Sayora Nazarova, Art Critic
The style of the works of Murad Karabayev is the language of visual images, which is inextricably linked with the mystery, sometimes sudden, sometimes simple, but always accomplished using the highest degree of mastery. Murad Karabayev’s educational background is the artist of the cinema industry (he graduated from the All-Union Institute of Cinematography (VGIK) in 1991). He thinks and feels so globally that he is able to express everything in something extremely small. The metaphors and symbols used by the artist, the mystery of his images affect the innermost strings of the viewer’s soul, calling for reflection, meditation, while his painting style invites to profound contemplation.
The path of creative formation of Murad Karabayev was fast-changing. At the personal exhibition of the artist, entitled “Euphoria”, held in December of 2014 in the Gallery of Fine Arts of Uzbekistan, only the last 10-15 years of his creativeness have been covered, however they demonstrate the noticeable dramatic changes in the artist’s creative style. The exhibited works can be divided into three creative periods. The first and the second of them are explained in detail in the introductory article of the doctor of arts, N. Akhmedova, “The garden of divergent paths, or the metaphysics of the artistic consciousness” to the “Kalandar” catalogue, published upon the results of the personal exhibition of M. Karabayev “Kalandar, a Mirror of the Soul” in the SMOA (Moscow). In this article we only briefly touch these periods.
The first period is more about his personal development, M. Karabaev’s quest expressed through his own experiences and associations. “When this Uzbek artist has made decision about his direction,” says N. Akhmedova, it turned out that he was akin to such masters – the “authors” of their own mythology and mysteries, as A. Tarkovsky, I. Bergman, M. Antonioni, and R. Magritte. He understood that through their experience he will be able to find a highly individual visual language for incarnation of his mysterious stories or “dreams”.
In the illusory world of paintings of Karabayev, in his mystically beautiful characters and objects, in their unsophisticated enchantment, there is the ability to reveal the mystery to the world, which has always been a priority in the creative work of the artist. Choosing a particular object or subject, the artist selects only the value that is provided by the choice itself, because the plot plays an important role, which anyhow is charged with intellectual or sensory meaning.». Rene Magritte, for example, used to name his art not even the surrealism, but a magical realism. He was against any particular interpretation of his art, arguing that «the only thing you need to do with his paintings is to look at them». The same, in our opinion, applies to the work of Murad Karabayev, because his magically realistic paintings open up and fascinate only under careful examination. Beautiful painting style of the artist is distinguished by clarity and compactness of the fine brush strokes, skilful combination of which forms the breathtaking views. The first period was very important in the artist’s creative search as it helped Karabayev to experience and to enhance the tendencies, which he had formed and embodied later, and according to N. Akhmedova, they ensured the breakthrough in his “personal inflection”.
The so-called second period of the artist’s creative life is radically different from what was painted by Murad Karabayev previously. The artist’s former interest in the East had a certain nature, it was addressing to the Iranian miniature precisely, and in most cases, it was referring to the Qadjar painting traditions, and, to some extent, to its ornamental style. The Eastern theme has revealed itself in a different perspective, which he came to, according to N. Akhmedova, “by means of intricate logic of his own search”, the result of which is reflected in the simplicity of the composition, the uniformity of forms, the monochrome color scheme, and a conscious artistic self-restriction of the artist. The main characteristic of this series, called “Kalandar, a Mirror of the Soul”, is the absence of any representation, pomposity, decorativeness. Rethinking the features of the art of different eras, M. Karabayev had developed his own artistic techniques based on the principles of simplicity, austerity, and symbolism. It seems like the artist is particularly interested in a certain monotony of the rhythmic lines of composition, which incorporates the role of allegorical narration, metaphors (triptych “The Look-Alike”, 2012). It is important for Karabayev to strengthen the emphasis on the things that he wants to highlight in his creative process. In the images of young men in Eastern robes, depicted in very broad strokes, the absence of numerous details is compensated by a pronounced compositional structure, emotional restraint, and monochrome color. “The artist,” emphasizes N. Akhmedova, “depicts what is not seen by the viewer, the experience of some non-verbal sense, to express which he developed his own language of the parable,” that invites to look beyond the visible, to step into the mystery. However, the static balance of the composition of paintings invokes the state of peace and philosophical meditation.
The year of 2014 was extremely fruitful for Murad Karabayev. He has created a series of remarkable paintings, each of which is emotionally charged, filled with positive dreams and somewhat fairy tale. In the picture “Skating Boy”, where in the clothes and a turban of the boy still exists the “echo” of “Kalandars”, the overall aesthetic impression is different. In general, it should be noted that the aesthetics of the new series are special. It adds the element of euphoria into the refined world of paintings. There is a certain allegorical sense, reviving the old dreams and visions. For reason the title of the exhibition is “Euphoria”.
The prototype, the main character and the inspiration behind this series was the younger son of the artist with a beautiful name Shohnadjot. Through the image of his son, Murad Karabayev “tells” about his childhood memories, in his son the artist has found a reflection of himself, his emotional balance, reconciliation with himself as an adult, the revival of his forgotten childish fun, a bit naive, sometimes funny, but full of infinite happiness and joy. The image of the boy is a real figure and at the same time it is fictional, rather representing the Alter Ego of the artist. Deliberately refusing the storyline, any explicit content, the artist brings his plot to the ascetic purity, interlaying the memories of his distant past with the elements of chastity and nobility, silence and love.
Consciously rejecting the classical view and traditional artistic techniques, usually characteristic of a particular series, the artist does not limit himself to one style, thereby expanding the range of the field, from which, in fact, consist our memories. In each case, Murad Karabayev uses a different approach to solving his pictorial tasks, paying special attention to the aesthetics of the design, requiring a unique artistic accomplishment. So, in the paintings, “Eclipse” and “Pink Euphoria”, painted in a lively and emotional manner, colored in local hues, before us is the image of a boy, who seems running barefoot along the dusty streets of the old town. In this context, the artist turns to the style, more correlated with the trends of pop art, which has not lost its relevance at present, still influencing the modern culture. The artist used the pop art features to portray the cult objects of large scale and often whimsically colored, which allowed him, raising his son to the degree of a special Cult, so characteristic of the pop art, to create ironic, but touching pieces of art.
In his paintings, “Skating Boy”, “The Flight”, “The Swimmer” (Secrets of the Seas and the Oceans), “Thoughts about the Sky”, M. Karabayev intentionally takes out a character out of its usual context and puts it in the artificial reality, thereby creating a kind of the artistic world – both genuine and yet detached, nostalgic and trivial. He used the attributes of the long-gone days – the old-fashioned skates, roller skates, snorkel, the elements of the past are noticeable in the clothes of the characters. Adhering to the tradition of classical painting, Karabayev achieves a special effect, when through a thin glaze of the paint appears an ornament drawn by the ordinary pencil. Reference to another times leave a feeling of aching sadness. One can clearly notice the sorrow of the artist pensive of the past, the sadness caused by the loss of the bygone folk customs and traditions, which become increasingly indistinguishable behind the veil of social conventionality, longing for those true things, the value of which was attached to the hand that made them. However, this intentional motionlessness of the forms, enlargement of the characters clearly transmits the artist’s thoughts about the versatility of existence, about the depth and vastness of cognition, thereby symbolizing eternal aspirations in time and space.
According to the plan of Karabayev, this series will be continued, he has more to say. While his son, who is the main character of it, constantly helps him and inspires the artist. The artist says that his son has requested Santa Claus to gift him either the microscope or the telescope on New Year. Such a wide range of interests of this child means a lot, and he is undoubtedly a source of great inspiration for his artistic father. This kind of creative tandem will certainly preserve its mysterious consistency and will yet reveal to the world many of the most elegant discoveries and revelations.