In the years of independence the art of Uzbek sculptors has undergone major changes as their creative opportunities soared to new heights. The foundation was set by the masters’ productive work and searching of many years, attuned to the national ideology. Monumental memorial complexes created in the provinces introduced new artistic traditions in the art of sculpture, changing its structural fundamentals – image, plastic, space, and setting new priorities in this domain. The art of the Fergana sculptors and monuments they create are the good example of the new trend.
In the Ferghana Valley archaeologists have found a faceted polished amulet of black stone showing a two-headed snake, dating back to the second millennium BC. The item testifies, first, to the fact that already in those early days our ancestors had a culture of using jewellery and objects of art, and, secondly, to the high level of skill of masters who created this unique piece of ornamental sculpture.
Sculptures found on the territory of Uzbekistan suggest that methods and techniques employed by sculptors were applied not only to making utility objects, but also to creating different pieces of art and jewellery.
The results of archaeological research performed in the city of Quva, and sculpture fragments found in the ruins of a Buddhist temple confirm that art in this area has ancient origin. The items created in those years have not survived in their original shape, but even those few rare objects that have been discovered give a fairly good idea about the time when this art form emerged.
In the late XIX and early XX centuries, in the whole of Central Asia, including Uzbekistan, the long-lingering medieval “stagnation” gave way to the advent of realism that evolved in close intertwining with the traditions of European fine art, which acquired national flavour with the passage of time. In the 1950s and 1960s, Uzbek sculpture began to gain strength and developed not only in the capital city but also in remote regions. Researchers note: “In the fine arts of Uzbekistan, the second half of the sixties and the seventies were the years when art groups of the country were getting stronger” (1, p. 157). In all province centres the art of sculpture was developing, and its rapid growth could be seen in the Ferghana Valley, too. Naturally, before the 1950s, artists received orders of the same type, and much attention was given to the portrait genre, yet “although in the first half of the XX century several sculptors did work, the school itself had not yet evolved” (2, p. 107). The first half of the XX century is considered to be the period of artistic evolution (3, p. 224). Therefore, most sources date the heyday of sculpture to the second half of XX century, specifically to the time between 1960 and 1980. The mid-1960s saw the rise of a strong group of talented young artists. Creative process intensified with the arrival of new orders, such as relief images on the facades of new modern buildings, interior and outdoor sculptural installations, and interior decoration with the works of applied art. From the mid 1970s and in the 1980s, active in Kokand were sculptors E. Tajibaev, M. Muhiddinov, Y. Goryunov, M. Ergashev, and G. Pyarin; in Andijan – V. Puskin, R. Suleymanov, J. Mirtajiev, B. Rasulov, K. Florov, and A. Tukhtasinov; in Namangan – M. Rahmanberdiev, N. Arzimov, and M. Shahadatov.
Years of independence expanded creative opportunities in the art of sculpture. Portraying famous scientists and thinkers of the past who contributed greatly to the global science and education becomes a new trend in the development of the national theme. Locally, the development of the art of sculpture accelerates, replacing old principles with more effective and objective ones, which is manifested in the pieces of monumental and indoor sculpture created in the Ferghana Valley.
Thus, in 1992 in Namangan a monument to Mashrab was erected (sculptor I. Jabbarov). The monument was installed in a park alley, 30 meters away from the main gate. The plastic solution found by the master has its own symbolism: the composition intends to convey the state of mind of the thinker heading for the city gate, about to begin his long journey on the road to enlightenment. The author meticulously worked on every feature of his hero, including attire, where every fold emphasizes and conveys the movement dynamics of the human and the wind. The character’s resolute stride and the overall appearance of a man determined to go forward evidence the artist’s thorough inquiry: appearance helps convey the hero’s inner state, worldview, and personality. The legendary Mashrab who lived in people’s minds now has appeared before them. For its original compositional solution and plastic implementation of the idea, the monument ranks among works executed with impeccable artistic mastery.
In the years of independence, monuments were also opened in other places in the Ferghana Valley. In particular, in 1993 in Andijan, a monument to Mirza Babur was installed: its sculptor J. Mirtajiev started working actively in 1990s, and soon made significant artistic attainments. His works are distinguished by freedom in the presentation of his characters, as well as by rich plastic and original compositional solutions. His heroes are firmly in touch with reality. In his “Mirza Babur”, to enhance the metaphor, the author extensively uses shaping inherent in the plastic arts. The overall structure of the monument is inspired by romanticism as an art style. Love for his homeland, and emotional experiences of a strong personality are expressed with exact “strokes” and outlines. The monument is masterfully created in a free style, synthesizing form and content.
There is another sculpture by J. Mirtajiev, “Chulpan”, installed in 1997 in Andijan. The poet, wrapped in thought, is sitting on a stump of a huge plane tree. The fallen tree symbolizes years of repression people experienced, and the attitude to traditional culture and heritage. The sad eyes of the poet see the destiny of many worthy men who perished untimely.
Speaking of the sculptors’ art in the years of independence, and of monuments erected in the Ferghana Valley, one should specifically note “Al Fergani” by sculptor I. Jabbarov, erected in Ferghana and Quva in 1998. In Ferghana, the symbolism of the monument featuring many architectural elements expresses the thinker’s aspiration to share his scientific legacy with people. The viewer sees the image of a spiritually endowed scholar; the idea behind the work is to show the value of his scientific discoveries and contributions to the world’s scientific heritage. The monument shows the image of the person who presents his scientific discoveries to the world.
The Quva monument to the scientist offers a different perspective, showing the process of academic activity of the thinker and scholar who fully devoted himself and his life to science. The monument wrought with the more extensive use of classical devices is dedicated to the sunset years of Al Fergani.
Monumental sculptures and memorials dedicated to the ancestors visually complement the collective image of the nation, and perception about its great men. Their appearance as that of a real person stays in people’s memory. Unique works of monumental and indoor sculpture, combined with architectural domes, create artistic unity of the past and the present.