A Thousand Angels and an Artist

Issue #3 • 1025

Synthesis of medieval oriental miniature elements and contemporary European avant-garde techniques, which is founded in the philosophy and wisdom of Central Asia culture, lends a special atmosphere to works of Lekim Ibragimov, the People’s Artist of Uzbekistan, Academician of the Academy of Arts of Uzbekistan, Professor, the Honorary Member of the Russian Academy of Arts. For the master, art is an opportunity to share with his viewer, to help him experience the joy of life and ignite the sparkle of hope in the heart of every human being.

This idea is also fundamental to Ibragimov’s unique art project “A Thousand Angels and A Picture”, which has no parallel in contemporary art. The project organizers have applied to the Guinness Book of Records for Lekim Ibragimov’s work to be recognized as “the largest picture consisting of a thousand individual pieces”. It is 8 metres high and 66 metres wide (!). But, as the maestro himself claims, the most important thing for him in art is not the world records but a dialogue with the audience and continuous spiritual pursuit.

Looking at a small-size reproduction of one independent, compositionally completed part of Ibragimov’s huge canvas, I admire its smooth and graceful lines, and refined drawing. Next to a pomegranate that symbolizes perpetual flow of life and wisdom, there is figure of an angel hovering freely in space, unconstrained by gravity and time.

“I believe that among thousands of guardian angels you can find your own”, says the artist confidently. The idea to create the unique canvas came to him about 10 years ago. Angels have always been present in Ibragimov’s works, and a new canvas has become a logical continuation of the artist’s creative pursuits.

“The idea belongs to my family, not to me alone”, says Lekim Khakimovich. “My eldest son Murad suggested creating a picture of one thousand individual elements. My youngest son Gayrat [a young, promising artist – O. K.] associated the number with legendary oriental tales of the “Thousand and One Night”, while the subject and characters are the product of my imagination entirely. My wife Maryam supported me in spirit.”

Thus, after three years of searching, a sketch 12 metres high and metres wide transformed into the picture that won the hearts of the Incheba Praha Exhibition Centre visitors in Prague by its grandeur and the master’s extraordinary concept. “According to the Guinness Book of Records Committee, the project of the Uzbekistan’s artist is unique and record-breaking on a number of parameters related both the idea, and its implementation”, RIA Novosti news agency reports. For this reason, the proposal to include the large-scale canvas in the Book has been accepted for consideration. “As for the record-breaking parameters of the project, one may note that for the first time in contemporary art a metamorphosis is employed, when a thousand of individual paintings put together result in a picture with a complete idea. Each canvas is a self-sufficient paintings in every way – a picture depicting an angel”, the agency specifies.

Soon the painting will be displayed in Madrid and Florence, and during the year in other European cities included in the UNESCO List of the World Heritage Sites. As the project organizers explain, this has nothing to do with ambition; the show is driven by a special mission of light carried out by “A Thousand Angels and a Picture” – to bring joy of communicating with beauty to as many people as possible. Another important aspect of the art project is that proceeds earned from sponsors’ support in the cities where the painting is exhibited will be channeled to aid children with physical disabilities needing medical care.

…Good that triumphs over evil, bringing the joy of spiritual renewal, and man’s search for his place in the mortal world – these are the main themes not only of Ibragimov’s art, but also of his creed. The artist’s worldview evolved largely under the influence of the ancient culture of Central Asia. Subjects and style of Ibragimov’s paintings are inspired by his impressions of ancient frescoes from the palaces of Afrasiab, Penjikent and Toprak Kala, Buddhist temples in Beijing, as well as frescoes decorating Buddhist cave sanctuaries in Turfan, Khotan and the TaklamakanDesert in North-Western China, where he learned the essence of ancient Chinese painting. Having studied its style, aesthetics, colour, and the specificities of in-plane composition, the artist could find his own way in art. A distinctive feature of his art is a combination of drawing and painting on a canvas, which can rightly be referred to as discovery that brought Ibragimov global fame in the early 1990s. His solo exhibitions ran in Germany, the United States, India, Poland, Morocco… The artist’s works constitute the assets of museums and private collections around the world.

Angels and dervishes, oriental beauties, birds and beasts “arrived” to Ibragimov’s canvases from poetry and miniature painting of the medieval East. “The source of inspiration for Ibragimov is the ancient miniature painting of Central Asia. His art is dominated mostly by shimmering soft and warm colors, combined with saturated cold shades, lending a composite accent to his works. Lyrical and poetic painting of the Uzbek artist reflects mysticism and wisdom of the Orient”, notes art critic Olga Ivanova, Doctor of Art History and researcher at the RussianStateHermitageMuseum.

According to Lekim Ibragimov, he aspires to make his art accessible to all mankind and free from any religious or philosophical doctrine; to connect East and West, the different parts of the world; to synthesize and create something new based on different trends in painting and drawing – just as a good fairy tale from the “Thousand and one Night” is understandable and interesting for everyone, as everyone can find something that appeals to him. And as long as art touches the deepest strings of our souls, it will live on.

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