By Laman Ismayilova
Baku has become a favorite place for tourists. People from different parts of the world come here to enjoy a mix of Eastern and Europe cultures. Delicious cuisine, warm hospitality and a huge number of attractions await everyone who has discovered the City of Winds.
One of such sights is the workshop of famous painter Ali Shamsi located in Icheri Sheher (Inner City), the heart of Baku’s cultural heritage.
Tourists, passing along the street Kichik Gala, stop near a 90-year-old tree with the image of three female faces and photograph the facade of artist’s workshop. They pass through the open door to admire the paintings of talented artist talk with him and make a commemorative photo against the background of his paintings.
The artist’s workshop is a storehouse of all sorts of things, where he adds the strange things brought from distant lands (skulls, stuffed animals, stones, souvenirs, etc.), dried grenades, installations of metal and improvised tools and a huge number of pictures of different themes and sizes.
The walls are covered with inscriptions of visitors with wishes and photos of famous personalities who visited the workshop.
In his interview with Day.Az, Ali Shamsi said that many actors, musicians, artists, even athletes have been here.
“There were a couple of people whose work I follow and admire including is Rammstein's frontman Till Lindemann, actor Tano Cimarosa, who played Rosario in the film ‘Unbelievable Adventures of Italians in Russia’ and cosmonaut Oleg Kotov. The activities of these people have always been interesting to me. The meeting with Kotov shocked me, I was always curious how cosmonauts fly into space and how they return back. It's doubly nice when these people say good words about me,” the artist said.
“A great number of creative people, including famous actors, musicians, artists, even sportsmen have visited the workshop. They are united by the world of art, and this world is infinite. God created the world and allowed us to make copies of his creations. And most importantly, he is not jealous, but allows you to make copies. These people do not come here for my black eyes, but because of my art. And I'm happy that I'm a part of this art, people can come and see what I'm doing,” he added.
But the fame didn't come immediately. The workshop opened in 2001. And 6 years before the opening for visitors, the artist restored the workshop. As Ali Shamsi says, "the house demanded respect for itself" and for 6 years he persuaded it (the house) to open to people.
The workshop consists of two rooms. The artist does not let everyone to the second room where most of his paintings are kept.
“I have fresh colors there, and curious people often get their hands dirty and wipe them about pictures, so I let people in this room who really appreciate art, such people I recognize at once, and I can safely leave them in a room at an hour or two to watch the paintings,” said the artist.
Entrance to the workshop in all countries of Europe is paid, but Ali Shamsi asserts that while he can devote time to each visitor, the doors of his workshop will be open to everyone. It is important for the artist that the tourists, entering the workshop, feel the spirit of Azerbaijan, and its ancient culture.
There is a tree in front of workshop where a large number of tourists take photos. Ali Shamsi has known this tree for more than 45 years. But the faces on the tree appeared only in 2016, when artist painted the faces of three women in 45 minutes. After that, a tree that received hardly any attention suddenly became popular.
Every day about 500 people are photographed with a tree.
Ali Shamsi believes that a person as well as this tree needs to pay attention to flourishing. But in the modern world people have stopped talking face-to-face. They buried themselves in their phones.
A couple of months ago Ali Shamsi completed work on the facade. The image of a lion contains a huge number of symbols with a philosophical overtones. Initially, artist planned to create a tigress, but in the process it turned into an image of a she-wolf, and finally a lion.
“I want people to look through its eyes, forget about problems, believe in themselves, because a lion is a force,” Ali Shamsi said.
The same glass is used in the statue of an alien who, standing on the very edge of the facade of the workshop, meets those who walk up the street towards the Shirvanshah Palace. Many ornaments taken from Gobustan are involved in the statue. Throughout these symbols the artist wants to help people think about the statue and about themselves a little.
After conversations with people, Shamsi leaves the workshop and just walks along the streets of Inner City.
“Maybe it saves me that I walk barefoot. People are different and their energy is different too. When I walk barefoot, all the negative energy goes to the earth. It's impossible to live with all this negative energy within and I think that I was prepared for this. Since I started walking barefoot, it once again shows that we are ruled by heavenly powers. All we need is just to hear ourselves," artist concluded.
Laman Ismayilova is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow her on Twitter: @Lam_Ismayilova
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