• Amira Tomiris Akhmetova

Kazakhstan Sculpture: 1960's onwards

Updated: Jul 26

The subjects of sculptures in the 1960s differed from the post-war years' themes. The methods of images had changed how sculptural forms were built and had become more diverse. The entire creative atmosphere of the time contributed to the manifestation of artistic talent. Easel and decorative sculptures differed in that they sought new means of expression. This period is tied to the beginning of the next generation of creative Kazakhstani sculptures, which include: E. Mergenov, T. Dosmagambetov, V. Rakhmanov, O. Prokopeva, E. Sergebayev, L. Kolotilina, M. Rapporport, M. Ainekov, and many others. One of the prominent leaders at the time was E. Mergenov, whose creative path began in 1961. His work differs in its approach to boldly experimenting with space, which has become the main component in creating imagery and a main (rigid) material for sculptural development. Mergenov's works overstep national themes becoming a common heritage of mankind and reflecting a modern dialect of human and societal development along with the constant struggle of opposites between matter and spirit, personal attitudes and globalisation laws.

Mergenov Yerkin, 1940. Almaty, Meeting. 1986-1988. Source: The Kazakh Art, 2013.

His composition Meeting (1986-1988) is a kind of manifesto of his quest in the 1980s and the artist's thoughts about the fate of national traditions in the overall integral processes. Early works by T. Dosmagambetov, O. Prokopieva, E. Sergebayev, and M. Ainekov initially felt narrative. They are over-committed to the methods of the academy. Still, in the process of the further evolution of creativity, each one finds their path in realising their sculptural ideas. O. Prokopieva's early works, first featured at exhibitions in Almaty in the late 1960s, display unique characteristics of her artistic vision, a poetic interpretation of the most fundamental phenomena in life as seen in Youth (1968) and KyzZhibek (1970). This trend later grew into a desire to manifest the fate of phenomena through a sharp distinctness of the created image. One of the artist's finest works is a composite portrait of People's Artist of the USSR E. Serkebayevas Figaro (1976), which vividly expresses an almost artistic gesture from the baroque theatre. The evolution of the composite Portrait is one of the most outstanding qualities of the Kazakhstani sculptural establishment in the late 1960s and 70s. T. Dosmagambetov created a portrait of OlzhasSuleimenov, representing the poet as a national demagogue whose words carry strength and sincerity. The gesture of his hand emphasises the energetic intensity created by the image. In a piece dedicated to artist S. Aitbayev, E. Sergebayev uses the narrative to create a genre composition from different parts: the artist's figure that was placed in front of the easel seemed able to move about in the space. The M. Auezov monument in front of the M. Auezov Kazakh State Drama Theater in Almaty was done by E. Sergebayev. It conveyed the complex and multi-faceted inner world of the artist.

Rapoport Mikhail, 1948. Almaty, Sacrifice. 1980

In the 1970s and 1980s, many sculptors searched for a national style that reflected the stylistic peculiarities of both Eastern and Central Asian cultural traditions through the development and further transformation of "decorativism." This was the first attempt at creating something that linked them with the sculpture of the ancient Turks. Sculptors turned to the fairytale and epic imagery generated by the rich national fantasy. It was here that artists sought after their path to artistic expression, determined by the necessary degree of conventionalism required by the task at hand. This was a step towards being closer to the life of the national soul and was expressed with the folkloric simplicity intrinsic to folk art through the reclaiming of symbols and the magical spirit of the subject. Such a context can be traced to the works of R. Akhmetov, one of the first whose works reflected the various conflicts during the formation of Kazakhstan's young sculptural scene. Akhmetov's major works were characterised by generality and compactness of form, which became the major characteristics of his understanding of decoration. The artist's interest in medieval Turkic and stone sculpture can be keenly felt in his works, which is why he always minimised the decorative details in his work, using them primarily as a form of light relief, emphasising texture and additions that gave completeness to all of his pieces.

The sculptor combined the professionalism of an artist and the intuition of a national master. His works pay respect to the deep wisdom of traditional sculpture, its spirituality, accuracy, and simplistic means of expression. Similar to the sculptural work by Akhmetov are the scaled-down sculptures created by D. Aldekov, who built on the traditions of Central Asian clay toys, reinterpreting them in the context of modern times. Sculptors like B. Abishev, K. Kakimov, and numerous others worked during this period. The 70s and 80s were a period in Kazakh sculpture marked by artistic maturity, with sculptors experimenting and learning about the real-life possibilities of spatial relationships between sculpture and the surrounding environment. The language of sculpture is enriched with a variety of sculptural intonations.

Akhmetov Rysbek, 1943 -1995. Almaty, Caravan. 1988

The next generation of Kazakhstani sculptors joined the artistic arena in the late 1980s, slightly different from the classical sculptural perspective of mass materials. They strive for more "lightness," literally making an internal construction of the image, turning it into a sculpted ornament. Artists who prefer working with various materials, but primarily in bronze, which gives way to more possibilities for experimenting with sculpting, include E. M.

Kazaryan, D. B. Tolekov, A. N. Yesenbayev, N. A. Dalbai, M. Zhunisbayev, and others. The images created by sculptor M. Zhunisbayev personify the complex reemergence of concrete reality in fantasy philosophy best in Mirage (2000). In E. Kazaryan's works, the sculpture drops in weight and volume, becoming bronze symbolic hieroglyphs. His ceramic objects also pass on a peculiar small scale to this material, becoming various natural objects such as mountains, trees, or animals. A. N. Esenbayev maximises the range of his work. From compositions of a decorative-modernist character from his early The Ancient Hunter (1988), he continues with his work as if existing outside of time and space while carrying some lofty universal meaning. As a rule, this work is associated with Christian themes. Contemporary artists account for the need to enter into the environmental space in their works. Sculptures are becoming warmer, more spiritual, and more accessible. By losing some mass and weight, they can become decorative easel pieces or nearly pieces of jewellery, hang on the wall or in the air, or turn into a graphic symbol or character, breaking out of their nature. The works of S. Tolesh have become transparent and weightless in a literal sense in recent years – his piece, Caravan (2013), is made of narrow strips of glass. It takes on the properties of a mirage in the light, showing off its remarkable plasticity with the changing light flows. Another exciting aspect of artists' pieces in recent years is the active transition from static to movement, as seen in the works of E. Kazaryan, A. Mergenov, and G. Akhmetov. In A. Mergenov's compositions, Pasture-land (2008) and Mother Earth (2010), the moving sculpted pieces build up dynamic energy that comes out of an attempt to visualise the spiritual foundations of human mentality that are capable of demonstrating the philosophical view of life.

SOURCE: The Kazakh Art, 2013


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FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

Who is regarded as the greatest sculptor in Kazakhstan?

Rysbek Akhmetov (1942-1995) belongs to the generation of the first Kazakh professional artists who laid the foundations of the national art school in Kazakhstan. He created a large variety of works by genre.

Who is regarded as the greatest painter in Kazakhstan?

Abylkhan Kasteyev (1904-73) is Kazakhstan's greatest painter. He was born in the town of Oral (then in the Russian Empire, now in Kazakhstan). After graduating from the Moscow Art School in 1924, he returned to his homeland and taught at the Alma-Ata Art School until 1931, when he moved to Tashkent. In 1938, he settled in Almaty. Kasteyev's paintings are distinguished by their lyricism and rich palette. They reflect the artist's love for his native land and its people. Many of his works are held in museums in Kazakhstan and Russia.

What is Kazakhstan's art?

Kazakhstan's art is often representational, depicting scenes from everyday life and Kazakh history. Many abstract and experimental works of art are produced in Kazakhstan. Traditional Kazakh folk art includes ceramics, woodcarving, textiles, and jewellery. The 1990s saw a revival of traditional arts and contemporary art movements.

Kazakhstan's art scene is growing and becoming more popular all the time. If you are interested in purchasing or exhibiting Kazakh art, please get in touch with us for more information. We would be happy to help you get started on your collection or put you in touch with some of the best artists in the country.

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