The year 2008 was proclaimed the Year of Young People in the country, encouraging various activities aimed at galvanizing creative potential of the young generation. Implementation of creative initiatives is also facilitated by the National programme for providing the environment enabling early identification and development of creative talents and abilities in gifted young people in the domain of music, painting, art and culture.
In March 2008 in the framework of the declared national priorities the Fine Arts Gallery of Uzbekistan organized an exhibition called «5 + 1» that was an unusual artistic experience. It was an out-of-the-ordinary event because the main players in this action were young artists, employees of the Gallery itself, whose objective was to demonstrate their talent in the now popular Actual Art.
The Actual Art, or contemporary art, associated with new technology and materials, new trends, forms and means of expression that to a greater degree correspond to changing reality and reflect the mainstream of global artistic experience, already for a number of years has prompted creative search of the country’s artists (the term Actual Art refers to the mainstream of global art and its kinds, such as installations, environments, performances, video art, photo art, etc.). Apparently, Actual Art becomes increasingly attractive for young people capable of avoiding standards and stereotypes of perception and thinking broadly and liberally.
The exhibition participants — Diyor Razikov, Sanjar Jabbarov, Nigora Sharafkhojaeva, Sherzod Rajamov, and Nuriddin Rasulov — are recent graduates and students of the National Institute of Arts and Design named after K. Bekhzod. The main incentive to present their works in the framework of a single exhibition project was related to the willingness of the young people to demonstrate their skill in Actual Art and go beyond habitual exhibition clich?s. Their aspirations were supported and guided by the exhibition curator and the author of this article who is also a graduate student of the National Institute of Arts and Design and the Gallery staff. It should be noted that for several years already the Gallery has provided space of its exhibition halls for the most daring experiments.
For the last ten years Actual Art has increasingly actively been gaining its niche in the diverse art life of the country. In the meantime, artists in Uzbekistan have every possibility to be aware of the processes that characterize the development of Actual Art in other countries. For a number of years the capital city of our country has hosted the Tashkent Biennale festivals in which the most prominent representatives of Actual Art worldwide take part. These Biennale festivals have provided a unique creative field for sharing experience and testing the strength of the Actual Art followers from Uzbekistan.
The «5 + 1» exhibition participants have already had a chance to present their works at major international projects. For instance, Razikov and Jabbarov participated in the 2007 Tashkent Biennale, and Rajamov took part in a Constellation Project that brought together lead representatives of the country’s Actual Art and excited great public interest. In the aforementioned exhibitions, however, they were just making their first steps, but this time they were supposed to be the project headliners. The exhibition displayed sculpture, installations, objects, photo-collages, wood carving and painting. The absence of a single theme was rather a plus, as it resulted in the project encompassing the widest range of issues: from social and environmental ones to philosophical and purely subjective contemplations of an artist about human nature and the meaning of life.
For Razikov such global-scale problem became the environment and energy crisis caused by uncontrolled consumption of oil, the blood of the Earth. For his installation he uses cellophane film, cardboard, canvas, water, sand and fans. The juxtaposition of the smooth surface of pure water lake shining right in the exhibition hall and canvases with stains and streaks that appear to be those of oil hung on the walls causes one to think about environmental crisis that engulfed our planet, about shrinking fresh water reserves and environmental pollution. Next to it he positioned soil that turns into sand under the flow of warm air created by the fans — a reminder of global warming that threatens to turn the Earth into a boundless desert as a result of a mindless pursuit of civilization boons. However, images created by the artist make one think about not only environmental, but also moral and spiritual categories. The issues of saving the world of nature are intertwined with the problems of society with its perpetual dispute about good and evil, truth and lie, justice and violence. Eventually, the choice in favour of one or the other depends on every one of us. This composition that excited the greatest interest of experts and public is also remarkable from the plastic point of view. It is attractive, primarily, by its minimalism and ability to metaphorically express the scale and comprehensiveness of the theme.
Rajamov is also concerned with moral issues: the theme of loneliness, self expression of an individual, the search for human warmth and sympathy. This idea was expressed in sculpture made of construction foam — material unusual for the artist (composition «Ray of Hope»). The figure of a nude man with a candle in his hand is installed on a high pedestal in an empty, darkened hall; it brings to mind literary character created by Gorky — Danko who tore his heart out of his chest to light the path for the tormented people. The problem of searching for one’s life-path, one’s co-thinkers and one’s purpose, for the truth and ideals is addressed by the young artist in a very unusual and expressive manner. Although the artistic presentation of the image is not necessarily flawless, still the idea interested every visitor of the exhibition: when entering the dark hall, a person was seemingly left alone with the installation character experiencing the state of spiritual quest.
Installation called «К.У.Б.» («C.U.B.»; the acronym stands for «Cyber-Upgraded Biology») was presented by N. Sharafkhojaeva who researches different psychological states of a human being, which develop at an attempt to perceive structures simple for the eye (hence — events, phenomena, characters), which suddenly loose their foundation, and the purity of minimalism turns into a «sensory chaos». Using a cubic object as base for her composition, the artist glues to it numerous photographs of faces and events. As a result, the collage complicates the perception of the object, makes one pause and look closely into each fragment and each piece which our eventful daily life actually consists of. An arm made of gypsum that protrudes from the cube seems to be trying to draw the visitor’s attention and focus it on these photographed instants of life, which irreversibly vanish with time.
Various aspects of moral subject-matter were touched upon by S. Jabbarov and N. Rasulov in their projects which are a synthesis of installations and performance. For instance, to express his idea, Jabbarov uses familiar objects such as ceramic bowls and platters featuring inscriptions — quotations of wisdom from the verses of oriental poets (installation titled «The Flows of Destinies»). In his work the artist appeals to the well-known medieval specimens — platters with epigraphic decor containing words of moral and well-wishing. Positioning them on a fabric stretched along the floor and walls, he creates an image of the river of life, flowing along which gives one an opportunity to know the truth about being. At the same time the young artist uses bowl as a metaphor for our thirst, not only for water, but also for knowledge. Some lack of expressivity in the plastic solution is compensated by the willingness to combine traditional archetypes and modern vision of the theme. The idea of creating a labyrinth symbolizing human life-paths is employed by N. Rasulov (installation called «In the Labyrinth of Transient Days»). The author’s choice of material and technology is quite interesting: using a very traditional applied art technique such as wood-carving the artist creates a piece in the spirit of Actual Art. The walls of the labyrinth covered with carved patterns seem to be inviting one to hit the road, and only the choice we made at the moment of truth will answer the question of whether we shall find the right way or get lost in the stratagem of events. Perhaps the idea of using traditional wood-carving in this work was not entirely convincing, yet the very principle of combining the techniques of traditional and modern art is certainly of interest.
To accommodate the exhibition the Gallery provided three halls with the total area of 800 square meters. This presentation of objects enables one to focus one’s attention on each work individually. Also, the exposition space functions as a place where not only visitors look at the works, but the works look at the visitors, bringing them into their sacral space.
The main objective of the exhibition, which was to present the young artists of the «New Wave», their most advanced ideas, newfound forms and technologies, was well responded to by the visitors. Despite varying level of the displayed works, each of them became the object of discourse. The young Actual Art of the country, seen through the eyes of the young artists, carries a huge potential for its further development — this is the main outcome of the event organized by the employees of the Fine Arts Gallery.