Bahram Hamdami was the first Uzbek artist who got a professional artistic education. His exceptional talent, a sincere desire to tell in the language of art about his people that were transforming their lives have played an important role in the development of Uzbek culture and in formation of the entire constellation of Uzbek artists. In many ways, their creative destinies have intertwined. This is particularly evident when one looks at the preserved paintings of B. Hamdami, his sketches and pictures, as well as the pieces of art of Nasretdinov, Rahimov, Mukhamedov, Nabiev, Hasanova and many other Uzbek artists – fellow-artists and students of B. Hamdami. The process of formation of the Uzbek artists is interesting also because it sheds light on the complex creative environment of those years. The struggle, the clash of different creative trends, traditions and schools that was characteristic of the 20′s have become more and more of the creative competition nature in the 30′s. This competition of the artists of the older generation had an impact on education of the national artists. Interestingly, the creativity of young Uzbek artists was not a mere mirror that reflected the complicated artistic life of those years, it was absorbing the nourishing juices and itself was filling a new energy into the creative organism.
In the review of the creative work of Hamdami, we will restrict ourselves to those historical facts that help to determine his role and place in the artistic life of the 1930′s. In this connection, we will touch upon those events in his everyday and artistic life, which have greatly determined his creative growth and which somehow have related to him. In this sense, it is very interesting the merge of his personal and public interests.
Among the Uzbek artists, Hamdami is standing out with his determination, his zest for contemporary subjects, and his will to expressively depict these subjects. In his early paintings, one can see Hamdami’s striving for rhythmical composition of picture. He tries to transmit a rhythm of the working people through the dynamic composition, characteristic moves of the ketmenshiks – diggers (a small series dating to the thirties of the past century, currently in the Museum of Fine Arts).
The first half of the thirties have become for Hamdami the period of studies (he studied at the Tashkent Art School) and creative formation. It is appropriate to note the creative work of Hamdami on construction sites, which had resulted in a series of watercolors “Tekstilstroy” in 1933. He combines his professional training at Selmash (Agricultural Machinery Plant) in 1933 with his studies in life. Hamdami’s teachers at the Art School were Volkov and Karahan. They have managed to develop the core aspect of the artist – creative, proactive approach to life.
An exhibition of the artists of Uzbekistan in Moscow in 1934 had demonstrated a vast common aspirations of this group of artists. The issue of ‘Creativity’ magazine dedicated to the Uzbek artists reproduces the work of B. Hamdami “Tekstilstroy”, 1933. It is quite clear what has brought him together to a team of which he made part. Here is what Hamdami wrote: “I derived my artistic vision of the world, the purpose and role of the artist in society from the Volkov’s team. The artist expresses his attitude to the world through his palette. The artist, in order to comprehend the techniques and skills, must apply a great zeal to his work. Only the artist who systematically evolves his talent can reach the heights of excellence,” (‘Gulistan’ magazine, 1936, issue 7-8). Hamdami was involved into the team attracted by their sincere aspirations and serious attitude towards the mastery of art, i.e. the clarity of objectives. On the other hand, the young artist saw that this community did not lead to a leveling of individuals; each of the artists was showing his artistic temper, this group was distinguished by demanding attitude to each other’s creativity and mutually caring relation to each other.
Interestingly, Hamdami did not challenge himself with the task of ornamentality of the painting. Later on we will see that the same happened to the Uzbek artists of younger generation. Probably, one of the reasons of this phenomenon was a sort of retroaction to the ornamentality in their everyday life. They were striving to infiltrate through this magnificent surface deep into the core of the life and the human being. Those things that for a foreign artist seemed as exotic, for an Uzbek artist were normal and natural – this was their way of life. It is of interest to trace the development of this trend in the creative art of B. Hamdami. “An Evening in the Red Teahouse” of 1933 (in collection of the State Museum of Oriental Culture). This picture is being interpreted as a popular genre. The subject itself presupposes it.
It is curious to compare between themselves the different creative phases of B. Hamdami. If we confront his painting “In Kolhoz Teahouse” of 1936 with “The Red Teahouse” of 1933, we will notice that the former painting had acquired a somewhat plastic laxity. Most probably this relates to his striving for more flexibility of forms. This is a quite understandable phenomenon. By acquiring the new quality veracity of the story and achieving mobility of the forms, Hamdami had unwittingly lost the former tension and constructive forms in this work that were characteristic for the “Red Teahouse.”
We will try to analyze some of the paintings of Hamdami relating to the years of 1938, 1939, and 1940. On them one can clearly notice two trends, which at this stage cannot be regarded as incompatible, moreover, they complement each other.
In front of us are about thirty paintings kept at the Museum of Fine Arts. These include the pencil sketches, drawings, paintings. Examining his sketches of those years, one can come to certain conclusions about the tendency of the artist’s quest. The sketches of Hamdami represent the environment and people that surrounded him. They are notable for their simplicity and veracity. Most importantly, the artist tends to see a human being. Solution was found by itself. Hamdami develops his ability to observe and scrutinize. The drawings from nature of the series “Thoughts” reflect that – an old man reclined with his hands on the nape. Though we see him almost from behind, the character, psychological depth and individuality of this man can be felt. A slightly outlined line in the alcove accurately transfuses the thoughtful state of an old man. There is no cliche in these sketches. “Sewing” is a very subtle drawing in terms of plastic. This drawing is highly picturesque; there is no line at all. Being viewed one after another, this chain of drawings, regardless of their dissimilitude, demonstrates a certain trend. All of them are humble studies of the people’s everyday life in their home ambience. A natural continuation of this theme is the “Favorite Song.” A family listens to the phonograph. We recognize some of the persons familiar to us from the sketches. This is a very truthful portrayal of this genre: details of this picture, the street view seen out of the fence are not accentuated, however one can recognize the pre-war years. In the same context as the pencil drawings are done the sketches of the characters’ heads. However, there is a risk of somewhat photographic images. Perhaps this is related to the customer painting, perhaps due to the impact of the situation of that period. It should be noted that the emerging campaign on struggle against the formalism were hardly useful, since it turned into the administrative suppression and persecution.
Probably, this had an impact on the creative work of Hamdami. Anyway, this should be studied further. At any rate, at the moment we can acknowledge an obvious unevenness of the sketches made from the nature. Though, one forgets about it, while looking at the wonderful paintings. One of them is a self-portrait (in oil) of 1939. It clearly demonstrates the tendency to the monumentality of the forms. It is a kind of counter-weight of the popular genre. Another painting is “Medjnun in the Deserts” (gouache). Here the interest of Hamdami to the poetry of Navoi has found its expression in the search of forms. The search of color represents a palette of lilac and blue shades with brownish and black inclusions. Medjnun is surrounded by benevolent and sad animals. This is an amazingly touching picture that reveals us a completely new facet of Hamdami.
Apart of the careful studies of the creative art of B. Hamdami, his many-sided activities as the art director in theatre, as a professor should be mentioned. Prior to his studies in the Art School, Hamdami worked in secondary schools as teacher, and after the graduation of the Art School he worked as assistant of Karahan on training of the national group.
If at the beginning of the thirties there were few Uzbek artists represented at the exhibitions, by the end of the forties there was already a whole stream of them. Hamdami had worked as an assistant in the Art School, he had sufficiently sound training background, in order to teach the students of the national group the knowledge and experience that he had acquired in the process of creation. He transmitted to the student the skills, which had been formed in him and other national artists by the professors of the Art School – Volkov and Karahan.
Example of Hamdami can be traced in the creativity of his younger fellow-artists. This is an inclination to the inner nature, an ambition to realistic portrayal of the character. Such an overwhelming tendency is one of the examples of the national identity.
*From the archive of the Institute of the Art Studies of the Academy of Sciences of Uzbekistan. ÈÆ Â67 ¹355
Prepared by Gulnoz Sharipova