The Way to Poetry and Philosophy

Issue #2 • 1959

(Thinking on Painting of Akmal Nur)

Uzbek painting of last ten years, better than other arts, could express spiritual search not only by the whole generation but one of the most important period in the national history. Canvas, which refused a threadbare stylization and pseudo – patriotic articulation, has obtained a new life in the personal search of artists and under influence of ideas living in inimitable mentality of the people. Vital wish to find such poetic and plastic language, which would express “the hidden abstraction and obvious beauty” congenial to symbolism, determined a rushing character of changes of all structural (plastic, space and subject) foundations of the Uzbek painting.

In this aspect the creativity of A. Nur is very typical. The study of his work allows specifying general tendencies governing the art of Uzbekistan at the end of the XX c. The 90s became the most arduous period in the evolution of this artist. At the same time many sides of his creativity were linked to and supported by the artists of his generation – D. Usmanov, F. Ahmadaliev, B. Mahkamov, M. Isanov, Sh. Khakimov and G. Kadirov. Both heart instinctive striving and deeply conscious wish to root in their own cultural space having survived centuries had allied them. Naturally, general transformation of the cultural situation and social priorities in a whole gave to their turn to traditions a character both significant and determinate. The artists were among the first who accepted new art ideas and combined them with vital interest to ethno cultural heritage, which in the time of dramatic collisions had become a source of various spiritual and philosophical impulses. At this difficult transitional point it was a foundation giving a chance to young artists to reach higher levels and to put forward more complicated problems. The understanding of sacral and ethic values concentrated in ethno cultural traditions as inseparable ensemble had been gradually coming into life. For the young artists the ethic sphere was significant enough, what art critics marked at that time. The logical rise of these philosophical problems in modern art was pointed out by famous scholar H. Zeldmayer who wrote that “the art history as a history of spirit” would be filled up by meaning, which would lead upper and deeper than the highest among meanings having been ever discovered”. (Therefore, not similar stylistic features but deep links existing on the level of world vision but not on the formal level, ally these artists, what allowed to A. Khakimov to identify them as a group of “new wave” in the art of Uzbekistan).

For them painting is more important than obvious beauty of real world and extreme aesthetization and ornamentalization of a motif. Inspired by traditions, they have tried to regenerate approaches to philosophical and artistic knowledge of the world. Moreover, it is noticeable that this generation of artists initiated “the beginning of craving for the transcendent” (N. Berdyaev). The pictures of A. Nur related to the early 90s, “Angel”, “Dervish”, ” Sweet Dream”, “Day and Night” (1992) and “Alla” (1993), expose a way of creation of own art system. Obviously, folk cultural heritage helped him to escape from previous figurative and thematic concepts, which had already lost their recency and “it is a good fortune – wrote H. Ortega y Gasset about similar situation – that simultaneously with such impoverishment a new mentality is growing, what promotes the rise of new talents” (p. 237).

In these works of A. Nur “eternal themes” are connected with idea of dualism that penetrates human being, what is close to philosophical and aesthetic grounds of religion, therefore in this new concept the artist exposes a new kind of contact with Oriental traditions. First of all, he takes a core of creative method and, avoiding imitation of forms, tries to find the harmonious congruity of his works with heritage. Above all is the development of ideas of poetic accordance and harmony with World, Nature and Universe. The artist, studying basic structural roots of the traditions, has discovered that they are linked up with esoteric feeling and deep self – reflection. Because of the oriental art idea is not just visual imitation, but mostly feeling of heart beauty and expression of deep insight sense. Gradually A.

Nur creates the symbolic and abstract world with own space and time coordinate based on suggestive – metaphoric principle and esoteric features of traditions. Turning to fundamental grounds of the Islamic culture moved him ahead on this way, helped him to make the most important step and to overcome difficulties in reproduction of the existing world in the cause of the creation of own world, according to Heidegger “a picture of the world that is parallel to real one”. Space solution, rhythm and colour had become the means of creation of suggestive pictures, in which the world of mystery, poetry and hidden meaning formed the atmosphere involving not only emotional but philosophical and intellectual spheres as it had cryptic subtext and symbolic background, which should occur and rise, mainly, from free associations within the context of cultural traditions that caused spectators to feel poetic and lyric – philosophical moods.

Here it is worth to be mentioned that canvas of A. Nur brightly expose a typical feature of national mentality – leaning to externalization of various notes of poetic sadness, sharpened by lyricism, what is equally typical of traditional music and poetry too. Therefore a color of artist’s pictures, first of all, is a mean to express a thrill of lyricism alluding to spiritual sphere, which, by artist’s opinion, has preserved clear sources of truth and eternity.

New and extremely individual iconography of characters and thematic principles has being formed in the works of A. Nur. Their variations are rather rich, but having a common ground. These are visualized metaphors and poetic symbols – Garden of Eden, couples of lovers, strangers and dervishes, birds of paradise, lunar and solar symbols, pictures of bulls, fish, lions, peacocks and other animals, popular and typical of ancient mythological and folklore traditions. Canvas of A. Nor “Love Apple”, “Love River” and “Love Island” are accepted as light poetic novels and, at the same time, as associations with proto-types of oriental poems where a couple of lovers personifies immaterial love or spiritual strangers.

At the same time, literary associations, enriched by poetic symbolism, don’t move aside plastic value of his works. The complicated colour space, emphatic fabulousness and conventionality of a motif thanks to the artist refused simple narration and external dynamic and thanks to strengthening of methods of color and linear systemization – all this causes spiritual poetic space and feeling of spiritual harmony. Its meaning lays in expression of togetherness and special aura, which ally personages, preserving principles of flatness and conventionality of volume, within which styled figurines of lovers seem floating, and refined and captivating lines of their bodies become a part of general ornamental and decorative composition.

In artist’s works of this circle one feels traditional, for Uzbek painting, attention to emotional and informative possibilities of colour, which forms a ground for integrity and harmony of canvas and obtains symbolic and independent meaning in each separate point.

Development of this colour concept has brought A. Nur to materialization of new ideas and further evolution of his art system. As before the world in his pictures had existed out of laws of natural illumination; subjects and bodies had no light and shadow, volume of his many pictures was abstract and conditional. But they are as if filled by own internal light and emanate a light of intense colour. Their complicated handle is penetrated by and emanates itself enigmatic light, as, for example, in “The Temple of Sun God” (1993) and “The Goddess of Moon” (1996).

It is known that first the ability of subjects to emanate their own light was expressed by M. Vrubel, and further continued by M. Larionov, what the Uzbek artist, probably, has known well, for as an artist of the centuries’ turn point, he keeps many achievements of avant-garde painting in his cultural experience. But a theory of light beams in European avant-garde painting finds its basis in concepts reflecting mainly “the mechanical and chaotic” turned to endless and, at the same time, material world. That’s why development of new painting principles of A. Nur lays within autochthonic cultural tradition. Vision of light as a substance penetrating the universe in Nur’s pictures is turning close to oriental philosophy and mystics. In some pictures it reveals itself in gleams of the divine light and sublimation of its quantum (“Gods – Patroness”, “The Temple of Sun God”) or divine afflatus, or light of love (‘Love River”). Almost all his works have this effect of mysterious holiness, which comes out and emanate from inside, what Massinjon marked in the Muslim art as “metal magnificence”. It gives to a masterpiece especially intense emotions, so becoming the expression of some cryptic meaning that involves a spectator in philosophical reflections.

Meantime the answer to the question if approach of modern challenges and traditions, laying in far religious and philosophical concepts being out to be visualized and stretched to visual stylistic forms, might be in order is not so easy. But in last publications on genesis of some avant-garde schools the scholars succeeded to prove that they, in the course of formation, has influenced by religious and philosophical ideas going back to the beginning of the XX c. and the Middle Ages. Rather adventure suggestion of D. Sarabiyanov proves the idea mentioned above – “national mentality is being formed for centuries and manifests itself absolutely suddenly – more often without dependence on position and wish of a historical person”. Really, further evolution of this artist has obtained sudden, at first look, features. Having come through interpretation of mythic-poetic motifs and realized modern challenges in canvas close to romantic Oriental pieces, the artist reached a new original concept in the works “The Necklace”, “Metamorphoses” and “The Cross”. He has gravitated to mythological themes of more universal character – death and revelation, space and chaos, space and nature cycles, search for divine harmony. But, if to have a look insight, these stylistic metamorphoses could be explained as by general tendencies in the art of the XX c., in the ontology of which the Uzbek art has its roots because of its genesis, as by stimulation of archetypical basic structures in modern painting.

In this aspect, the canvas “Metamorphoses” (1998) is the most expressive. Here we can see absolutely new for the artist method. Usual, for realistic principle, course of the work on nature landscape of the Khumsan foothills, careful punctilious drawing of ordinary stones brought the artist to interesting and sudden results. He created the picture, in which he as if strived to approach absolute truth, absolute core of ens. Expression of the plastic solution deepened this impression. There is a special field of energy – in spite of pointed imitations of nature, the artist makes efforts to go behind visible subjects and fills them up with internal spiritual features. Here it’s possible to say about deepening of a suggestive character of painting that is about suggestions and allusions, which are revealed in transmitting of hidden feelings filled up with powerful elements of symbolism going back to ancient sources. Refusing the methods, which visually interpret mythic – poetic ideas, A. Nur by his creativity expresses the essence of myth, its principle and key idea – collision of permanent transformations of all in this world. In the picture “Metamorphoses” the symbolism, typical of the artist, has another expression, another philosophical and stylistic concept. It contains universal ideas – idea of eternal transformation, cycle and round. In this picture there is a spiritual appearance of eternity, which has been born thanks to irrational combination of far and close, deepness and plate as well a strange light throwing mysterious shadows. Usual space – time coordinate is absent, refined sense causes illusion of dream, metaphoric realty being concerned with a heart meaning of things. A founder of metaphysic painting D. De Cyrico said that one should keep silence before a good picture and its deepness, light and shadow, lines and mystery of the all would start speaking. All that presents in the poetry of A. Nur’s picture, which is close, not by its visible features, but by its magic, to such principal for metaphysics painting features as “enigmatic and alarming” feeling. He has approached to it because of “the idea of separating of the signified and the signifying, and therefore, man and time, man and history” (V. Miziano). That forms its basis.

Comparing the logic of development of A. Nur with artists, close by ideas of metaphysic painting, one could notice that many of them also began with symbolic – metaphoric genesis like the Uzbek artist. And further adding, like the Uzbek artist, many of them would occupy some middle point between traditional art and avant-garde and express the connection of metaphysic basis of their painting, laying in deepness of art mentality, with medieval art, its mystics and irrationalism.

Appearance of hazy, almost unremembered images, hidden in deep subconscious of cultural tradition, which can be noticed in complicated and original evolution of A. Nur, gives evidence for “deliverance from bondage” of absolutely new complex of ideas coming from a heart of the heritage in modern art of Uzbekistan. They nave become a subject of study and give impulses, turning their creativity towards unexpected directions and forming new tendencies in the national art. Principal recency of the situation concludes in the fact that cultural memory has begun to stimulate inner and immanent levers in the modern art. We say about manifestations of the most important logic of the cultural process in the Uzbek painting and its surviving the stages and directions, which in general are typical of the XX century’s art but which, because of objective historical and cultural factors, have not been come through before. That’s why the process, under which is the Uzbek painting now, leads it up to understanding of vital necessity to find new ways of transformation of traditions and art concepts, what can be compared with deep tectonic processes in the nature.

Author: Nigora Ahmedova

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