In 2012, the year of the 15th anniversary of the Academy of Arts of Uzbekistan, the Central Exhibition Hall of the AAUz hosted a series of retrospective displays from the series called “Our Heritage: the Art Master of Uzbekistan”. Exhibitions of the series are usually dedicated to artists whose anniversaries are marked in that year, and are based on rather extensive and interesting collections from the assets of the Art Exhibitions Directorate of the AAUz. The year 2012 turned out to be rich in memorial dates, which prompted the idea of launching the series of displays, which started on the eve of the Navruz holiday.
The first display of the series presented traditional arts and crafts of Uzbekistan. Visitors could see the unique pieces created by masters of the famous schools of bi-chrome and polychrome ceramics, embroidery, printed cloth, musical instruments, and ganch plaster carving. The names of these twentieth century masters have become legendary, and their heritage is the pride and glory of the country’s traditional art.
Festive inauguration marked the 145th anniversary of the famous chitgar Usto Abdurahman Abdugafurov who passed his craft on to his grandchildren, the dynasty of the print masters Rakhimov; the 130th anniversary of Usto Usman Zufarov, the maker of musical instruments; the 120th anniversary of the famed ganchkor Usto Tashpulat Arslankulov: the wall of the ceremony hall of the Academy of Arts, as many other interiors in Tashkent, is ornamented with stucco carving performed by his apprentices. Colourful embroideries represented the renowned Tashkent nakkosh master N. V. Nam: if he lived, he would have turned 80; and portrait embroiderer Fazilyat Saidalieva, who marked her 95th birthday.
A small display covered almost all regional schools of Uzbek ceramics, including the major ones: Rishtan, Gijduvan, and Khorezm. It presented rare specimens of forgotten ceramic schools, reminding us of the need to keep the folk art traditions and care for their bearers – the craftsmen. This year marks the 120th anniversary of the famous ceramist Usto Abdukarim Hazratkulov from Shahrisabz, the 115th anniversary of the Samarqand master Usto Umarkul Jurakulov, and the 110th anniversary of Usto Asadullo Khudoinazarov from Kattakurgan. At the stands and display windows with the works of these masters stood still in fascination not only ordinary visitors, but also experienced and sophisticated professionals won by the graceful shapes, fine crock, and exquisite design of each piece.
Ceramics created by Usto Makhsutali Turapov, the last master from Gurumsarai now passed away, always caught one’s eye with the splendour of its archaic shapes and deep shades of turquoise and azure ishkor glaze. This year he would have been 80. His age peer Usto Sultan Atajanov from Khorezm still faithfully follows the traditions of the Khorezmian school of bi-chrome ceramics.
Later, in April this year, as part of the Art Week, a festive display marked the 85th anniversary of Usto Ibodullo Narzullaev, head of the famous dynasty of the Gijduvan masters. To attend the event gathered many Gijduvan ceramists and embroiderers, successfully continuing the tradition of a family craft. Fellow craftsmen from all regions of Uzbekistan also arrived to honour the memory of the master.
The displayed exhibits constitute only a small part of the museum golden asset that for a century represented the country’s traditional arts and crafts at the most prestigious shows in Europe, Asia, and America. They remind the contemporary audience of the great masters of the past, whose traditions are now continued by their children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and a large number of students.
The second project of the “Our Heritage” series this year opened on the eve of the International Museum Day. It was dedicated to the masters of painting, graphic arts and sculpture of Uzbekistan, whose career began in the 1930s – 1950s, and whose names made history of the fine arts evolution in Uzbekistan, having set the foundation for the national school of painting. One of them is Chingiz Akhmarov, graduate of the Surikov Institute of Arts in Moscow, whose 100th anniversary is celebrated this year. The other artists whose anniversaries are marked this year are: Zinaida Kovalevskaya, the student of Pavel Ben’kov – her art and work are connected with the establishment of the SamarqandArtCollege; and the school’s first graduates – Abdulhak Abdullaev, Lutfulla Abdullaev, and Rashid Timurov.
Many exhibitors could be rightly called pioneers: Rahim Akhmedov, Mannon Saidov, Tachat Oganesov, Nigmat Kuzybaev and Victor Zelikow are the Uzbek artists who received their professional training at the Academy of Arts in Leningrad; NikolaiPark and Pavel Martakov are the post-war graduates of the Academy of Arts of Latvia. All of them were the first teachers who set the foundation for a professional training in fine arts and educated many a generation of Uzbek painters. These artists went through the hardships of the pre-war and post-war time. Many of them abandoned their studies and work to go to the frontline of battle against fascism. Among them are Samig Abdullaev, Mikhail Arinin, Alexander Wiener, Mikhail Gubanov, Mikhail Yesin, Zakir Inogamov, Ivan Kochetov, Pavel Martakov, Hikmat Rakhmanov, Rostislav Suchkov, Semyon Stribniy, Valentin Fadeev, Konstantin Cheprakov and others. Their paintings shown at the display picture life in the home-front, the harsh realities of war, and the days of the post-war time hard work; there are also portraits of their contemporaries, scenic nature of Uzbekistan, and industrial landscapes. In all of the works one can see confident mastery, professionalism, and a school we rightfully take pride in.
Paintings were complemented by the works of a famous poster artist Farouk Kagarov, and the sculptural portraits of our contemporaries expertly wrought by Nadezhda Krymskaya and Robert Avakyan. As part of the display, there also ran a small personal exhibition of the Tashkent sculptor Leonid Ryabtsev. Colleagues and friends of the artist congratulated him on his 75th birthday.
The third retrospective project was dedicated to the masters of painting and sculpture of Uzbekistan who worked during the political Thaw of the 1960s. The display presented works of a small group of masters belonging to this legendary generation: painters Bakhtiyar Babaev, Ruzy Charyev, Yuriy Strelnikov, Yuriy Taldykin, Veniamin Kim, Pahriddin Tahirov and Kuchkar Nasyrov, and sculptors Einulla Aliev, Nodar Bandzeladze, Ruvim Nemirovskiy, Valentin Klevantsov, et al. Paying tribute to the anniversary-makers, not only did the display demonstrate their creative achievements, but also introduced a new generation of artists and amateurs of art to an interesting period in the art history of Uzbekistan.
Art in Uzbekistan of the 1960s experienced a new rise after 1920s – 1930s. It was the period of growing interest in traditional culture, national history, and life of the people, and this specific material allowed exposing universal features and international values. The time provided a new impetus to the development of genre and historical painting, portrait and still life. Paintings created by the masters of this generation not only reflect particular historical facts and phenomena, but also provide philosophical insight into them. The painting palette of that time is rich and diverse; images are filled with allusions and metaphors; there is a growing tendency to conventionality and decorativeness in pictorial language and to the discovery of its unique style. There arrive remarkable personalities pursuing their own style in painting and sculpture. Socialist realism as a common method of representing reality is replaced by author’s individuality and artist’s personal perception of the world; colour, form and texture return to painting, while images regain expression and romanticism.
Having mastered stylistics that was based on the traditions of Russian and Soviet art, Uzbek artists of the 1960s not only rode with the wave of the then omnipresent “austere style”; in their quest, they synthesized national peculiarity with the tradition of European post-impressionism and Uzbek avant-garde painting of the 1920s and 1930s – something that made the art of Uzbekistan so distinct from that of the other parts of the vast nation. This has been clearly evidenced by the exhibitors of the display. Each of the authors has unique artistic identity that made history of the national art of the second half of the twentieth century.
150 works shown at the display tell about the life of the country during the first post-war decades, day-to-day hard work of its people, the images of contemporaries, and beautiful scenery of Uzbekistan’s landscape. These works of art, like a cross-section, let one feel the spirit of the 1960s – the spirit of hope and faith in the ideas of freedom of artistic expression and in “beauty that saves the world”.
The concluding display of the series “Our Heritage: the Art Master of Uzbekistan” opened in August 2012. It was dedicated to the untimely gone masters of painting and sculpture of Uzbekistan from the generation of the 1970s: painters Shukhrat Abdurashidov, Victor Gubskiy, Yusif Guseinov, Ravil Karimov, Pavel Kichko, Tahir Mirjalilov, Orif Muinov, Tatyana Redkina, Haidar Sanaev, Alexander Stepanov, Shukhrat Timurov, Maskhud Tokhtaev, Kamil Shermatov, and Abdumannon Yunusov; sculptors Mukhtar Ablakulov, Ergash Kahharov, Alexander Kotlov, Sadyr Tursunov, Barno Shadyeva, and Anatoly Yarovoi. The masters and their works are remembered by their age peers. The exhibition recreated the atmosphere of that time and intensified the pain of the loss… It gave the new generation of artists and amateurs of art an opportunity to learn about one of the most interesting periods in the history of the country’s art.
Each of the exhibitors is unique and recognizable by his individual stylistic manner of painting and sculpture; each one is a philosopher with his own worldview, experiencing the collisions of time – the period of stagnation, followed by the collapse of the socialist empire and the dawn of the new era of independence. The works of the display, particularly genre painting, reflect the drama and romanticism of the time of great changes; one can sense cultural and artistic continuity in the interpretation of history, the national and global artistic heritage.
Artists of the 1970s and 1980s, building on the innovations of their predecessors, abandon the specifics of the factual. Through the convention of images filled with associations and metaphors, through the pictorial language, they provide a philosophical insight into the life’s phenomena – matters of war and peace, modern society, ecology and urbanization, and the relationship of urban environment with nature and man. The authors were at times straightforward, sometimes reserved and controversial. In opposition to the official art, they painfully reacted to the developments of the time, and were repeatedly exposed to stressful situations, being the cause of anger and annoyance for authorities. Their untimely departure when their art was on the rise and mature was the price to pay for being the ones who cared, who were honest and empathic about events of their time. But after all, is this not a real mission of the true Artist?
The displays of the retrospective series “Our Heritage: the Art Master of Uzbekistan” presented more than 500 works from the collection of the Art Exhibitions Directorate, as well as private and author’s own collections. This is only a small fraction of the invaluable artistic heritage of Uzbekistan’s masters. The works of painters, sculptors and craftsmen from different generations tell the story of creation, establishment and evolution of the national professional school of fine and traditional art. It is symbolic for the series to end in the holy month of Ramadan, when we pay tribute to those who are no longer with us… Still, their art is alive, like an evergreen tree.