By Laman Ismayilova
YARAT Contemporary Art Space has solemnly presented an exhibition project "Make an Island For Yourself".
Composed from both private and public collections, the exhibition opened at the Museum of Azerbaijani Painting of the 19th-21st Centuries.
"The exposition includes works created in the late 80s - first half of the 90s of the 20th Centuries by 21 national artists in various art styles. This period was marked by many changes in the world, including the beginning the first Karabakh war, the occupation of the Azerbaijani lands. As a result, a million Azerbaijanis became refugees and internally displaced persons, the exhibition curator Sabina Shikhlinskaya told Trend Life.
Notably, that the project organizers came across an artistic document during the preparation work
"Now we are exhibiting a series of works titled "Refugee Tent Windows". It was filmed in 1993 in the Sabirabad refugee camp. The exposition contains the painting "January 20" by Rasim Babaev, the work "The Machine of Aggression". And we show the whole world not only wonderful art, brilliant works of our artists, but also what we went through in the 90s. The exhibition is accompanied by a video made from photographic documents, " she added.
The curator pointed out that the lines from the poem "Make an Island For Yourself", and the works presented at the exhibition are united and echo in the intensity of both the image and the inner message. This fusion is very characteristic and symbolic of the representation of the period to which the exhibition is dedicated.
"Create for yourself, create yourself, strengthen yourself in solitude" - in those years this was our motto. Strength could only be found in spirituality, in creativity, in oneself, in order to survive all the difficulties. The destruction of many hopes that appeared in the late 80s led to the fact that people of art - musicians, poets, writers, artists - closed in their space. Yes, artists always live in their own world, but then it happened violently. There was no hope that in those years their work would be shown in galleries, in museums, or that collectors would buy them. These were completely dark, difficult, tragic times. And representatives of art created their works in order to simply express the pain that had accumulated in the soul. Therefore, these paintings are full of an incredible spiritual and creative power, " said Shikhlinskaya.
Among the paintings presented at the exhibition is the work of Sabina Shikhlinskaya called "New Moon" (1989).
"This painting shows two figures. One of them is holding a candle as a symbol of the fact that when it's hard, if there is a close person, friend, beloved nearby, then you can light a candle together and wait out the dark times. The crescent moon that is depicted below means something ends. This work shows that a new day will come, it will be brighter, full of hope for the future. It shows that life will go on if we love and believe, she said.
Notably, the exhibition consists of works by leading Azerbaijani painters Shamo Abasov, Melik Aghamalov, Kamal Ahmed, Eliyar Alimirzoyev, Museib Amirov, CHINGIZ, Elnur Babayev, Heybat Babayev, Rasim Babayev, Muslim Eldarov, Irina Eldarova, Eldar Gurban, Sanan Gurbanov, Huseyn Hagverdiyev, Ujal Hagverdiyev, Rashid Ismayilov, Inna Kostina, Nazim Rahmanov, Sabina Shikhlinskaya, Teymur Daimi, and Mir Nadir Zeynalov. Many of the works were presented to the art lovers for the first time.
In the title of the exhibition, one can notice the themes of loneliness and solitude as spiritual salvation in times of collapse. The lines from the poem "Make an Island For Yourself", and the works presented at the exhibition are united and echo in the intensity of both the image and the inner message. This fusion is very characteristic and symbolic of the representation of the period to which the exhibition is dedicated.
The concept of the exhibition is based on an appeal to eternal existential themes - hope and disappointment, war and love, death, and rebirth.
However, from a historical point of view, the project is about art during the period of the collapse of the Soviet Union. The themes addressing the Soviet legacy have been largely exhausted today, having at some point been in great demand in the international cultural environment. But still, every new curatorial view, differing perception of a new generation, a new display of unknown works of that period may be able to reveal new historical and cultural layers.
The acquisition of state independence by former Soviet republics took place in different historical ways. In Azerbaijan, the years after the collapse of the USSR were the years associated with the war that led to the occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh and seven surrounding regions of the country, which became one of the most tragic pages in Azerbaijani history. Therefore, this exhibition is largely about memory, historical heritage, and national identity.
After the collapse of the USSR, art turns into an increasingly active part of life, losing its past aloofness and conventionality. What happened in Azerbaijan, was, in a way, a breakdown in the time dimension. Time did not go forward; it did not go back; it seemed to have stopped. The reason for this was not only the war and its consequences such as refugees, economic collapse, and political anarchy but also the collapse of any hopes for a "new" life that had risen during perestroika.
It was precisely during this period of "timelessness" that artists, musicians, and poets created works of the strongest spiritual intensity, freed from any kind of conjuncture. What is interesting is that many of the works of that period were kept by the artists in their studios since the art market was not interested in art with such an impulse of tragedy, rather than sublimity and beauty.
The "Make an Island For Yourself" exhibition consists of three parts, figuratively reflecting the historical events of the period between 1988 and 1996: the period of "hopes for change and anticipation of an impending catastrophe", the period of "the outbreak of tragedy the war and its consequences" and the period of "reviving life and rays of light at the end of the tunnel."
The artworks of the exhibition are presented together with video from documentary photographs and video chronicles of those years, reconstructing and visualizing the state and mood of the society of that period.
Artworks on display at this exhibition are from public collections of the Modern Art Museum (Baku), Union of Artists of Azerbaijan, and Azerbaijan Photographers Union. The exhibition curator is Sabina Shikhlinskaya, researcher- Zahra Mammadova
Notably, the Museum of Azerbaijani Painting of the 19th-21st Centuries is situated on the territory of the National Flag Square, founded by the Heydar Aliyev Foundation. The official opening took place in June 2015 and YARAT Contemporary Art Space presented the first exhibition entitled "Labour, Leisure, and Dreams: 1960s-1980s Through the Eyes of Azerbaijani Masters" on May 26, 2018.
The exhibition includes works by twenty-three famous Azerbaijani painters, together constituting The Golden Fund of Azerbaijani Culture.
Thanks to regular meetings with local and foreign art experts, curators, and artists, visitors of the exhibition had an opportunity to learn more about the creative development of the artists and their works exhibited in the museum. Under the guidance of famous artists, master-classes for children ("Little Master") and adults ("Explore Yourself") helped the participants discover their creative potential and master the basics of visual art. Moreover, the visitors enjoyed various musical pieces from classical to rock, which accompanied them within the museum halls.
The Museum collaborates closely with educational institutions and the museum's staff familiarizes pupils and students with expositions through interactive tours by teaching them to comprehend and interpret art.
YARAT is an artist-founded, not-for-profit art organization based in Baku, Azerbaijan, established by Aida Mahmudova in 2011. YARAT (which means 'create' in Azerbaijani) is dedicated to contemporary art with a long-term commitment to creating a hub for artistic practice, research, thinking, and education in the Caucasus, Central Asia, and the surrounding region.
YARAT comprises YARAT Art Centre, ARTIM Project Space, YARAT Studios, and an extended educational and public program. YARAT Art Centre, a 2000m2 converted Soviet-era naval building, opened in March 2015 and is the organization’s main exhibition space. The exhibition program features new commissions by artists responding to the region. It supports and provides access to artists from the region while engaging and introducing established, international artists.
In October 2015, YARAT opened ARTIM, a central, accessible, and dynamic space in Baku's Old City. ARTIM (meaning 'progress' in Azerbaijani) shows experimental practices and new work by emerging Azeri art professionals (selected through open call) and the international artists from the residency program. It features multiple small-scale projects each year and hosts ARTIM Lab, a program enabling young artists to engage in workshops and daily studio practice to generate new ideas and works.
In 2016 YARAT launched a renewed residency program. Aimed at developing young Azerbaijani voices and emerging international artists, the focus is on new, innovative practices and artists with an interest in the region. The residency program hosts 6 international and 4 local artists a year at YARAT Studios' spaces.
The exhibition will last from December 1 until May 30, 2021. Art lovers can enjoy the exposition from Tuesday through Friday ( 12:00 - 18:00). Admission is free.
Address: Bayil District, National Flag Square.
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