A modern interpretation of national traditions in the art of Khurshid Ziyahanov

Issue #4 • 1370

Dildora Umarova,
Art Critic

New times require a rethinking of the history of your country and your place in this world, a revision of the various issues of the country’s development, including the role of art and the artist in the development process. 

23Eastern culture, the national crafts, in particular, had greatly determined specifics of the figurative art and creative work of the artists. The trend of the artistic ethno-culture reflects the drive of the national artistic community towards the ethnic integration and mobilization in order to enter into the general development process of the history of arts, and into the general multicultural space as well.
Features of the national artistic style in the modern art of Uzbekistan are being determined by the attitude to traditions as to the fundamental values of the Uzbek national heritage. The main specifics of the Uzbek national artistic style, characterized by the continuity of traditions of Uzbek people, appeal to the mytho-poetic images, motifs, subjects, as well as metaphorical, symbolic, ornamental, contemplative, and sacred nature, inspired by Mother Nature, glorification of human being, application of artistic tradition based on variability.
The course of a free dialogue between the avant-garde trends of the XX century and the rich traditions of folk art in many ways are reflected in the paintings of Kh. Ziyahanov, who has developed his own style in the spectrum of modern painting of Uzbekistan, has found an interesting interpretation of the plastic surrealism and cubism to express poetic symbols and metaphors, mythology and history of the East. Kh. Ziyahanov grew up in Uzbek mahalla (neighborhood), and in the following years he had very often visited the remote villages of the country, he was close to the exotic folk life, national costumes and utensils, as well as to the applied arts and crafts. His characters are often older people, young wives, children and even domestic animals.
In his creative works, the artist reflects the life, history and culture of Uzbek people and his paintings is the testimony of love for them. Uzbek folk songs, the interest in national ornaments and clothes, in everyday life of the people, the national history generate the themes and subjects for his paintings. These are the roots that nourished his work.
The inner world of Kh. Ziyahanov is surprisingly original. He expresses what he sees and transmits it, using sophisticated plastic geometrized forms, preliminary enriching his knowledge, painstakingly depicting the natural environment and the life of people of the East. The artist’s work refers to a symbolic and metaphorical trend. He expresses his inner world, the idea and conception by means of symbols and metaphors, trying to enhance the reality of existence by creation of new metaphorical compositions.
The art pieces created by Kh. Ziyahanov are characterized by the multiform nature of the art of painting, monumentality, deep psychological analysis, integrity of artistic images, where the national traits serve as the external signs of realism, depicting “reality” based on the philosophical theory of reflection.
24Being a graphical artist by education, he worked as book designer in different publishing companies. However he was always attracted to the painting, and he began to paint in oil, to study the styles and trends in painting. At the initial stage of his creative life he often turned to surrealism (he preferred the art of Dali and Magritte). The paintings of that period – “The Astral Body” (1997), “The Wind of Civilizations” (1999), “The Spirits of Time” (1999), “Pain” (1999), “The Caravan Driver” (1999), and “The Valley of Parting” (2000) – have been painted under the influence of the above mentioned artists.
After his first solo exhibition in the Netherlands (Duisburg) and the visit to the “Amsterdam, RAI”, he had been greatly influenced by the European painting. He discovered the beauty of Cubism. He – an adherent of the trends of the realism and classicism has suddenly saw the sense, logic and beauty of the broken lines, angles, colors, and even his perception of the world has changed.
Since 1999, Kh. Ziyahanov creates a series of Cubist paintings: “Escape” (2001), “Trinity” (2001), “The Battle” (2001), “The Bathers” (2000), “A Boy with Kumgan” (1999) “A Woman of Bukhara” (1999). A. Khakimov, Academician of the Academy of Arts of Uzbekistan has remarked: “From the painting “Day and Night” (1999) a series of Cubist works of Kh. Ziyahanov begins. This change is stemming from a purely technical detail – the canvas was folded, and this bend had to be incorporated into the structure of the painting plastics. The result was a Cubist work. Its creation has coincided with the artist’s emerging interest to the art of Picasso” (1, p. 23 – 27).
Basis of Ziyahanov’s paintings is the national heritage of the Uzbek people. Most of his creations were influenced by the Eastern culture, and by Cubism to some extent. For example, in the pictures such as “The Uzbeks” (2010), “The Heir” (2008), “Qurash” (2010), “Transition” (2009), “A Walk with Dalmatian” (2012), “Idyll” (2004), “Memories” (2012), “Lane” (2012), the artist displays the Uzbek way of life, culture, traditions, embodying the stories into the plastic art of Cubism. The artist admits that his painting style refers to the “Cubist Decorativism”.
In his work Kh. Ziyahanov pays great attention to the musicians, folk images – “Music” (2005), “Dance” (2008), “The Dutar Players” (2009), where through the bright, bold colors, one can see an exquisite harmony of forms and avant-garde plastic, where the revived ancient traditions of the East show through While creating his painting “The Folk Band” (2013), the artist has added the patches of different fabrics to the clothes of the musicians and suzane rug, forming a sort of the ethnic collage. Ziyahanov is close to the Cubist interpretation, but he believes that one should not specify whether he was a realist or surrealist, as long as his art comes from his heart.
In the workshop of Kh. Ziyahanov, as indeed, in any artist’s working space, there are many paintings, including still-lives painted in a realistic manner; landscapes of our country, most of them painted in “Cubist” style, which despite of the sharp broken lines still look more like the Eastern miniature pictures. There are also graphic pieces – clear, three-dimensional pictures.
As for the landscape works of the artist, such as “Once upon a time in Suqoq” (2001), “The environs of Charvak” (2012), “Yusuf-hona” (2012), the artist “enters into the world of nature,” as in his own habitat, where everything is dear, familiar and clear. If the shepherds, women with children appear in his landscapes, they are also his good friends, who do not have anything mysterious or unexpected. The role of these characters in the compositions of Kh. Ziyahanov is significant; they complement the natural environment, making it even more habitable. The colors of his paintings are full of light of different intensity, they are extremely rich. In his painting – “In Memory of Picasso” (2009), “The Fight” (2011), the artist emphasizes the geometrical forms, trying to break the real objects into the stereometric primitive forms.
Among his recent works, a series of portraits – “Babur Nama” (2014), “The Master” (2014), in which he attempts to transfer not only the individual uniqueness of a man, but a search for something eternal, constant – the purity of the mind, tranquility, and reverie. The presence of a landscape or a neutral background in his paintings does not change the fact that the characters of Kh. Ziyahanov, to the same extent as the landscapes, are united by the reality and the dream of the ideal, which the artist has always associated with nobility, spirituality and simplicity. He seeks to build his pieces of art, combining the basic forms, constructing the dimensional plane, dismembering the real size of the geometrized bodies.
Aesthetics of the East are based on religious and philosophical thought of the unity of God, the world and a human being. The art is the search for being in harmony with nature, acceptance of the world through love that conciliates the aesthetics of Khurshid Ziyahanov with the aesthetics of the East, reminding the experience of comprehension of beauty through the inner enlightenment and purification.
On the other hand, the love of the world and the life that permeates the paintings of Kh. Ziyahanov is expressed in his love for nature, for man, and the state of his soul. The artist’s creations, regardless of the technique and the material chosen, are characterized by thoughtful, serious approach to the expression of the artistic image, whether it is a portrait, still life, landscape or historical theme. Emotionally expressive form of his works does not prevail over substance, but organically flows out of it. The paintings of Kh. Ziyahanov are expressive in their mood, profound in their content, where the viewers can find something akin to themselves, discovering one’s own world.
Creativity of Kurshid Ziyahanov was dignified with high government award – the “Shukhrat” medal (2008,) and the Gold Medal of the Academy of Arts (2009), He is the winner of the municipal contest “Eng Ulug Eng Aziz” (The Greatest and the Dearest) (2014). The artist is recognized by the broad circles of connoisseurs of art in our country and abroad. Kh. Ziyahanov is a regular participant of the national, regional and international exhibitions. They include solo exhibitions in the Netherlands (1999-2000), exhibition of the Arts of Uzbekistan “The Garden of Oriental Poetry” in Moscow (2001), exhibition of Uzbek artists in the Gallery of Modern Arts in Paris (2002), as well as participation to the Tashkent Biennale I, II, III, IV, and V, and Beijing Biennale in China (2005). Creative works of Kh. Ziyahanov can be found in the private collections and the galleries of Germany, Morocco, Netherlands, Russia, USA, Turkey, France, in the State Museum of Art of Uzbekistan and the Gallery of Fine Arts of Uzbekistan.

1. Акбар Хакимов. Узбекская траектория кубизма. SAN’AT, 2003, № 3.

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