The Experiment of Colour, the Philosophy of Form

Issue #1 • 1015

Paintings of Muhammajon Tojimirzaev, artist from Namangan and member of the Artists Union of Uzbekistan, displayed at his solo art show at the Central Exhibition Hall of the Academy of Arts of Uzbekistan in November-December 2011, exposed him to numerous experts and connoisseurs of art as talented and original author. Brought by the master to the degree of sign and symbol, his succinct images push the boundaries of habitual reality before the perspicacious viewer. Austere outlines of a landscape, bright, energetic and oppositely quiet, sometimes muted shades on the canvas are not just creating a mood. The colours and lines engaged in a fabulous dialogue constitute an integral part of the play created by the artist’s brush. His characters are ordinary people experiencing joys and sorrows and making their unhurried way to find the truth of life.

…Under the branches of a spreading tree, woven into one great, indivisible whole, there is a couple. The silhouettes of the man and the woman holding hands have a kind of inner spiritual strength, one that helps overcome misfortune and calumny, and carry the light of love through the years.

I look intently into the face of the picture’s author, who is trying to convey its meaning to me, and at some point I capture the affinity the master has with his characters. Psychologist focused on the depths of the unconscious and man’s inner world, Tojimirzaev finds poetic beauty in everything, in his aspiration to oppose the ordinary.

Tojimirzaev’s peculiar perception of the world and his ability to accurately communicate the mood of his paintings has been noted by painter Akmal Nur, People’s Artist of Uzbekistan, member of the Academy of Arts of Uzbekistan, also native of Namangan. According to him, Tojimirzaev has rich inner world where he resides comfortably. According to Nur, this has great value today, as there is lots of plagiarism and blind imitation around. “Namangan is dear to me”, shares Nur, “and looking at Tojimirzaev’s pictures I saw that he loves the place, too. He has been able to absorb the spirit of his native town, the rural atmosphere, to experience its beauty, and to show the customs and traditions of people living there.”

The achievement of artistic expression by the master is helped by his incessant searching for form which, according to the artist, “has content”. “For me it is always important to combine these two notions.” (Hence, by the way, is the name of the artist’s first solo exhibition, “Form and Content”, which took place in Namangan in 2005.)

The artist’s ability to generalize, and his quest for the form, which are so characteristic of his works, can be explained by Tojimirzaev’s adherence to the school of monumental painting. For Tojimirzaev, the former student of Tashkent Theatre and Art Institute, the guiding light in the wondrous world of this ancient art form was provided by accomplished monumental artists, the masters of the highest caliber V. Zhmakin and A. Mazitov. As noted by art critic L. Kodzaeva, all Tojimirzaev’s works show a monumental kernel, the ability to generalize the image and wield colours broadly, wholesale. Even his small-size canvases have a powerful sound, and some of his works can be imagines as frescoes or mosaics.

Tojimirzaev emphasizes: “For me, the true art is when the master touches the canvas with his brush and works with clay. Song and dance are, too, among the progenitors of modern art forms. Yet the true origin is pictorial art. Ages ago, when there were no words and no numbers, the first humans on earth felt the need to express themselves through drawing. This desire is carried over from generation to generation, and children unconsciously seek to picture something on a piece of paper. The artist always must know beforehand what he wants to express through his painting; only then a worthy piece can be created. That is what my mentor V. Zhmakin taught me. One may compare creating the work of art to the solution of a mathematical problem where all components are connected with one another, and the result, the solution depends on each of the elements. The same is true for a drawing: brush strokes, dabs, and the chosen colour are like numbers. Change them, and you will get a completely different picture. For an untrained eye, many things in my works may appear incomprehensible. But colour and line always come to aide the artist. I do not have hollow pictures. They all have their own internal micro- and macrocosm. The canvas is like a living organism.”

Looking at Tojimirzaev’s works, one cannot help but feel, almost physically, the autumnal wind of change, the light blues of saying goodbye to the summer, the scent of generous gifts of the earth, or hear a quiet conversation of occasional passers-by, lit by moonlight.

“Canvas for me is a chess board”, says the artist. “When I create a painting, I try to look at it from above with my mind’s eye. The author must feel his work, its every corner; he must “shape” all his images as if they were a sculpture; only then the painting will be realistic”.

“Can all your pictures be called realistic? After all, many of them are fantasy, even surrealistic, as their titles also suggest. For instance, several paintings are dedicated to dreams”, I turn my question to the master.

“But dream is part of our life, something we breathe; thus, it is part of reality surrounding a human being”, says the artist in response. “Believe me that naturalism and meticulous presentation of all elements of reality are not always realistic. Moreover, they can often be simply lifeless, devoid of soul. Realistic is appropriately raised issue or problem that really concerns everyone, and not the form of presenting the issue.”

To support his argument, the artist brings me to the picture called “Incident”. The figures of father and mother and their two daughters are only outlines, but the lines, at a closer look, are “speaking”. Confusion and anxiety in the mother’s heart; the father is preoccupied with uneasy thoughts – two weddings are coming. Their children stand on the threshold of a new life. What is in store for one who proudly raised her head to the sun, and for the other who modestly and meekly fixed her eyes on the ground?

One does not immediately come to realize the truth of life in Tojimirzaev’s paintings. It reveals itself to those who are willing to accept it and learn something important from the inexhaustible source of oriental wisdom and contemplation. And then completely justified, from artistic point of view, would be the first red snow against the background of turquoise mountains, the green sun, the wedding party portrayed in two colours – red and green (as according to tradition, the main festivity begins in the evening, when strange shadows fall upon the earth, and only the light in the houses illuminates human silhouettes in the darkness)…

Tojimirzaev does not divide his art into different colour periods, like, for instance, Picasso. In every painting, colour serves to expose the master’s idea behind the picture and reflects its essence. He is not afraid to use different colours and their combinations. For him, the process of studying the works of other artists is an opportunity to discover something new in painting, and, at the same time, without circumspection of the recognized masters’ authority, he strives to find his individuality by way of bold experimentation.

Observant Tojimirzaev sources themes for his works from people’s conversations, small episodes seen accidentally on the street, television news and broadcasts. He draws his inspiration in literature, too. “Bygone Days” by A. Kadiri inspired painting of the same title.

Among the works of Tojimirzaev there are many still life paintings, which, however, just as his entire art, break our notions of the genre. His pomegranate is not just a symbol of wisdom, longevity and love, the “character” in the works of almost all oriental artists, but primarily a “royal fruit”, since its shape resembles a human head with a crown. The outline of a pitcher suddenly turns into a minaret. Many of his works make reference to history: these are the Bibi Khanym mosque and mausoleum, and a painting called “Messengers”.

Despite his multidimensional art, the master always puts human being at the heart of the matter, posing eternal questions: “Where do we come from?” and “What is our path?” Hence his frequent allusion to biblical subjects (“The Apple”, “The Pair”).

“Spirituality is a big theme”, says the master. “Spiritual energy is around us all the time, helping us in our endeavours. It is important to leave a worthy footprint. People must live in harmony with nature and the world around. Spiritual wealth is most important. Striving for it with loyalty and tolerance is the fundamentals of any religion. That’s what I wanted to say in “The Philosopher’s Pole”. The artist, essentially, must also be a philosopher.”

…A new day will come, and Muhammajon Tojimirzaev, walking the streets of his native Namangan, will find in the song of the wind a subject for his next story, where the pen is his brush, and words are the colours that communicate the mood and colour of life, love and harmony of the soul. The harmony sought by the “Earthlings” – the characters of his painting.

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