The Keeper of Tradition (Dedidation to the 75th Anniversary of Artist Gafur Abdurakhmanov)

Issue #3 • 936

Gafur Abdurakhmanov is a painter whose art continues the tradition of masters who stood at the origin of representational art of Uzbekistan – such as P. Ben’kov, A. Volkov, Usto Mumin (A. Nikolaev), V. Ufimtsev, Z. Kovalevskaya… He is one of the most respected and venerable artists – not because of age, but due to the years of service to the muse of painting – the master of compositionally complex genre paintings, the author of wonderful Crimean landscapes; the man of his time, whose art evolved in the mainstream of the national school.

Abdurakhmanov has participated in many national and international art exhibitions. He belongs to the generation of the Sixties; his art career started at the turn of 1960s and 1970s, when he created pieces such as “Angren, Autumn” (1960), “Morning” (1963), “Senezh” (1965), and “Family” (1971). The expressivity of these works comes mostly from emotion rather than pictorial content and skill.

Landscapes became the artist’s signature genre. The preference originates in the years of his study in the studio of R. Akhmedov who, as an extracurricular activity, often took his students for plein air studies.

Abdurakhmanov’s art evolved consistently, with no sudden turns. Highly decorative painting and intense, rich palette characteristic of the canvases of his contemporaries, namely E. Melnikov, Y. Salpinkidi, and I. Shin, are not typical for his painting. Neither is he attracted to irrational mysticism, one of the trends in Uzbek avant-garde, manifest in the painting of J. Umarbekov, V. Akhunov, J. Usmanov, and F. Akhmadaliev. The artist, pursuing realistic vein, focuses on the composition of his paintings. At first glance they may seem somewhat standardized in terms of structure, yet there is consistency and an aspiration to create a complete painting. Abdurakhmanov is an artist equally at ease with all painting genres, be it still-life, portrait, landscape, or genre scenes. His still-life paintings are performed in the best classical traditions. There is a narrative quality about them – flowers, fruits, and vegetables change depending on a season: “Still-life with Bread” (1982), “Still-life with a Samovar” (1992), “Still-life with Fish” (1991), “Gifts of Autumn” (1996)…

Already in his first paintings the artist sought to embody his lyrical experiences: “Angren. Autumn” (1960), “Issyk-Kul” (1960), “Senezh” (1965), “Winter in Tashkent” (1976). Keen observation and sincerity of his early landscapes win all hearts. For young Abdurakhmanov, this painting genre became the primary means of artistic self expression. His landscapes are usually small in size; and the author is always concerned about completed-ness of his piece. In Abdurakhmanov’ works there are no fragmentation, acute perspectives, or surprising aspects. Instead, he aspires for holistic perception of nature, subjecting his landscape image to common sentiment. This sentiment is set by colouristic ambience and plastic solution chosen by the artist, rather than by theme. In search for greater expressivity, Abdurakhmanov keeps changing his manner and colouring. His early painting “Pakhtakor Stadium” (1972) is an example of an urban landscape.

Foreign travels played an important role in Abdurakhmanov’s development as an artist. He painted nature studies in Bulgaria, France, Poland, and Crimea, capturing characteristic landscape motifs: seashores, architectural monuments, quays, and ports. Emotional palette of his “imported” studies is quite diverse, but usually it is lyrical and contemplative. Yet, at the same time, the keen eye of the artist captures things special and unique, as, for example, in his “Gurzuf” Crimean series – a suite of dozens of canvases connected by a common sentiment.

Abdurakhmanov enthusiastically works on the characters of historical figures. The master’s portrait gallery includes names such as A. Navoi, H. Baykara, Nizami Ganjavi, Babur, Mukimiy, Oybek, G. Ghulam… These portraits reflect the artist’s integrity and his heightened sense of national pride and identity. His characters are the intellectuals concerned about issues of their time. These people have poise and wisdom; their harmonious personality is the source of their spiritual greatness that can be sensed from the portraits.

One of the most spiritually subtle portraits created by the master is the picture “In Memory of Batyr Zakirov” (1995) whom the artist identifies with the hero of Rasul Gamzatov’s poem – “A Bird with a Broken Wing”.

Care and respect for people and their life, as well as realism of Abdurakhmanov’s artistic language distinguish his works such as “Wedding” (1971), “Farewell to the Defender of Homeland” (1972), “Harvest Festival” (1975), and “Shepherds” (1987). In “Nuptials” (1972), the most accomplished early work, the artist combines rhythmic and decorative features of Russian and German Art Modern with technique and style of primitivistic popular print.

Serious transformation in Abdurakhmanov’s art occur in early 1990s, when the artist’s dependence on nature noticeably abates. Despite his already earned success, the artist dares to undertake something quite risky – transform the pictorial interpretation of canvases. This resulted in a series of paintings dedicated to Samarqand: “Navruz, Samarqand” (1992), “Samarqand, The Old Caravan Route” (1995), “Earthquake” (1995), “The Old Samarqand”.

In 2001, Abdurakhmanov, among some renowned artists of Uzbekistan, such as V. Akudin, M. Akhmedov, M. Sadykov, Y. Chernyshov, Y. Salpinkidi, I. Bakhramov, I. Shin, and D. Mursalimov, visited Ak-Tash House of Arts. And his true painting manner revealed itself in a series of canvases showing mountain peaks and valleys of Ak-Tash. In his landscapes reflecting the nature’s soul one can recognize the hand of a true master. “Ak-Tash, Running Water Spring”, “Ak-Tash, Dawn”, “Evening”, “Autumn in Ak-Tash”, “Ak-Tash, Silence” – these paintings are remarkable in terms of both colour range, and composition structure.

Contemporary landscapes by Abdurakhmanov show mountain peaks of Khumsan and Gilan, snaking roads, blossoming spring-time orchards and autumnal tree-crowns of gold. These paintings are profoundly realistic and tangible, with clear pictorial planes. They are not overloaded with colour, and it feels as if one can see through the thin layer of paint and get lost in the infinite distance.

Abdurakhmanov devoted many years to pedagogy: for 15 years he headed the Ben’kov Republican Art College (presently, the National College of Arts). Over this time, the school taught the basics of art to J. Umarbekov, A. Mirzaev, B. Jalalov, and A. Nur – the artists and master-craftsmen who currently define the development trends in the art of Uzbekistan. For many years Abdurakhmanov has been Associate Professor, and now Professor at the Department of Pictorial Arts and Teaching Methodology of the Tashkent State Pedagogical University named after Nizami. Gafur Abdurakhmanov holds the title of Merited Youth Mentor of Uzbekistan.

Although teaching takes up most of his time, the artist does not forget his art. Abdurakhmanov’s works are kept in museums and private collections in America, Germany, France, Poland, Japan, Korea, Turkey and other countries. For his contribution to the national representational art the Academy of Arts of Uzbekistan has awarded Gafur Abdurakhmanov the gold medal.

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