Tashkent of the 2000-s trough Rustam Bazarov’s eyes

Victoria Erofeyeva,
art critic

Rustam Bazarov is an author of numerous recognizable genre scenes, landscapes of urban streets, portraits of declassed elements of city society. Today in the CIS countries there are a lot of artists similar to Bazarov, creating images of cities and urban dwellers united by a common past, and possessing bright distinctive features. The most famous of them are Sergey Volkov (Russia), Valentin Gubarev (Belarus), Vladimir Lyubarov (Ukraine), Alexander Ivanov (Russia), Lado Tevdoradze (Georgia). They show the layer of urban culture, which is not perceived by aesthetically-minded connoisseurs. V.N. Prokofiev in the article “”About three levels of art culture of the modern and latest times” (1) under the “Third culture” means the cultural layer forming its own art culture, which is between the scientific academism (“high art”) represented by artists with professional education, and the traditional peasant folklore, fed by centuries-old traditions (“low art”)”.
Some artists use picturesque language of primitive, artists of naive art and caricature for deeper penetration into the essence of the middle class culture. So, G.G. Pospelov describing the picturesque creation of the paintings by Larionov and other “bubnovalets” (partisans to Jack of diamonds) called such techniques as “methods of decrease” (2). These aggravated “decreases” allowed to develop motives related to the “color of a primitive in the most provincial life” of the city at that time. The modern artists working in such thematic way use various methods of “decrease”.
R. Bazarov’s paintings in the genre of the urban landscape, household, and portrait can reveal specifics of socio-cultural space and convey the atmosphere of Tashkent of the 2000-s, which image was created under the influence of various factors. And some of these components in the artist’s paintings are allocated most clearly.
In the years of independence removal of former bans has opened a scope for creativity freedom. Artists addressed to their inner world, religious themes, medieval oriental literature and Sufism, activated the philosophical perspective in the art. “A peculiar passeism, leaving from the present was, in some way, reaction to experience of last years and requirements of “modern time”" (3). Against this background the city as a socio-cultural environment also does not find its place in paintings of Uzbekistan, and is reflected only in such aspects as images of architectural monuments; landscapes of mainly small streets of the old city, with lack of any signs of modernity, painted by a distinctive lyrical shade (Sh. Zokirov, “The old city”, 1995; R. Rizamukhamedov, “Spring in the old city”, 1996; D. Akhunbabayev, “Ukchi Street”, 1997; Zh. Khalilov, “The old city”, 1998; D. Mamedova, “The old city”, 2011).
In rare instances some paintings have genre compositions, where characters in modern clothes and streets of modern Tashkent are depicted (V. Akudin, “The Tashkent fall”, 1998; M. Nuritdinov, “The old city”, 2011; U. Radzhabov, “Broadway”, 2010 and “Megaplanet”, 2015). Such works generally appeared only in the 2000-s; but Tashkent of the 1990-ies was missed in paintings. Even in the works of the 2000-s the disclosure of the “image” of the city, with its own distinctive features arising from the peculiarities of its formation, today has not yet gained such development, as in other countries of the former Soviet Union. Therefore a researcher takes an interest in the works of such artists as Rustam Bazarov, whose creativity brightly reflects an important aspect of formation of the city – interpenetration of urban and rural cultures. The artist, who since the childhood watched the customs and ceremonies of local population, then moved to the capital and got classical art education, has not lost interest to notice and identify traditional components of urban folklore, which are brightly reflected in the festive motives and paintings displaying leisure time of urban dwellers: “White dance” (2009); “Gap”, 2005 (as well as “Gap. Women”, 2010 and “Gap in a country house, 2010 and 2014), “Birthday” (2009); and “Touy” (2009).
Initially city festivals copied traditions of rural festivals, but later, with development of urbanization and changes of mass consciousness, they find independent features, being completely exempted from the country semantic basis. It is shown in leveling of such features of rural festivals as a strict regulation, ritualism and composition of participants. The traditional, folklore component or some of its aspects got into cultural space of the city. It (the country folklore beginning) was brought by visitors from regions, kishlaks and other rural settlements, who settled in the cities, including Tashkent, and formed a certain community with its own traditions, way of life, cultural features that, over time, are either smothered over, being dissolved in the modern city, or fit into being transformed, and find a place in the urban environment. R. Bazarov depicted these transformations: carrying out gap; celebration of weddings in yards and special touy-hona (today it is obsolete tradition in cities); small bazars which spontaneously arise on streets and underground passages where people sell the fruits and vegetables grown up in their own gardens (“Underground passage”, 2012; “Bazarchik”, 2013); collective works (“Hashar”, 2010).
The period of formation of the young artist fell on the early 1990-ies. It was a difficult time in all respect. Many artists being exempted from former bans and requirements of “modernity” and social engagement of the fine arts imposed by the Soviet cultural policy addressed the ethno-cultural and philosophical subject matter. Researchers repeatedly noted, that during that period new tendencies were formed not easily, and the generation of young artists hardly defined their own way in the art. Rustam Bazarov did not join “the main line, which since the early 90-ies appealed to bases of the national esthetics”. He was headed by more mature artists trying to form a new esthetics of painting in the republic and began to look for the ways of his own creative expression and original style.
Having got acquainted with expositions of the Pushkin Museum and Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow, the artist was imbued with paintings of impressionists and postimpressionists. Perhaps, the motives of city streets at impressionists defined a subject component of R. Bazarov’s paintings. And the characters of Van Gogh and Toulouse Lautrec – workers, miners, peasants, cabaret dancers and other marginal elements of society influenced on the artist’s choice of the main characters of his paintings. In the pictorial works of the young artist created during his study at the institute (“Blessed Zukhra”, 1991; “Model”, 1993; “Old woman from Kashkadarya”, 1993; “Grandfather’s portrait”, 1992), his main objectives were studying of anatomy, plastic modeling and reflection of the portrait characteristics of depicted persons. At that time, the individual style of the master was not formed, but in such works as “Blessed Zukhra” (1991) and “Model” (1993) there were already tendencies to image the persons on the bottom of the social ladder. These tendencies became stronger during the so-called “Broadway” period.
In the 1990-ies “Broadway” was the centre of urban culture, and Bazarov, being for a long time in its very midst, creating custom portraits, cartoons and caricatures, could observe the most various types of urban dwellers and experience the full atmosphere and condition of the city streets. The artist, imbued with this atmosphere, began to use such artistic techniques as open colors, flatness, simplified modeling of bodies and carnation, hypertrophy of portrait lines. On Bazarov’s canvases these methods of exaggeration are intended not so much for creation of an individual cartoon, as to form a bright type. As an example we can call such portraits as “Our neighbor madam Klava” (2005); “Vovka” (2013); “Old man” (2010); “Watchman” (2013) and “Neighbor” (2011) in which he depicted various social groups of citizens, who were engaged in the daily business that allows to feel the everyday atmosphere of the city. Genre scenes of R. Bazarov acquire various coloring: from ironic sketches causing a smile and laugh (“Mummies”, 2006; “In the park”, 2008), to pessimistic plots depicting unattractive scenes of daily reality, inevitable in any modern city. Tragic images of marginal strata of urban society are revealed by the artist in such paintings as “A blind musician” (2009); “Closing of the market” (2011); “An old woman with a flower” (2010); “Stranger” (2015); “Beggar” (2009); “On vernisage” (2011) in which by means of genre scenes the still occurring social problems are shown.
In modern painting of Uzbekistan such topics are extremely rare, but young artists and photographers often address them. In Rustam Bazarov’s creativity similar plots are presented as not pessimistic or ugly sides of life, but as one of real pages of modern socio-cultural urban environment. Other side of the artist’s works is the creation of a generalized image of an urban dweller, representative of the middle class plunged into bustle and turmoil of banal everyday life (“Rain”, 2010; “Pionerskaya Street “, 2010; “Gagarin Street”, 2011; “Chilonzar-2″, 2011; “In the store”; 2010; “Fall”, 2009; “Peephole”, 2010).
Rustam Bazarov’s creativity reflects the living, constantly changing urban culture, which is transformed in the result of close interaction of social aspects of the past and present, culture of local inhabitants and visitors of the city, current trends of globalization and folklore rural beginning. All these factors have influenced on formation of a unique author’s style and creative methods of the artist. In such genres as portrait, city landscape, everyday art genre Rustam Bazarov, applying interesting composite decisions, using multi-figured compositions, simplified modeling form, open colors and wide pastose dabs, creating bright characteristic types, revealed an opened image of an urban dweller and the city itself.
But it should be noted that despite recognition of “Bazarov’s” plots, which resonate with the viewer, today the artist does not keep up with the development rates of modern Tashkent any more. The city continues to develop, its infrastructure and appearance changes. Streets of Tashkent do not cease to be replenished with a set of interesting social motives, which Bazarov could reflect in his characteristic way. Therefore, it would be desirable that in the master’s creativity the Tashkent of the 2000-s will be followed by the Tashkent of the 2010-s.


1. Prokofiev V. N. A primitive and its place in art culture of modern and latest times. M, 1983.2
2. Pospelov G. G. “Jack of diamonds”: A primitive and urban folklore in the Moscow painting of the 1910-s. M. II edition, 2008.
3. Akhmedova N. R. The modern art of Uzbekistan – searches of a new cultural paradigm. Tashkent, 2008.

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