Objects and reality elements familiar to the eye of an ordinary observer acquire unique sound and meaning in the paintings of Mamut Churlu, the Honoured Artist of Ukraine, member of the Ukrainian National Craftsmen’s Union. Those who visited the artist’s solo exhibition held as part of the IX “Art Week + 5″ at the Central Exhibition Hall of the Academy of Arts of Uzbekistan could have an insight into the secret of his works. In his painting art, Mamut Churlu desires to comprehend the depth of Central Asian traditional culture, including that of Uzbekistan where he was born and raised, to bring in something personal, and to come to the origin of his native Crimean Tatar folk art, giving it a new impetus. The artist uses ancient symbols and ornaments, relating them conceptually to the landscape. Objects and things taken out from habitual reality seem to defy gravity and laws of matter.
Born in 1946, when the pain of loss and devastation inflicted by the brutal war still lived in people’s hearts, the boy found joy and delight in the world of books and music. It seemed that his destiny would forever be associated with musical notation, as Mamut graduated from the Fergana Vocational School of Music specializing in music theory, and then the Novosibirsk Conservatory named after I. Glinka with a diploma in musicology. Yet, according to the artist himself, at some point he realized that he did not want to be a musician: gravitation to painting and traditional arts and crafts was stronger. On his initiative, the city of Fergana opened its first art school. After graduating from the design department of the FerganaVocationalArtSchool he started working in the field of creative textile (tapestry) and participated in international and national exhibitions. Along with some art critics he travelled to Urgut District (SamarqandProvince) and was introduced to the art of suzane; the visit produced a strong impact on his work. In kilim (pile-free hand-woven double-side carpet), ceramics and decorative embroidered panels the master interprets ancient symbols of Crimean embroidery and weaving. However, when creating large panels, he applies embroidery techniques of Central Asia.
Time passed, and Mamut created his first paintings inspired by the visit to his native land. His first education helped Mamut Churlu fill his pieces with powerful energy to embody the gamut of emotions and experiences.
“Not everyone can notice that my works are very musical. This is the kind of music that sounds inside a human being”, says Mamut Yusufovich. Only those prepared to engage in a serious and profound dialogue with the master can hear it. According to the artist, pictorial art requires that its audience be well prepared. Same as with literature: not being able to read, one can not understand what is written. He is convinced that to appreciate a work of art, constant brain work is required, while something that is based on recognition and accessible to a 5-year-old, has no value.
“Perpetual Creation” is one of the master’s kilim designs with a symbolic name. At the bottom of the ornament there is an earth sign – triangles; birds appear at the top; in the centre there are diamond shapes representing the man. Here one can see it all: the never-broken cycle of life, the procreation of human kind, and a restless soul of man chained to the ground and trying to break away from it, having tasted the joy of flying.
Mamut Churlu’s paintings, too, are complex and ambivalent in their interpretation; he uses constructivism, minimalism, and primitivism, achieving great emotional and artistic expression by seemingly sparing means.
Hakim Mirzaahmedov who chairs painting division of the Academy of Arts of Uzbekistan noted: “In every work of Mamut Churlu, with all its quiet painting, there is lot of philosophy in a way related to Sufism and universal human categories. He is an ace pilot when it comes to colour and composition. Churlu is a poet, musician and philosopher. His strong analytical mind is present in all his works showing the world of rhythm, powerful spots, and colour dominants”.
According to the artist himself, he often builds his paintings on the colour contrasts. The colour scheme carries a whole range of emotions: aggression, sorrow, love and warmth. Contrary to established notions, dark and muted tones can express lyrical mood.
Also uncommon are sharpened object outlines, almost graphic painting, and the absence of linear perspective, which make the canvas look similar to a poster. A poster with no call but a heart-cry, the artist’s personal tragedy, pain and empathy for the suffering of his people. Such are “Sea in Gurzuf”, “Breakwaters”, “The Last Minaret”, “The Shore”…
Mamut Churlu’s pictures show no human beings, no nature’s beauty delighting the heart. Rather, his landscapes communicate the feeling of tense and frightening silence and universal loneliness known to a wonderer seeking an answer to the question of ‘What is the meaning of life and the true purpose of man on earth?’ Churlu’s still-life paintings, where every object is given a strictly defined role, also make one think about things sacred. It seems that these objects have no appreciable volume or weight. Even the light cast by the invisible sun or moon on the roofs of the houses is conventional and incredibly sharply outlined.
“Reality is transformed into a symbol, a sign – it is a great generalization of actuality”, says the artist about his paintings.
…Windows of abandoned homes are gaping like black holes – the warmth of the family hearth is gone; hills on a post-industrial landscape are bare and empty. The main leitmotif common to most of the paintings are the trees and the road winding into infinity and getting lost in space and time. The road is not just a symbol of the path taken by the master himself and every one of us, but also the image of the perpetual course of human history. The trees are like people, the happenstance witnesses and participants of events that unfold in their age.
Lonely trees seen from the window of an empty house remind of a family; this is one piece of a triptych dedicated to the deportation of Crimean Tatars. In “Silence” trees that resemble human figures stand in mournful silence by the road. In this painting one may recognize traditional patterns used in embroidery, lending it a unique flavour and filling one’s heart with sadness and nostalgia.
Captivating is Churlu’s painting “Trees”: bare branches resemble human arms stretched out to the sky, and if one kept his eyes on the painting long enough, one could see the wings of a bird in these arms – those that can be “read” in the “Perpetual Creation” kilim. Dreaming of them helps the man overcome the hardships of life’s journey and resist his fate, aspiring to fill every moment of existence with meaning and come closer to his noble goals.
Perhaps, this is how artist Mamut Churlu sees his way: urging everyone to stop for a moment amid our daily routine and find an answer to the question: Where do we come from where are we going?