Art Roundup – April 2015

Happy All Fools’ Day, everyone.

Alexander Batykov

You may have seen that Google Maps has put the Pacman game at various locations on the map today. For example, check out the front lawn of the Taj Mahal. Are there similar Pacman games anywhere in Russia?

  1. In Tashkent’s House of Photography, an exhibition of the works of the graphic artist and portraitist Alexander Batykov (1939- ) started on 26 March 2015.
  2. In Paris, the Oneiro gallery holds an exhibition of the Kazakh artist Anna Sand. It runs till June 2015.
  3. Just like the Guggenheim, the State Museum of St Petersburg is opening overseas branches – one in Malaga, Spain, opened a few days ago.
  4. The Museum of Russian Art in Minneapolis has an exhibition of Romance in Soviet Art, running April 4 – September 30, 2015.
  5. Oh, and Tate Modern in London has a massive exhibition on Sonia Delaunay starting April 15. Did I mention this before? Whatevs… Huzzah!

Aigana Gali

As I mentioned in my monthly roundup, a Georgian/Kazakh artist, Aigana Gali, was exhibiting at the Carnegie Library in Herne Hill. There were only a few, untitled paintings on display, but the boy and I took some pictures and here they are.

Gali trained at Almaty’s Kazakh Academy of Science, and currently resides in London. She is a trained ballerina, and is also an art councillor at the Kazakh-British Art Council. Some more of her works are at her website.

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Appears to be part of a triptych.

Art Roundup – July 2013

Summer again, folks – in the northern hemisphere at least. I wonder if any Russian art ever finds its way to the southern half of the planet? Hmm, needs a bit of investigating.

Intourist poster (Yerevan, 1930s)

Anyway, first off we have an exhibition of Soviet-era Intourist posters: SEE USSR, at the Grad Gallery, London, until August 31, 2013. Here’s an example of one from the 1930s (via Flickr). Very art deco, eh?

Next, we have an exhibition by famous artists of Azerbaijan and Moldova at the Niagara Art Gallery in Chişinău, Moldova. There was a press release two days ago, but I can’t find any links to the exhibition itself.

The Andriaki School of Watercolours in Moscow has an exhibition Pages from the History of the Romanovs running till July 21, 2013, presenting a unique collection of drawings, paintings, sculptures, photographs and documents relating to the family history of the Russian imperial family.

In Astana, Kazakhstan, there is a brilliant exhibition of the works by the ‘First female artists of Kazakhstan’. It runs at the Museum of Modern Art from July 4 – September 30, 2013. Works by such artists as Aysha Galimbaeva, Gulfairus Ismailova, Elizaveta Govorova, Mariya Lizogub, Olga Kuzhelenko, Liya Kolotilina, Emiliya Babad and Zoya Beregovaya will be displayed.

On a slightly different note, there is a travelling exhibition of children’s art called Silk Road & Silk Town, a collaborative exhibition between China and Uzbekistan. If you’ve missed the displays at Jiaxing, don’t panic – you can still catch it at Hangzhou from July 26, 2013.

The Kiss 2

More on the theme of kissing. A couple of the paintings are as modern as you can want – from the last few years, in fact.

Kiss, by Vsevolod Maximovich. (1913)

Kiss, by Vsevolod Maximovich. (1913)

Kiss, by Konstantin Somov. (1914)

Kiss, by Konstantin Somov. (1914)

Kiss, by Nikolay Tarkhov.

Kiss, by Nikolai Tarkhov.

Kiss in St. Petersburg, by Leonid Afremov.

Kiss in St. Petersburg, by Leonid Afremov.

 

Stolen Kiss, by Vasily Ryabchenko.

Stolen Kiss, by Vasily Ryabchenko. (1990).

Kiss, by Akzhana Abdalliyeva. (2009).

Kiss, by Akzhana Abdalliyeva. (2009).

Flying Kiss, by Anna Silivonchik. (2011).

Flying Kiss, by Anna Silivonchik. (2011).

Contemporary Art of the Caucasus and Central Asia

Sotheby’s held an exhibition last month as part of their sale of art from Central Asia and Caucasus. I missed it completely and am rather miffed. There were some interesting works on display, some of which I append.

The Road's End, by Hakob Hakobyan. (1997).

The Road’s End, by Hakob Hakobyan. (1997).

Maneater of Kumaon, by Merab Abramishvili. (2005).

Maneater of Kumaon, by Merab Abramishvili. (2005).

Mirages of Communism #1, by Alimjan Jorobayev. (1994).

Mirages of Communism #1, by Alimjan Jorobayev. (1994).

Untitled (from Dreams series), by Jamol Usmanov. (2010).

Untitled (from Dreams series), by Jamol Usmanov. (2010).

The Aral Beach 2, by Almagul Menlibayeva. (2011).

The Aral Beach 2, by Almagul Menlibayeva. (2011).

D. D. Shostakovich, by Tair Salakhov. (1987).

D. D. Shostakovich, by Tair Salakhov. (1987).

A Brief History of the Fine Art of Kazakhstan

The story of professional art in Kazakhstan begins more than a hundred years ago when Nikolai Khludov arrived here from Russia, and became the first teacher of many local artists. At the time the Kazakhs were still a nomadic people and their art was constituted by the needs of the perambulatory existence – every yurt was a mobile exhibition of applied art. The collapse of the nomadic culture and the import of the Soviet revolution coincided with the active import of Russian art. From that time onward, the chief source of Kazakh artistic ideas was Russia.

Nikolai Khludov.

The professional art of Kazakhstan during its entire existence has been focused on the European style, mainly because all the information entering the country was filtered through Soviet censorship which determined a total scheme for the arts across the USSR.

Still, the Kazakhs have always striven for self-identity. The art that was entirely new and brought in from outside went through a process of adaptation to local conditions. However, the accelerated assimilation was not a mere mechanical transfer of the world’s cultural heritage to a new location – it was a difficult period for a new way of understanding of the development of the world.

In this history of Kazakh fine art, we can delineate several stages: 1920s to the 1940s was a time of laying the foundations of a professional school; the 1950s formed the Kazakh Soviet academism; the 1960s was a time of formation for the Kazakh variant of the ‘severe style’; the 1970s and 1980s saw the establishment of the ‘performance school’.

At the same time, we can see periods of stagnation, connected to the priorities of the Russian school (the 1920s to the 1950s), and periods of turbulence, marked by a more varied attention to the world (the 1960s and the 1990s).

Young Kazakh painters returned to their homeland in the 1950s, having trained in Moscow and Leningrad. Immersed in the Soviet culture, they were asked to create art that was ‘nationalist in form and socialist in content’. But in the view of a modern viewer, their works do not meet this instruction – as, instead, they used a classical compositional scheme to fulfil the nationalist content.

The narrative scene of the time was filled with a certain nostalgia for the patriarchal life untouched by civilisation, a lost ‘golden age’. Unsurprisingly, it was the painters of the next generation, those of the 1960s, who began to seek a new national form. They attracted the outrage of their senior colleagues who were shocked by their liberties, so contrary to the rules of the academic school.

As is well-known, small tears began to appear in the Iron Curtain during the 1960s, a thaw through which could wash in information about the wider world. True, that knowledge was regulated: one could learn about Guttuso but not about the Italian futurists; Rockwell Kent was acceptable, but not Warhol; Matisse was all right, but not Duchamp. The filters may have been battered but they were still effective. Along with the inflow of international ideas of art, the Kazakhs began to understand their own values and cultural traditions.

The guest arrives, by Salihitdin Aitbayev. (1969).

The Kazakh version of the Soviet ‘severe style’ differentiated itself with a clear unseverity: they were less reliant on the strict scheme of iconography than the positive/negative system of the Kazakh tapestry with its large patches of traditional ornamentation, and the plasticity and texture of ancient Turkish sculpture. At this time appear the on-the-spot paintings of Aitbayev and Sariyev, and the coarse-grained graphic art of Sidorkin. Senior colleagues focused on the setup of a Kazakh school did not recognise Kazakhstan in these works that initiated original artistic ideas unique to their country.

Then everything reverted to its place – the rends in the Iron Curtain were sealed up, even if not very carefully, and knowledge of ‘bourgeois art’ leaked in a very feeble stream, and would take another twenty years to widen again to a gushing river.

The major directions of art in the 1980s and 1990s are, in principle, a repetition of the confrontations of the art in the 1950s and 1960s. The 1970s and 80s were known as a period of stagnation, given that Russia (still a source, even if diminished, of direction) was stagnating as well. From the beginning of the 70s, Kazakh art appears to be braking, mulling over the discoveries of the previous decade, and – under the guise of aesthetic forms – covering up its own reluctance to face up to the realities of life. There is also a concurrent idea of what Kazakh art should be; on the other hand, the national idea that was necessary and original in the context of the 1960s was by the end of the 1980s anachronistic and irrelevant. As the political and economic situation changed, so did the artistic.

From the mid-1980s, with the fall of the Iron Curtain, Kazakh art began to actively recycle ‘forbidden’ ideas. The first exhibition of informal art ‘Crossroads’ opened in 1988 and demonstrated all the directions of art from the middle and latter half of the 20th century in their local versions. Artists, as though starved, consumed everything that could inform modern art – posters, magazine pictures, brochures, advertising. Meanwhile, live data from Moscow began to dwindle – journals closed, the Union of Artists collapsed, and Kazakh art began to be threatened with isolation.

Gradual changes in the situation were brought on by establishment of democratic reform and the liberalisation of the economy. Foreign companies and diplomatic missions and buyers appeared.

The Medeo Mountain Skating Rink, by Abylkhan Kasteyev. (1955).

An unprecedented flow of visitors poured into exhibition halls, and one gallery after another opened its doors. A new artistic situation established itself, sharply different in organisation from its predecessors: neither a union nor the ministry but art galleries on their own initiative  organised cultural events in which everyone was able to find their niche.

There is now an annual series of exhibitions ‘Parade of Galleries’ in Almaty, at the chief museum of the country, the Kasteyev State Museum of Art. This started in 1995, and a dozen to a score galleries participate in it; latterly, it’s not only galleries of Almaty that take part, but also those from other towns of Kazakhstan.

For several years now, they have been able to establish a completely new situation for Kazakh art, having carried out a series of large-scale projects.

[Loosely translated from ‘Fine Art of Kazakhstan‘, UNESCO.]

Art Roundup – September 2012

Here you go, folks: things arty in September from around the world to do with the erstwhile Russian/Soviet empire or its diaspora.

First off, we have an exhibition of Kazakh artists of the 1960s at Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. Associated with the twentieth anniversary of establishment of diplomatic ties between Kazakhstan and the host country, this exhibition has works by Abylkhan Kasteyev, Nurbek Tansykbayev, Gulfairuz Ismailova, Aisha Galimbayeva, Sergey Kalmykov as well as talented contemporary artists such as Agym Duzelkhanov, Alpysbai Kazgulov, Erbolat Tulepbayev, Dulat Aliyev, and Marat Bekeyev. The venue is the G. Aitiyev National Museum of Fine Arts, Bishkek, and the exhibition runs August 21 – September 4, 2012. Hurry!

In Moscow’s Central House of Artists, we have Art Moscow presenting an International Art Fair between 19-23 September, 2012. This is part of Moscow’s Week of Art which promotes modern and contemporary art.

In Saransk, the capital of the province of Mordovia, is an exhibition of art ‘Russia – My Motherland‘ to celebrate the thousandth anniversary of the unification of Mordovia with the Russian empire. ‘It is designed to fully comply with the notions of tolerance, mutual understanding and respect between the Finno-Ugric, Slavic, Turkic and other peoples of our multinational country.’ It runs from August 23 to September 30, 2012, and will contain more than 900 examples of the finest art from the various regions of Russia. At the Mordovian Republican Museum of Fine Art.

In Barnaul’s State Art Museum of the Altai Region is an exhibition titled ‘Marc Chagall – Biblical Subjects‘, organised from several private collections based in Germany. This is connected with the 125th anniversary of the artist’s birth, and the Year of Germany in Russia. Barnaul is in Siberia, so it takes quite some getting there, but surely no distance is too much to see some of Chagall’s rarest works – his illustrations for the Bible, which he began upon a Parisian publisher’s suggestion in the 1930s, and which were printed in Paris between 1956-60. The exhibition is from August 23 to September 17, 2012.

Meanwhile, in Prague, an exhibition of contemporary Uzbek art will run September 12 – 14, 2012, at the Uzbek embassy. You can see works by the likes of Yulduz Farrukhzoda and Gulzor Sultanova.

In Edinburgh’s Scotland-Russia Institute is an exhibition ‘Soviet Grand Designs‘ (August 4 – September 22, 2012) of works from the collection of John Barkes.

All the way across the Atlantic and half of the USA is The Museum of Russian Art in Minneapolis. They are celebrating their tenth anniversary this year and are holding ‘A Decade of Russian Art and Culture‘ from August 18 onwards, an exhibition of works by post-World War II artists, as well as examples from the permanent collection. In parallel, there is an exhibition of Nikolai Fechin and another of Soviet photography. Pearls beyond compare!

And in London (woo-hoo!) there will be an exhibition at Christie‘s of the early works of Alexander Volkov ‘Of Sand and Silk‘ between September 4 – 21, 2012. It is the first exhibition of his works outside Russia and Central Asia.

I’m sure there’s more, but this should do for now, what?