Shavkat Gafurov

When still a school student, Shavkat Gafurov read a collection of poems by the famed Avar poet Rasul Gamzatov titled «Mountains High». Since then in his dreams, for some reason, mountains were always golden, like in fairy tales. And they remained in his memory exactly as they appeared in his dreams, until he arrived to Tashkent.

Autumn, 2007. Canvas, oil

Once, as a student of the Theatre and Art Institute (now The National Institute of Arts and Design named after K. Bekhzad), in the studio of his teacher Nigmat Kuzibaev, the People’s Artist of Uzbekistan, Gafurov saw landscapes created by the master. He was amazed that mountains could radiate those delicate shades in the variety of colours. The young artist’s fascination with mountains has not disappeared with time. He created many paintings on the subject; many of them were inspired by his annual trips along River Syrdarya, to Lake Aidarkul, Kuyi Mazar, Khumsan and Burchmulla, and to the Surkhan Valley.

Translucent, lyrical key in his paintings («Syrdarya», 2007; «Sardoba», 2004; «Summer Day», 2004; «Mountain Lake» and «Khumsan», 2007) uncovers magical scenes of nature. The artist seems to be beckoned by snow-capped peaks and reach colours of the foothills and their vegetation… Soft violet and deep purple mountains of Chatkal stand is sharp contrast to translucent light-bluish and ochre ridges of Surkhandarya. The painter’s landscapes may at times appear monotonous, but it does not tire the viewer; on the contrary, it takes away the fatigue and creates a light-hearted atmosphere.

The Last Snow, 2005. Canvas, oil

Gafurov is attracted to the epic panoramas of nature and its metamorphoses in different seasons. When painting mountains, he aspires to communicate his feelings for nature and life in general. His creative imagination implements only a fair dream. Therefore, the artist’s canvases overflow with joyous sentiment and purity of colours.

Nature delights a human being with its grandeur, its many-coloured mountains and steppes and lush greenery of its forests. Gafurov believes that a careful selection of place and time of the year when creating landscapes decides their success. The unparalleled beauty of mountains in Uzbekistan is reflected in the artist’s works differently every time. Yet, the landscapes — Gafurov’s favourite genre — seem a bit «parlour» and illusionary («Mountain Stream», «Sijak», «Before the Rain») as the interpretation of nature without contrasting details does not always bring that acute sense of beauty one can experience through immediate exposure to it.

Apples of 1945. Canvas, oil

The artist’s graduation work, «Apples of 1945» (1988), dedicated to the memory of his grandfather Gafur, earned the young artist his fame. One can safely say that the piece sounds as an ode to tolerance and kindness of Man. Amazing colour combinations and carefully chosen palette — everything evidences the professionalism of the young painter.

After graduation Gafurov returned to his native Bukhara. He studied the experience of the Russian Peredvizhnik artists and made regular journeys around the province to gather material, which resulted in the appearance of numerous studies, portraits and landscapes. Pieces such as «Apples of 1945», «The Family», and «My Aunt’s House» reflect day-to-day life of rural people and their universe full of sincere and warm emotions and good deeds. Not less important role in fulfilling the author’s ideas is performed by objects of daily life, which the artist skilfully selects and introduces into his compositions. Let us recall the lamp from war days («Apples of 1945»), old house utensils, and traditional costumes of the characters («The Seeds»).

Seed Seller, 1992. Canvas, oil

No matter what Gafurov is working on, he always engages in a kind of dialogues with nature in his studies or drawings. The artist says that this approach enables him to expand the boundaries of his creative ideas when he paints.

Gafurov avoids bringing everything he saw in the mountains to his canvases. Yes to similarity, No to photographic likeness — that’s his artistic principle. Saryan ones wrote in his diary: «The struggle of true artists against photographic likeness is a struggle in the name of real and insightful painting…» (1, p. 236). Certainly, the artist cannot do without similarity of his compositions to nature. As Dilyar Imamov, an artist and Gafurov’s teacher in the art college, put it, the ability to capture similarity to the model is acquired by an artist with time and through hard work. Bringing an image close to life is an important part of painting, yet it is not the truthfulness of colours and shapes that play the key role in his landscapes. The artist accentuates his chosen rhythm of paint strokes that produce a desired effect on a canvas; this has been the approach pursued by the painter in his art. The system he opted for is at work even in subject-less, avant-garde compositions, such as «The Dunes» (2006), «Intrusion» (2006), «Yellow Look» and «Light Breeze» (2006). Barely noticeable outlines and delicate colour combinations appear as melodious and poetic image of nature in all diversity of its metamorphoses.

Sardoba, 2004. Canvas, oil

The piece «Yellow Look» that stands somewhat apart in Gafurov’s art is appealing by its extraordinary solution and requires the viewer’s focused attention. It is intended for avant-garde connoisseurs, although the artist himself believes that the painting is merely the fruit of spontaneous release of his emotions. An old madrasah, the Moon in the night sky and the arms-branches of a knotty mulberry-tree stretching upwards impress with their mysterious air. Quite realistic and mundane subject accessible to all in real life is given profoundly symbolic interpretation. A piece titled «The Old Mosque» communicates the mysteriousness of nature and its dramatic, deep silence.

Shavkat Gafurov largely creates paintings on contemporary subject-matter; still he once wrought a historical canvas too — «The Battle near Ankar. Amir Temur», dedicated to the great military leader. The pictured scene before the battle was the critical point in that memorable event. Bold compositional solution in the spirit of medieval miniature with its tiered spatial layouts convinces the viewer of the reality of the historical scene.

Gafurov is a master who creates in a constant search for new themes and ideas, sharing with us his thoughts about the man and nature, the meaning of life, development of a personality and the acquiring of one’s own signature in art.

1. Сарьян М. Из моей жизни». М., 1971.

Nor Mamatov