The Country’s Past and Present in the Works of the Master

Issue #2 • 649

Larissa Levteeva,
Historian

The State Uzbekistan History Museum of the Academy of Sciences has completed the work on a monumental wall painting, 7 by 2.5 metres large, titled Avesto Haqiqati (“The Truth of Avesta”) and dedicated to Zoroastrianism.  It is authored by Mirali Makhmudov, a graduate of the Behzad National Institute of Arts and Design.  It is no accident that he was entrusted to work on this complex piece in one of the country’s leading museums.  His art has always excited keen interest among not only the amateurs of art, but also professional critics.  Makhmudov has a signature manner and a visual thinking of his own.  He works in different genres – painting, drawing, and design, employing techniques such as watercolour, pastel, and oil; yet he tends to be the follower of the easel painting tradition and its aesthetics that evolved over many centuries.  The master’s works are known for their appealing realistic imagery, professional touch, and thematic diversity.

Mirali Makhmudov conceived the mural after his introduction to Avesta, the holy book of the Zoroastrians. The most prominent aspect of Zoroastrianism is its explicit dualism and the notion of opposition of Good represented by Ahura Mazda, the supreme god in Zoroastrianism, and Evil, the Ahriman. Zoroaster proclaimed Ahura Mazda a supreme deity, the only uncreated Creator of everything good and bounteous; he is wise, knowing, kind and righteous, and all men are equal before him. The victory of Ahura Mazda over Ahriman was interpreted as victory of light over darkness. The sun and fire, its part, are the source of light. Zoroastrianism prescribed worshiping fire as a force that purifies man. According to ancient beliefs, Ahura Mazda emanated “Bounteous Immortals”, representatives and patrons of one aspect of Creation, otherwise local gods – among them Anahita who was venerated in Central Asia as the goddess of prosperity and well-being, the embodiment of life-giving power of nature. Avesta pictures her riding a chariot drawn by four white horses.
The mural sketch Makhmudov presented as his graduation work was rated highly and recommended for implementation in the lobby of the State Uzbekistan History Museum upon agreement with the Museum administration. The artist succeeded in conveying the essence of the ancient teaching. In the centre of the mural he depicted Zoroaster holding a jar of holy water, with the Sun behind him. Oh his left there is Anahita with her chariot and four white horses. Below there is the lord’s mythical son who was bitten by a snake in the leg, which resulted in two snakes growing from his shoulders to feed on his brain. To keep the snakes from devouring his brain, every day he fed them the brain of a man he killed himself. For this reason Anahita kills him. Having pictured the burning pages of Avesta the artist showed the destruction of the holy book by the Greeks and the Macedonians led by Alexander the Great who came to Central Asia in 329-327 BC to conquer it.
The right side of the mural shows a maiden and a horse who seem to be communicating with each other. Below there is a young man with an architectural monument model in his hands. The image tells that the arrival of Zoroastrianism brought brotherhood, creativity, peaceful and tranquil life, and harmony in the existence of animals and humans. The mural colours are also meaningful. The coloration is warm and sunny through the use of ochre, yellow, orange, brown, and white. The mural was highly commended by professionals and museum visitors for both its content and workmanship.

Makhmudov is a passionate landscape artist, too: his pieces are marked by soft lyricism and profound poeticism in the scenery he pictures. Particularly interesting are his mountain landscapes reflecting the cycles of nature and its changing appearance that breaths poetic charm and refined pictorial beauty, even despite the pile of huge yellowish-brown rocks that broke from the cliff on the background of mountain peaks drowning in a purple haze. One can see poplar trees flecked by autumnal gold, bowing their tops in the wind. These are the “Early Spring”, “In the Mountains of Khojikent”, “Autumn in Khojikent”, “Autumn”, “The Golden Fall”, “Poplar Trees”, “Sunset”… One can feel suspense in “Aktash”, with its gurgling stream breaking through the jumble of boulders and lush vegetation in the background. Through the seemingly insignificant details the artist can show the presence of life in this harsh mountain environment.
Mahmudov is also skilled in making portraits and subject paintings. His keen artistic perception of reality can be sensed not only in coloration, texture and brush-stroke movement, but also in his moral valuation and associative depth of his characters. Gentle ballerina in a pink tutu, getting ready to go on stage – this work shown at the 2008 exhibition earned Mahmudov the “Mentor and Student” diploma. Romantic painting “Song” glows in golden-yellow shades; it shows a young man in a white turban sitting in the garden on a rug, holding a dutar in one hand, while his other arm, bent at the elbow and raised, is holding a nightingale. The young man is wearing a gown and a charm around his neck. Next to him there are green beads in a cube-shape chalice. The artist used an unusual device by showing unnaturally elongated neck turned towards the bird that greets the dawn with its singing. Dark silhouettes of the watering horses are clearly painted on the background of the blue river and waves lapping on the shore.

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