Crimean brings Samarkand to life at Abu Dhabi gallery
Abu Dhabi - Eastern Wind, Useinov's first exhibition in the Arab Gulf, opened at N2N Gallery in Abu Dhabi last week.
One of the world's oldest towns, Samarkand, is home to the Crimean artist Ramazan Useinov for decades and he brought it with all its noises, smells and colours to Abu Dhabi.
The last of the deep blue tiles falling from centuries old mosques and Islamic schools, women in traditional rainbow coloured silk dresses, markets filled with locally produced pomegranates, honey, fresh sour cream and oven hot flat bread, outdoors cafes, where birds as big as vultures hang from the walls and men lay on high beds sipping tea and playing backgammon for hours may all seem like a place from a time long gone, but this is 21st century Samarkand!
Eastern Wind, Useinov's first exhibition in the Arab Gulf, opened at N2N Gallery in Abu Dhabi last week.
The 25 paintings on display here were all created between 2009 and 2015, most depicting scenes from his hometown in Uzbekistan.
"Samarkand is a very bright city; people wear very bright dresses and in the sunlight, they shine like jewellery," said Ramazan Useinov.
While his paintings are, indeed, bright and full of colour, his subjects - travellers, farmers, hard working folk - are portrayed in a melancholic, dream-like even manner, as if they carry with them not only their crops, their bundles of wood or their belongings, but the weight of the entire world.
"You and Me", an oil on canvas work is, perhaps, the most "outspoken" example of Useinov's portrayal of Uzbek lifestyle.
It shows a woman carrying on her back what looks like a big, heavy cage with a man inside it.
"In Central Asia women have a hard life. They are mothers, they are workers, they are wives. The husband, when coming home from work, he can relax, enjoying tea and the company of friends; the woman, though, has to keep on working, carrying for her husband and her children," said Useinov.
"So in this painting the woman looks melancholic because she dreams to have her husband by her side, helping her, not having to carry his on her back."
Coming from a family who faced war and deportation, forced to abandon their homeland on the Black Sea coast, Crimea, and settling in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, Ramazan Useinov always dreams of returning to his parents' native land.
Against their wish, he didn't become a farmer, taking over the family small vineyard business, but pursued his creative ambitions, graduating from the Art College in Tashkent and going on to become one of the most celebrated Central Asian and Eastern European artists.
In early 1990s, he felt he has to go back, so he relocated to Crimea and became connected to the Moscow art scene, which influenced and defined his unique style. His paintings are now exhibited all over Europe's museums and art galleries.
"I don't know what inspires me; I don't think about that. I guess, I gather a lot of information from my surroundings, from what I see and transform that information into artwork," said Useinov.
His thoughts, his knowledge and his artistic skills were available all this week to a group of 11 Abu Dhabi based amateur and professional artists, as Useinov gave a week-long master class here, which ended on November 4.
Some of his students have been painting for 20 years, others have only just begun, but with all the artist went through the "academic" rules of drawing, studying a still life together and the results will be shown to the public in another N2N exhibition.
"If students come to me saying they like painting abstracts, I ask them if they know how to draw. Picasso is one of the most famous artists, but his 'abstract' styles come from a strong base; he was an excellent drawer and that is why he became such a master - because he had solid foundations," Useinov said.
"You have to have the basics before you reach for your own voice."
The Eastern Wind exhibition will conclude on November 19.
"Birdman" by Ramazan Useinov. Supplied photo