Whatever the subject, history or modern days, Nehmat Kuzybaev, a broad-minded master seeking the true nature of things, exposed its essence.
…In the Fall of 2002, Kuzybaev invited me to his studio, saying he wanted to issue a catalogue and asked if I could help him select paintings for it. I was a little surprised that he chose me, but showed up at the appointed time and place. Together, we looked through only those works that were sitting in the studio next to his house. The others he would photograph in the museums, the artist said. Most of the paintings were landscapes, as well as series created during his overseas travels in 2002.
According to Kuzybaev, a turning point in his artistic career was his meeting with the famous Chingiz Akhmarov, with whom he decorated the Alisher Navoi Opera and Ballet Theatre. That was where he met another famous master, ganch carver Toshpulat Arslankulov, when preparing a composition design for Saddi Iskandari; Arslankulov was captivated by multifaceted compositions styled as snaking twigs of a weeping willow. Beautiful ornamental designs came apropos when the artist was creating his historical pieces. Some time later, at an event commemorating master Toshpulat Arslankulov, Kuzybaev said, “Now that I have visited Florence and Venice, Paris and London, where I saw magnificent palaces of splendid architecture, I can confidently say that the art the of the great Uzbek creator is fit to rank among pieces wrought by Renaissance masters, and that I am proud to be his contemporary.”
Creating a series of works for the Museum of Alisher Navoi, encounters with writers Hamid Sulaiman and Tukhtasin Jalolov provided the artist with more opportunities to study history, life and art of famous great men of the East.
For each historical period Kuzybaev found colours that would best characterize the time. When creating his paintings, specifically series dedicated to the Temurid dynasty, the artist used bright, saturated colours, along with extra details and symbols that helped expose the character more fully and portray the ancestral advanced culture, spirituality, and desire for knowledge. In the artist’s landscapes half-tones tend to dominate. Portrait genre, due to the nature of the characters his pictured, required of the whole palette of paints.
Kuzybaev’s historical series telling about the heritage of the ancestors, their spirituality and way of life have become the golden asset of the Uzbek art. These paintings include “Alisher Navoi and Husain Bayqara”, showing the poet and the padishakh engaged in a conversation on an intricately ornamented veranda. Against the backdrop of snow-capped mountains and blooming gardens, the poet is pictured holding a new manuscript, which he is reading aloud to his conversation partner who does not conceal his admiration and is praising the author. The artist directs the viewer’s attention to the rich spiritual world, the world of art. There were many paintings in the series, yet not all of them displayed. At the time the author risked being accused of idealizing the past. One of his works that was given to a friend as a gift shows Nodira-begim in the circle of Uvaysi and poetesses during mushoira. This work is like a beautiful song about highly spiritual people of that time. “Choshgokh” Kuzybaev painted in 1975 is dedicated to women who come from the same land as Nodira – the women of the Ferghana Valley in the second half of the XX century, taking a break in the afternoon. The painting shows bleak architecture, squalor residential quarters, and simple clothing of tired women taking a rest after hard work.
Painting “Mushoira” has different compositional solution; it pictures beautiful architectural structures richly ornamented, as was customary of that distant time, a covered veranda performed to a standard of a masterpiece, women dressed with great taste (even the dress of a maid holding a fruit tray is flawless), flower beds, birds of paradise, mountains in the distance, inspired faces of people.
One of the artist’s best works on a historical theme is a portrait of Furqat. The inner state of the poet, dreamy and sad, sitting in nature’s lap, is in accord with the landscape: yellowing growth at one side, and the blooming seedling of unknown tree, a rainbow over the lake and mountain peaks tell the viewer about the inner world and feelings of the poet who lived through the difficult times of tsarist expansion in the late XIX and early XX centuries; his clothing – a vest and a white shirt, a light coat of bekasam over his shoulders, green headdress, and red boots – also characterize the state of the character.
Kuzybaev’s art of 1960s – 1970s requires careful study and research. His works of that period introduced new touch and different style to the Uzbek pictorial art, more thoroughly revealing the multifaceted talent of the artist. A series of portraits and paintings created during this period suggests that his versatile art reached its heyday.
According to Kuzybaev’s teacher Academician Oreshnikov, his graduation work “In the Steppe: Geologists” (1953) was recognized as the best of that year’. Having graduated from the institute, the young artist painted “At the Origins of Uzbai” (1953), celebrating the epic beauty of the land and creative element in a human being. A series of paintings dedicated to the intelligentsia started with the portrait of Yunus Rajabi, which can be rated one of the best. The author masterfully portrayed the psychological character through details such as radiant eyes, pensive look, and calloused hands.
The artist’s “New Road” (1958) suggests that Kuzibaev was pursuing a creative inquiry. The portrait of Mirshohid Mirokilov (1958) telling about the life of actors put Kuzybaev on a par with such well-known portrait painters as Abdulkhak Abdullaev, Rakhim Akhmedov and others. Painting “Hamza” (1960) describes the turmoil of the 1920s. It accentuates the poet’s psyche and drama. With boundless love of ordinary people Kuzibaev painted his “At the Shepherds’”.
Most artists paint portraits of their wives. In the portrait of his wife Kuzybaev pictures the woman’s hand and her posture, like Paul Cezanne did (“The Portrait My Wife” [Rafikam portreti]). The Cezanne’s woman is pictured against the background of trees and flowers; her gaze has a soul-stirring dreaminess. Kuzybaev’s heroine shows love of life and beauty through her entire appearance. In the artist’s paintings, regardless of the position in which the character is pictured (standing, sitting, full-face, or half-face), his personality is exposed with keen psychological insight. The artist highlights time and space, using even the most insignificant details.
“The Artist’s Spouse” by Kuzybaev can be compared to a canvas by the German artist Franz Teeple, “The Portrait of a Strange Woman”. The two works have obvious differences and similarities. Flowers in the hands of the Kuzybaev’s woman, her light-coloured clothing, white suit, and the shape of her lips communicate the lyrical mood of the heroine. The German artist’s character is more serious, with an apparent sadness in her eyes; pursed lips suggest tension and nervousness. Her background is a wall and confined space.
Kuzybaev often worked in the open air, thus defining his artistic principle: “even a little corner of nature has thousands different shades and shapes”. He created a series of vernal and autumnal landscapes in Aktash. He used his paints to glorify the charming gardens of Tien-Shan, Shakhimardan, Sarychelek, and Chatkal mountains in different seasons. Reigning in his paintings is a divine ray reaching deep into one’s soul; the light is present not only in space but in every brush-stroke. Landscapes “Sarychelek” (1965), “Shakhimardan” (1978), “Autumn” (1980), “Spring in the Mountains” (1982), “Almond Blossom” (1985), “Mountain Waterfalls” (1985), “Blossoming Apricot” (1987), “Twilight” (1990), and “In the Foothills of the Tien-Shan” (1993) were called by Chingiz Akhmarov “… a beautiful song of the artist” who captured a fleeting melody of the colours of nature. Like a masterful jeweller, Nehmat Kuzybaev introduces seemingly minor details and objects into the composition: painted with love, they are perceived as primary. Having seen a landscape once, after a while Kuzybaev starts yearning for its soft colours.
Landscapes Kuzybaev created in Siberia, on the banks of Yenisei, and in Chuvashia, produce mixed impression. A unique colouring, capacious compositional solution and expressivity characterize his landscapes painted in the Crimea and in Gurzuf. The series of works dedicated to Europe can be divided into two periods: of the first and the second visits, which are not identical. In the first period paintings the dominant feature is the precision of light and shade and the details, while in the paintings of the second period one can sense gravitation toward decorativeness. With great enthusiasm the artist painted landscapes and architectural monuments of Ferghana.
Wonderful artist and teacher Nehmat Kuzybaev made a great contribution to the treasury of the XX century pictorial art of Uzbekistan. The unsurpassed master of painting, the artist opened a new page and new opportunities in the school of realism. His art still awaits its researchers who would be able to appreciate it.