In November 2003, in the Central Exhibition Hall, the Switzerland Cooperation Agency at the Embassy of Switzerland in Uzbekistan jointly with the Academy of Arts of Uzbekistan presented the Conceptual Project «Bukhara’s Artists: another reality». The exhibition gave a chance to familiarize wide circles of spectators and art critics with one of little-known strata in art of Uzbekistan, to draw their attention to problems of modern art development.

Just single ascent of a top is enough to fill up a human heart.
It is necessary to think of Sisyphus as happy.
A.Kameu. Myth about Sisyphus.

At the late 1970s, Bukhara, one of the centers of Muslim spiritual culture, represented «a majestic city with provincial destiny», a periphery of art even in the republic. Art environment within which interesting ideas could be generated was lack. Local artists worked as designers in the field of Soviet political agitation and guests having just fixed wonders of medieval architecture hurried to leave for their places.

Bahodir Salomov, one of the first educated Bukhara’s artists, consolidated the young artists — Z.Salimdjanov, M. Abdullaev, P. Gulkarov, N. Babaev and H. Evdaev putting forward before them a high purpose — to develop serious plastic ideas. He called them, by their creativity, to promote a ground in Bukhara for development of the painting aiming to searches for modern spiritual topics. Enthusiasm and young ambitions strengthened artists’ will to follow unbeaten tracks, to reach the true independently, to escape standard aesthetic schemes and ideals. They wanted to discover a sense for themselves and to find reasons why many others, risking understanding World, Art and Man out of proposed bounders, have been mistaken. Refusing close traditions the artist were looking for teachers which were opposite to stereotypes of minding, iced up aesthetics which in spite of them was forming in artists’ midst where permanent staying «inside» and beside the medieval art became a daily standard. Considering this heritage as high art deeply and seriously, they feared that they turn it into frozen stampsa and died aesthetic fiction. Experience of P. Picasso, cubists and German expressionists interested them by their sharp dramatic perception of the world, by absolutely different, uncommon degree of psychological tension. In early works of the Bukhara’s artists, we notice striving to give as if «unrefined» life material, to show loneliness of characters and their tragically seedy life. In that period, spectators evaluated their pictures as «charmless», and art critics — as infringement of approved aesthetic and ethic standards. Another opinion hardly could be expected. Their situation reminded the same that A. Kameau described: «Gods domed Sisyphus for ever to roll a tremendous stone up the mountain, where from because of gravitation it again and again fell down to the mountain foot. Not without reasons the Gods deemed that no scourge can be more awful than endless work without any good and hopes afore.»

In indifferent and roughish world, alone personages from pictures of Z. Saidjanov, M. Abdullaev and P. Gulkarov seemed prisoners of their spiritual individualism. Uncustomary was that their pictures, far from oriental poetry, maditativeness and decorative fine working, unveiling miserable everyday life reflected its darksome sides. They revealed such tragic expressiveness of forms and so opened loneliness of the soul that all that became a challenge against many — century old aesthetic of the East. In a course of time, many things have been changed. Receiving an impulse of general ideas in young years, each artist from this group of like — minded men chose his own path. Some of them remained faithful to their ideals, the others broke away, N. Babaev and P. Gulkarov emigrated.

In the 90s, the concepts of a nature of art, its content have been significantly enriched. Some restrictions fell aside, modernism was «amnestied», post — modernism got development. Now our ideas on history and modernity are in a process of permanent updating, and the artist’s right to liberty seems fixed forever. However, not everything answers hopes and instead of rigid ideological standards of the previous period is growing a phantom of bourgeois audience consuming modish surrogates. Instead of spiritual and aesthetic, a commercial success of the artist became its main criteria, which cause an army of masters which commercialized their art. Market environment and pop culture turned out a new probation for true art.

Zelimkhan Saidjanov and Muzaffar Abdullaev have kept the ideals of their young years, developing their art principles they became bright and original masters. In our pragmatic epoch, much of what they did and dreamed about would have seemed naive if the artists have forgotten these ideas not reaching serious creative successes. The works of M. Abdullaev of the 80s — 90s as well as his last works have reflected uneasy evolution of this artist. Exercises in various themes, searches for some important for the artist philosophic meanings connected with struggle and pacification gradually brought the master to their easy expression in abstract forms. His unfigured, rich in color pictures are another effort to be independent — now independent from formality of a theme and ties with reality.

The exhibition gives the opportunity, in the full extent, to guess a power of wonderful talent of Zelimkhan Saidjanov, who for many years, in spite of all circumstances, has being maturated living on his sharpened subjectivism, loneliness and intransigence. Each work reflects thinking over not just tragic imperfectness of the life, its fragile harmony but reflects drama of the artist who as if thrown out of this harmony that quiets fervor of the other masters. However, striking is that exactly deformation and originality of plastics, richness and expression of color in Saidjanov’s pictures appear because of conflict and its overcoming. At that is being released the amazing spiritual energy and reached absolute freedom of artist’s self-actualization. More than a quarter of century, the Bukhara’s artists have developed in isolation.

Expressing their deeply individual dramatic world vision, they were out of context, considering tendencies of that period. However, today the painting of these masters is still far from those art tendencies, which «suffocate» the art in the clutch of lowlife folklorization and primitive fabulousness. It happened that the artists are barely adapting to modern pluralistic situation staying apart. However, the art of these masters is an important component of painting art of Uzbekistan, which significantly adds a picture of its development in the 20th century as well as a picture of the modern art process. We think that Bukhara’s artists’ position of insistent and stable affirmation of ethic status of creativity, philosophic and aesthetic principles is activating true art values of the young creative people and so becoming, in some extent, an alternative of some negative phenomena in modern art.

Author: Nigora Ahmedova