Interview with Masut M. Fatkulin, Chairman of the Executive Committee of the International Confederation of the Artists’ Union

How would you assess the current situation in art in the post-soviet area?
It is difficult to come with a definite and short answer to the question. Yet the framework of the interview does not allow an extensive answer. Speaking briefly, however, I believe that art has definitely changed over these 15 years. As the ideological component — one of the determining factors during soviet years — disappeared, now, in view of the absence of any restrictions, there has arrived a complete freedom and permissiveness, which, however, does not at all mean that art has become more professional.

Repeatedly we saw proof that certain restrictions stimulate the need for development. Putting it differently, a skilled artist would create a more perfect work with ten colours, than an unskilled one with forty. That is, freedom, on the one hand, did not boost the development of art. On the other hand, the system itself has changed: formerly, state was the main customer, hence the work for the artist was guaranteed, as the ideology had to be serviced. Since the very idea of the state order is practically non-existent, and sate basically does not participate in financing fine arts, today everything is determined by demand and supply on the market, where good artistic taste does not always prevail. In the market environment, artists have found themselves in the worst economic situation.

The mixed rate of economic development of the countries in the post-soviet area could not but affect an attitude to culture. Those countries where the economy is better developed channel greater resources to the acquisition of the pieces of fine art thus encouraging its development. But in places where the economy is experiencing difficulties, financing for culture and fine arts as part of culture is absent or inadequate, which certainly holds back a full-fledged development of art.

By and large, one can state that the past 15 years have seen the beginning of enlivening and formation of art market. For instance, in Moscow they organize a large number of exhibitions, new galleries are being opened, there is a demand in acquiring works of art, and, quite importantly, a possibility to acquire them. Apparently, positive trends that can be observed in the Russian economy have an effect on the situation in art. Similar processes are taking place in your country, which is facilitated by the establishment of the Academy of Arts of Uzbekistan ten years ago.

Which domains of art, in your view, are priority ones at this stage?
MF: Those that are in demand: design and decorative art, for example. Design is currently in high demand — in advertising, in printing trades, in creating interiors and habitat styles… By the way, monumental art is in much smaller demand compared to soviet period. No ideological component, no these kinds of art, correspondingly.

The art of easel painting is always needed and in demand, for it enables the artist to directly express themes that thrill him. On the other hand, people want to have a «handmade» piece. But today there are very many works — in the genre of installation or video art — where the most important thing is the idea, the concept, the new interpretation, the original viewpoint of the artist himself, and not professional skill. And it often happens that someone who calls himself an artist and creates something called an art object may not know how to hold a brush…

This is a contentious and ambivalent issue, but the truth is that there is traditional and modern-day art denoted by the term ‘contemporary art’, which is different from the traditional one.

I do not believe it is right to be an antagonist of one and an advocate of the other, for every trend has its logic and regularity. Neither can one throw traditional art overboard the ship of modern days, nor can one get stuck in tradition and ignore the fact that we are living in the 21st century.

What do you think is the place of Uzbekistan’s art is the contemporary artistic process?
The art of Uzbekistan occupies a worthy place in the contemporary artistic process. On the one hand, there is a large «artel» of highly professional masters with excellent academic schooling, who train the galaxy of young artists. On the other hand, centuries-old traditions, a particular exquisiteness and spirituality of the national art have been preserved.

Having attained independence, the Republic of Uzbekistan got new impetus for the development of artistic culture, which to a large extent is manifested at the recent art exhibitions. Big attention is given to the origins, and by referring to traditions, artist find their identity, come to realize their place in the global artistic process, search for their own path…

Turning to their spiritual heritage in combination with highly professional schooling generates a new alloy, a new quality in art.

What kind of response do the exhibitions of Uzbek artists get in the CHA (Central House of Artists)?
As I mentioned earlier, turning to eternal, «imperishable» values and at the same time innovations, a ceaseless search for new themes and implementation techniques create an original and distinctive manner that is different from other schools. That is the reason why the exhibitions of Uzbek artists at the CHA unfailingly excite interest of the audience.

Has the distinctiveness of the national schools been preserved in the contemporary post-soviet art?
The distinctiveness is preserved, but at the same time it is not the only trend in the development of contemporary art.

Another trend is globalization that involves the unification of approaches to fine art. …To the extent that sometimes it is not clear whether you are visiting an exhibition in New York or Tashkent. By loosing his self-identity, an artist risks loosing his distinctive style.

We certainly cannot obstruct progress and the development of the technical process. Having said that, it is important to remember that it is good when all kinds of flowers bloom in the meadow, not just one species.

Your artistic connections with the Academy of Arts of Uzbekistan count many years. How would you assess its activity over the ten year period?
As a person who has lived almost all his live in Uzbekistan, I follow the activity of the Academy of Arts with keen interest. I believe that its establishment has elevated many issues related to the fine arts development in the country to a higher level. Government support and financing of the most important areas such as artistic education, academic and publishing activities facilitate the development of art just as the preservation of the Creative Union of Artists of Uzbekistan as a public institution helps to engage the entire circle of artists into this process.

The intensified activity of international programmes in the framework of the Academy enables Uzbek artists to participate in joint projects with the artists from other countries.

What kind of management structure does art need to have at the contemporary stage?
The management structure in the domain of art must meet the requirements of modern day. It is not sufficient to have a professional knowledge about laws and trends in fine arts. It is essential to be knowledgeable in economics, law and have access and understanding of media, because nowadays it depends on mass media how an opinion about an artist is formed, and one has to understand how they operate and how to interact with them correctly.

The job of the artist is to create and craft in the quiet of his studio. The job of the manager is to bring the «product» to the public, to make sure the work is in demand and eventually purchased. A piece of art in the present day environment, leaving its spiritual component aside, is a product, goods to which universal market laws and mechanisms apply.

What do you think of the Market-and-Artist problem?
Speaking in the same line, I would like to note that we cannot move away from the concept of art market. Formerly it was substituted by State-Artist relations. Today, if there is a demand, there is a supply. Not so log ago our film-making industry was on the decline, whereas now we are witnessing a boom, when experts in film-making are in demand and our film gather full cinema-halls.

Same is true for the art: it has to be delivered to the audience; hence a new task of how to promote an artist. New environment generates new forms of relations between society and artist.

What, in your view, are the relevant problems of contemporary art?
It the problem of globalization and the preservation of traditions.
What would you wish to the Academy of Arts of Uzbekistan, to our artists and all creative people in the country? To the Academy of Arts and the artists I wish further development and flourishing of the national fine art, which is based on highly professional schooling, deep research into traditions and the richest cultural and spiritual heritage of Uzbek people. Without forgetting your roots and traditions, integrate into the global artistic process.

Material prepared by Kamola Nuritdinova