For a long time I have known about the collection of a renowned Russian writer Raul Mirkhaidarov. An album titled «101 paintings from the collection of R. Mirkhaidarov» was published in Moscow in 2008 containing reproductions of paintings created by both well- and little-known artists of Uzbekistan. ‘Generous is Uzbek land’, says the collector in response to the question why he chose the works of these particular artists. ‘Since 1961 I enthusiastically collect paintings. I am attracted to remarkable and unique works of Uzbek artists, and it doesn’t matter to me whether they are famous or not. The most important thing is their art. That is why my collection has many items created by very little-known artists.

I recall the famous Nukus museum collection compiled by Igor Savitskiy who purchased paintings of those artists whose work was not considered to be the real art at that time. Now things have changed. Exhibitions held in the country display the works of artists representing different trends and streams. The judge is the audience. These works are acquired by collectors with different tastes and views upon art.

Speaking about Raul Mirkhaidarov’s collection, it would not at once impress you as being full of masterpieces. Yet, one must admit, it is a very interesting and curious selection of paintings. Irina Taratuta, an art historian from Moscow, wrote: ‘Raul Mirkhaidarov’s collection mainly consists of paintings by contemporary artists exploring different trends — from abstraction, avant-garde, and impressionism to na?ve, and traditional Russian painting’. We may add that there one can also find traditions and schools of oriental miniature. The works of eleven Uzbek artists represented in the collection, which are discussed in this article have different subject-matter.

Quite interesting are the canvases wrought by Babaniyaz Kurbanov. His art is characterized by high professionalism and the knowledge of the secrets of painting. ‘My collection has 125 works by Babaniyaz’, the collector says. ‘Recently I visited his personal exhibition «Zarabag» twice in the Fine Arts Gallery. So loving and very sensitive view upon the world and the nature of his home ground, Zarabag…’ Indeed, the artist has been able to find soft and tender melodies not only for small lanes, gardens and courtyards of his native village, but also for the corners of the old part of Tashkent where he has been living for more than forty years now.

Faiz Adutov. Flowers

Although in theme and realistic traditions the works by Faiz Adutov are consonant with the palette of Babaniyaz Kurbanov, they are perceived with some sadness: clouded sky, yellow trees, opaque rain jets over the roofs of country-houses… Even the entire cycle of paintings dedicated to flowers is filled with the blues of the author who passed away untimely. Still, his works are striking in their being musical, rhythmic, so lightweight and graceful.

Azad Yusupov. Having a Good Time

The art of Azad Yusupov has been a revelation. Stories told in his paintings are very simple: day-to-day chores, the lifestyle of gamblers whom the author transports to the Moon or over the clouds, creating humorous and slightly ironical situations. The artist skilfully employs elements of traditional costumes and details characteristic of Khorezm, his homeland.

Illustrative miniature works by S. Shirokov, the follower of the school founded by Telman Mukhamedov, the master of Uzbek cartoon, reflect the exotic side of Orient and Russia in early 20th century. S. Shirokov. CaravanSome of his works echo selected miniatures of Azad Yusupov also dedicated to gamblers but showing the dark side of the game. Particular worthy of the viewer’s attention is a retro-world telling about the events in early 20th century Russia based on reliable sources (photographs) masterfully recreated by the author.

Rustam Bazarov. Broadway

Rustam Bazarov uses multi-figure compositions in his works: crowded marketplaces, dinner parties in cafes, people resting near the lake… The artist takes interest in human relationships in space, in the ambivalent moments in their lives. His canvases are filled with bright colours characteristic of the sunny Uzbek land.

Phantasmagoria and reality of life are typical of Bobur Mukhamedov’s compositions. Fairytale scenes grounded in reality acquire the features of romantic metamorphosis. Everyday stories in the author’s interpretation sound optimistically. Of particular interest is a cycle of paintings dedicated to the tricks of comedians and circus actors. Contrasting colours and refined lines in sculptural solutions create the effect of images in organic fusion.

Bobur Mukhamedov. The Tree of Paradise

Painting of Seiran Kurdjemil is notable for being exquisite, colourful and having broad ulterior semantics. Expressivity and the way beauty is communicated, as well as freedom from traditions make his works so appealing. The artist is constantly searching for different texture solutions.

Shokir Zakirov creates pieces that stand out for their decorative and histrionic qualities. However, these peculiarities are original and not without pictorial integrity. Sculptural beauty of painting is perceived in a special rhythm under the charm of acutely sensed colour. His every piece is breathing its intrinsic lyricism and artistry. The artist’s philosophy is simple: to know the secret of life.

To a Wedding Party. Bakhtiyar Ramazanov

The art of Bakhtiyar Ramazanov is characterized by the search for a new approach to compositional solution, and though this searching has not always been successful, some attempts remind of Marc Chagall images. Sometimes he creates romantic and fabulous scenes by skilfully employing texture. Still it is gratifying that in the artist’s works we can see a creator who is true to his creed and searching for new boundaries in painting.

Dmitriy Akhunbabaev, creatively exploring Paul Gauguin imagery, recreates expressive personality types by using local colour system. He aspires to understand the inner world of his hero through form, colour and lines. Symbolic juxtapositions of different attributes in order to reveal the essence of programmatic ideas in a work are characteristic of this painter’s art.

Elena Kambina. Composition

Early works by Elena Kambina are inspired by a deep feeling for the art of Vasiliy Kandinskiy, one of the leading abstractionist of the last century. The works of the woman-artist offer something truly admirable: graceful lines intertwined in fluent movements, exquisite range of soft hues… Fantastic play of colours makes one think about symbols.

Uzbek artists whose works can be found in the collection of Raul Mirkhaidarov are united by labour of great inspiration, keen poetic view upon real life situations, and artistic presentation of events and phenomena, which can be seen and sensed only through painting.

P.S. The author is grateful to the writer and collector Raul Mirkhaidarov for the permission to publish reproductions of paintings created by artists referred to in the article.

Nodir Normatov