Art of Uzbekistan at the turn of centuries: strategy of choice and features of poetics

Akbar Khakimov
art critic

In scales of the general history 25 years is a moment, but for the life of one generation it is a period which is quite often incorporates important global changes. Just the same was the last quarter of the century for Uzbekistan, which in 1991 took the way of freedom, creation of new society and revival of cultural wealth. Political sovereignty and economic independence, openness to the outside world and preservation of national identity, high spirituality and respect for the own heritage, religious and cultural tolerance are the most important attributes of the historical choice of the young nation. These factors in many respects have defined character and landscape of the modern fine arts of Uzbekistan.

Search for a national paradigm of art. The XX century was marked by the bitter experience of ideological manipulation of art in conditions of totalitarian regime. Thus, the art of the Soviet period was considered by the authorities generally as an instrument of realization of political ideas. From the 1930-ies to 1980-ies the socialist realism method became the main and only determinant of quality and value of artists’ works. Perestroika at the end of the 1980-ies generated alternative tendencies in the Soviet art. The group of artists of Uzbekistan tried to estimate critically also the realities of the Soviet history and ideology. But unlike esthetics of the works of Moscow artists who began process of revision of principles of the socialist realism with absolute denial of the past, in painting of Uzbekistan the negative line was combined with aspiration to revive values of traditional culture and to find the language and poetics of national self-expression. At the same time process of search of national style of art in those years was ambiguous. In euphoria rush some artists suggested to refuse “alien European painting” and declare unique style of Oriental miniature. Gaining of independence in 1991 caused shift of not only economic models and ideological priorities, but also promoted formation of the balanced strategy for choice of the national paradigm of art. Due to the fundamental principle of cultural policy of the young independent state about need of harmonization of universal and national values the sober and civilized point of view on the future ways of development of the fine arts of Uzbekistan prevailed. Along with natural interest in traditional values of the East and the rich heritage artists began to master achievements of modern world art creatively.
The most important thing for subsequent development of art of the young independent state was the fact that its leadership during the difficult for the country period of transition to market relations has assumed economic responsibility for the destiny of art culture. For the years of independence major national and international exhibition projects in the field of the fine arts were carried out that became possible due to public financing, construction of new, meeting the world standards exhibition halls.
In the second half of the 1990-ies institutional reforms in various spheres of art culture aimed at strengthening of material and technical resources of art were carried out. In the sphere of fine arts the Academy of Arts of Uzbekistan became such structure, which was created under the Decree of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan I. Karimov dated on January 23, 1997. Increase of the social status of an artist, his role in formation of new society and its spiritual culture became a priority of the new creative institution. For the years of its activity the Academy of Arts has given an impulse to development of fine and applied art in a new historical environment and created conditions for appearance of national art of Uzbekistan on the international cultural space. At the beginning of the 2000-s the country’s artists the first in the former Soviet Union took the initiative of holding an International Biennale. The Tashkent international biennales of the modern art and international photo-biennales held in the 2000-s demonstrated high creative potential of the artists of our country and originality of its national art.
Poetics of new painting
The sense of freedom and creative self-expression which arose at artists in the early 1990-ies changed poetics of national painting: there was a change of philosophy of art and style principles. New trends caused huge interest of the audience. More often exhibitions began to demonstrate unusual on the philosophy and style painting works that in many respects can be explained by deepening and expansion of creative outlook, aspiration of authors to go beyond the known standards and traditional technologies. In the 2000-s exhibitions began to demonstrate the works executed in the forms of contemporary art, such as installations, video-art, photo-collage, performances differing in the original plastic decision.
Easel painting hasn’t lost its leading position in hierarchy of the fine arts. In 1990-ies – 2000-s there was a change of creative generations. Masters of national art, adherents of realistic painting academicians N. Kuzybayev, R. Akhmedov, T. Oganesov, M. Saidov, L. Abdullaev, N. Shin, R. Charyev, B. Babayev and other masters of the senior generation were gone. Despite dogmas of socialist realism they created bright memorable works which in many respects defined the face of fine arts of Uzbekistan in the second half of the XX century. However the best traditions of realistic art were not rejected and received an updated interpretation. In the 1990-ies it seemed that this direction lost former leading positions, but by the beginning of the 2000-s it acquired the “second wind”. Skillfully written real landscapes and psychological portraits, expressional battle scenes and historical plots, as always, attract the attention of audience and professionals. In this style stream one can also allocate a peculiar gradation. Consecutive painters-realists, such as H. Mirzaakhmedov, Y. Tursunnazarov, M. Nuriddinov, D. Mursalimov, A. Alikulov, M. Mirsoatov, V. Enin, etc., keep the fundamental principles of academic painting. But there are also artists trying to modernize the realistic concept according to new attitudes. These are canvasses of such artists as V. Burmakin, A. Mirzayev, S. Rakhmetov, A. Ikramdzhanov, Z. Sharipova, B. Makhkamov, etc. Unfortunately, using the academic manner of painting, a number of artists (Art-trio group) were carried away by creation of sponsored paintings in which photographic naturalism, cold and frozen surface characteristics of images devaluating values of true and high realistic art dominate.
The increasing interest in public and art critics is caused by creativity of the artists trying to find their own language of presentation adequate to challenges of modern world art. The main emphasis in their pictures is placed on interpretation of archetypes of traditional poetics of the East and cultural heritage of the Uzbek people. This new wave was associated with focused attention to the esthetics of vanguard forms that was ignored by the academic paradigm of art. At all individual differences for creativity of such masters as B. Dzhalalov, Zh. Umarbekov, A. Nur, A. Mirzayev, G. Kadyrov, A. Isaev, Zh. Usmanov, U. Boltabayev, B. Salomov, M. Abdullaev, F. Akhmadaliyev, L. Ibragimov, D. Rakhmanbekova, R. Akramov, A. Nasreddinov, H. Ziyekhanov, N. Imamov, Sh. Khakimov, N. Shoabdurakhimov, I. Mansurov, T. Karimov, B. Mukhamedov, the social-indifferent painting filled with plastic metaphors and lyric-romantic intonations is characteristic. By the beginning of the 2000-s artists of this direction filled a certain exhaustion of creative ideas, and once found original plots and style techniques turn into monotonous self-repetitions. In this regard they try to give deeper allegoric character to interpretation of the images and plots. Mixture of mythological and folklore images, plots, symbols and signs included in a new plastic outline characterize the present stage of paintings of this group of artists.
Paintings of artists of the second half of the 2000-s began to demonstrate encouraging conceptual search and plastic decisions. In particular, in the art of Uzbekistan of the last years one can note a new tendency – aspiration of artists to philosophical interpretation of social problems. It is reflected in the paintings of B. Ismailov, M. Karabayev, Z. Sharipova, D. Usmanov, T. Akhmedov, F. Akhmadaliyev, D. Razikov and S. Dzhabbarov. Rational intonations of these artists semantically resist to the esthetics of lyric-metaphorical and meditative painting, at the same time being an integral part of creative renewal process which characterizes the phenomenon of new Uzbek painting.
Modern monumental painting of Uzbekistan, continuing traditions of previous years, at the same time differs in new tendencies and thematic preferences. One of peculiar trends in monumental painting of resent years should certainly be considered the works of “Sanoi nafis” group (T. Boltabayev, X. Nazarov and S. Karabayev) composed of the miniature artists who addressed to monumental forms. In 1996 they created monumental paintings in the interior of the building of the State Museum of History of Temurids in the central hall of which there is a huge panel “The Great Creator” in the form of a triptych. On the second floor of the museum in separate rectangular cartouches of the same group there are reproductions of increased copies of medieval miniatures from the manuscript “Zafar-nama” (“The book of victories”) by Sharafeddin Ali Yezdi. In 2010 the People’s artist of Uzbekistan Khurshid Nazirov created a painting on a historical subject in stylistics of miniature painting in the interior of the Museum of the Observatory in Samarkand. There, in Samarkand, in the interior of the building of the State Institute of Foreign Languages the artist A. Isaev also created a composition on a historical subject.
Monumental painting of the academic character of resent years is presented by the works of such talented artists as A. Alikulov, A. Agakhanyants, B. Alimkhanov, and Sh. Bakhriddinov who made paintings in the building of the Museum of Olympic Glory and in the interior of “Alpomysh” sports complex in Tashkent. The composition plasticity of these artists in the interior of the State Museum of History of the Peoples of Uzbekistan on the subject related to the life and activity of the great Sakhibkiran is especially impressive. Leading artists of Uzbekistan work still very fruitfully and creatively. Graceful plasticity and poetry of images differs B. Dzhalalov’s paintings on the theme of works by Alisher Navoi in the interior of “Afrosiab” hotel in Samarkand. The same masterly plasticity and subtle penetrating sense of east poetics distinguishes the artist’s paintings made for the interior of “Turkiston” concert hall and “Interkontinental” hotel in Tashkent and “Bukhoro” hotel in Bukhara. Among the memorable works of the resent years it should be noted a painting and a relief in the interior of a new building of the State Conservatory of Uzbekistan (the People’s artist of Uzbekistan O. Khabibulin), and also monumental paintings and picture of V. Burmakin in the interior of the Senate of Oliy Mazhlis of Uzbekistan and at the Tashkent-2 airport.
The easel and book graphics for various reasons a little bit “losing ground”, partly because many graphic artists are re-qualified into painters. For example – M. Kagarov, L. Ibragimov, G. Baymatov, etc. However, there are also the creative achievements determined by the works of A. Mamadzhanov, G. Li, A. Bobrov and other famous masters of graphics.
Dialectics of search in sculpture
In the years of independence in Uzbekistan a new group of talented sculptors including I. Zhabbarov, R. Mirtadzhiyev, A. Khatamov, T. Tadzhikhodzhayev, U. Mardiyev, A. Rakhmatullayev, K. Norkhurozov, P. Podosinnikov, T. Esanov, M. Borodin, P. Makarov, S. Sharipov, B. Mukhtarov, U. Urakov was created, who in the creativity successfully combine work on monuments and creation of works of easel sculpture.
Since the beginning of the 1990-ies a new esthetics as one of components of the general ideology of independence, receives reflection in the artistic image of the country’s cities and in the forms of monumental art. Monuments to heroes of national history have been established: to governors, poets, thinkers and scientists of the Middle Ages, there is a natural process of formation of monumental plasticity as aspiration to political and state self-identification. Monuments to Independence and Grieving Mother, the Arch of “Ezgulik” erected in Mustakillik Square are symbolical expression of tendency of the young state to declaration of the strategic priorities.
The activity of the great Sakhibkiran – Amir Temur who has become a national symbol of the country is interpreted in a new way, from objective and historical positions. In 1996 on the occasion of the 660th anniversary of Sakhibkiran the majestic monument to Amir Temur executed by the sculptor I. Zhabbarov was set in the center of Tashkent. Subsequently this sculptor created two more monuments to Amir Temur erected in the homeland of the Sakhibkiran in Shakhrisabz and in Samarkand – former capital of the Temurids’ empire. Each of sculptural monuments differs in the originality of the plastic and semantic decision which does not create a sense of canonical solution of the image. In 1998 the sculptor I. Zhabbarov created a number of sculptural monuments devoted to historical heroes, cultural figures and thinkers of the past of Uzbekistan. These are two monuments to Ahmad Al-Fargoni in Fergana and Kuva, and also the monument to the great commander Zhaloliddin Manguberdy erected in his homeland – Khorezm.
In 1999, due to millenary of the epos “Alpomysh”, a monument to the main character of the epos –athlete Alpomysh was built in Termez – the region, which is associated with appearance and dissemination of this epic creation of the Uzbek people. A group of sculptors including A. Rakhmatullayev, K. Norkhurozov, U. Mardiyev, P. Podosinnikov, etc. worked on creation of the composition. Particularly noteworthy is a cycle of monuments created in the period of independence and devoted to the image of the outstanding poet, founder of the Uzbek classical literature Alisher Navoi, which are erected not only in the cities of Uzbekistan. The monuments to Alisher Navoi and Ahmad Al-Fargoni created by the sculptor R. Mirtadzhiyev decorate the capitals of Russia, Japan and Egypt.
The easel works of these above mentioned sculptors are also noted by the bright creative achievements. The important place in them along with historical characters is taken by the images of contemporaries, which plastic solutions are distinguished by the bright expressive plasticity and metaphorical language. Interpretation of these images is based on a subtle combination of rich cultural heritage of national plasticity and modern trends in the world sculpture.
In modern conditions in the cities of Uzbekistan actual means of humanization of the public environment is creation of artistically expressive decorative and landscape plasticity. Examples of placement of landscape plasticity in the cities of Uzbekistan, despite the initial stage of this important process, demonstrate that the creative potential of sculptors of Uzbekistan can solve these perspective problems as well.
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Independence and the state sovereignty of the Republic of Uzbekistan have become important reforming factors of the new social system, world-view of the nation, its culture and art. The fine arts of the period of independence have undergone change of certain stylistic priorities – from understanding of the eastern poetic traditions to post-modernist artifacts, from stylistically realistic works to grotesque and allegorical interpretations of plots and subjects. All this range of art stylistics became possible thanks to the opportunity of free expression of plastic and philosophical ideas, which has opened in the years of independence. Artists of Uzbekistan take the worthy place in modern world art, participating in many prestigious international symposiums, exhibitions, salons and galleries of Europe, USA and Asia.
The rich cultural heritage of the nation, important spiritual and moral changes in the life of the independent state, change of world-view and modernization of consciousness of new generations, personality and society – all this is in sight of the Uzbek masters of the fine arts who understand that the people expect from them creative discoveries and striking works disclosing poetics of human feelings, nature of the nation attitude and creating a new art chronicle of our people. In more than two decades of development new art became not only an important factor of art and esthetic development of reality, but also has played an important positive role in the course of democratization of society and enrichment of spiritual life of the young nation.

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