokes… This sacrament has affinity with the painting of Russian artist P. Filonov who, in search for his own style, likened it to the dynamics of the living nature. But Filonov was the artist of his time: one cannot but feel the drama and emotional turmoil in his art. In his paintings the world was rather breaking into pieces…
Kurtjemil is also looking for his own style. But he lives in another time and space, and his universe is wholesome, bright, refined and creative. Kurtjemil is an amazing artist: his images are not connected to the reality around us, and they do not belong to the surreal either. They seem to hover between reality and unreality, leaving the viewer free to interpret them. This is that very invisible space, which we call the visualization of the artist’s inner world expressed through colour, stroke texture, and rhythm. To understand Kurtjemil’s imagery, one has to submerge into it for the aspects of his art to be revealed.
Kurtjemil is an artist who glorifies the city. Throughout the twentieth century, as well as in the twenty-first century art, urban theme retains its appeal to artists, feeding their imagination and providing space for the diversity of interpretations. The man in the modern city is influenced by the constantly changing world around. Urban environment saturated with visual elements has a strong influence upon human beings and affects the artist’s inner world.
Urban motifs are present in most of Kurtjemil’s landscapes. Through the author’s mastery, recognizable themes and motifs turn into poetic world in his “Patchwork City” (2009), “View from the Window No.1″ (2010), “Backyard” (2009), “View from the Window” (2009), “South City” (2010), “The City” (2011), “Early Morning” (2007), “Morning” (2011)… The drawing seems to be very simple: the outlines of the houses resemble images in children’s drawings. But in the master’s paintings each brush stroke acquires value – it seems to be breathing. An accomplished colourist, Kurtjemil wields his paints masterfully. One might think that he, like all painters, paints with colour, but the colour combination in his palette is unusually impulsive and “verbose”. These combinations of “speaking” colour in paintings are rare. “Speaking colour” is the essence of Kurtjemil’s expression, a construct of his poetic thought.
The artist also uses rural motifs, although these are few. His “Rural Landscape” (2010) and “Noon in the Vineyard” (2001) are select subject-matter, which rather provides the scope for colouristic experimentation. For instance, in his “Noon in the Vineyard,” the artist employs colour, rhythm and painting plastic to convey the sensation of sultry summer heat in the best traditions of Orientalism. In our view, this is one of the artist’s most successful paintings.
Another element the artist explores is still life genre: “Still Life with Fruits” (2003), “Still Life” (2010), “Flowers, Wine, Fruits” (1999), “Still Life with Bottles” (2000), “Still Life with Fish” (2001), “Still Life with Lemon” (2011)… Perhaps, this is where the artist’s aestheticism, in its best sense, shows itself. Compositionally, these paintings seem to be logically reconciled, yet they are far from being schematic and produce powerful emotional impact. This is achieved through the artist’s refined colouristic skill: it is not just using colour, but employing his special “colour-painting”. In his still life paintings the artist appears to refer to well-known motifs. For example, the pomegranate theme had many variations in the works of Uzbek artists – the motif that is interesting for both its symbolic content, and visual solution. Yet Kurtjemil brings in his own solution: his pomegranate “image” is impossible to confuse with pomegranates pictured by other artists. In Kurtjemil’s still lifes, the visual array and largely the colour communicate the sensation of life, its beauty and rhythm. In a way, his still-lifes remind us of those by Paul Cezanne. This is an animate “material” world where every painted detail has a life of its own. Kurtjemil’s still life paintings stand out with their exquisiteness, lightness and masterful painting technique.
The artist also has some works of a philosophical kind. These are: “People Throwing the Seine” (2008), “Twins” (2010), “Above the City” (2002), “The Man with a Dog” (1998), “Kamila” (2010 ), “Silence” (2011), “The Girl with a Bowl” (2011). Some of them are close to the portrait genre, while others are more conventional and metaphorical. Yet both suggest associative perception. Images of people created by the artist are not perceived as portraits per se, but as certain universal archetypes. They do not show any signature national identity, age, or social specifics; they are indicative and symbolic.
For example, “People Throwing the Seine” is deeply meaningful and metaphorical. Visually, the painting shows a crowd of people with their hands raised and eyes turned to heaven; the people are in the state of expectation. One can see fishes floating in the sky. But this is not just a catch of fish. Everything is symbolic in the picture. The artist conveys the state of faith, hope and waiting for the miracle – something known to every human being. In the art of different countries fish symbolizes prolificacy and abundance, also in the spiritual plane. In the traditional culture of many nations fish is also a symbol of purity. In Christianity, it represents faith and is the symbol of Christ. In medieval Europe “fish came to symbolize spiritual essence hidden under the veil of visible things” (3, p. 369). In this painting Kurtjemil creates the sense of standing before higher powers…
The painting called “Twins” addresses a seemingly straightforward theme. The problem of similarity and difference, identity and individuality, commonality and uniqueness has always been relevant in philosophy, psychology, culture and art. The theory of archetypes knows “the archetype of duality of human nature, unity and opposition of awareness and shadow, rational and irrational, spiritual and material” (4, p. 172). Duality is also a way for the man to look at oneself through the eyes of another person. In the post-modernist paradigm, duality includes the element of a game. In the Kurtjemil’s painting, it is not just twins looking intently at each other: these are the symbols of searching for Self and one’s individuality in the aspiration to avoid clichés and uniformity. After all, awareness of one’s own personality, Self, has always been one of the greatest human values!
In the painting called “Silence” (2011) the artist depicts a girl with a sea shell. Colour solution and the girl’s type bring back the childhood memory of listening into the seashell – something we remember for a lifetime. The girl’s image visually resembles a mask, and this is another archetype. This image of a mask is also employed in “The Man with a Dog” (1998) and in “The Girl with a Bowl” (2011). This is no accident, as the mask archetype is intended to hide the unconscious, according to Jung (5, p. 47). The artist does not expose his characters, but rather conceals them behind the mask, leaving the right to “expose” them to the viewer himself.
Kurtjemil is the artist of sensations and emotional state. This is proved by his painting called “Above the City,” which is perceived as a song. The verbal description of its subject may say that it shows two angels hovering in the sky on a bright sunny day. For the painting the artist uses yellow, red and blue colours. The absence of redundant details is specific to Kurtjemil’s compositions. Trees at the bottom of the picture represent our bustling world; then there is space with hovering angels surrounded by cross-shaped birds; the sun in the corner of the picture looks just like the sun in children’s drawings. The overall sensation is that of happiness, soul flight, and dreams. Everything is amazingly simple, beautiful and sincere. In its mood, the work resembles Marc Chagall paintings showing people hovering in the sky, but it bears the specific Kurtjemil’s signature style.
Looking at the paintings of Seiran Kurtjemil one can tell when the artist is happy and when he is sad. He has two paintings of the same title, “Celebration Day” (2008, 2009), where the image of the city conveys the artist’s emotions of joy and happiness, when the human soul soars. Yet in his “November” (2007) and “Rain” (2006) the artist uses colour to communicate autumnal mood with its damp and cold rain; and the master’s soul responds in harmonious unison to this condition of nature.
The Children’s Studio of the Fine Arts Gallery ran an experiment: children were offered to copy any Kurtjemil’s paintings they chose. Amazingly, children aged 5 to 12 were able to sense the artist’s inner world keenly and create their works in his style. These works turned out to be as “patchy”, fair, bright and kind. And this is probably not accidental, because the inner world of Kurtjemil the artist is very warm and bright. It is open and radiates positive energy. The artist creates his “patchwork” world, and one only needs to be able to find the way in.
1. Jacob M. Le cornet a des. Paris, 1946.
2. Герман М. Модернизм. Искусство первой половины ХХ века. СПб., 2003.
3. Словарь символов и знаков. Минск, 2004.
4. Пендикова И. Г., Ракитина Л. С. Архетип и символ в рекламе. М., 2008.
5. Юнг К. Человек и его символы. СПб., 1996.