The following is the short English section found in the book Musavvir--Modern Miniature Painting of Uzbekistan, by S. Shaykubov. The book is published by the Tashkent-based company "Shark", and is 200 pages of full color art and text in Uzbek, English and Russian.
The end of the 1970's of this century has become notable in the cultural life of Uzbekistan; it has been marked by appearance of a new genre in Uzbekistanian art - that is lacquer painting on papier-mache ("tosh-kogoz" in Uzbek.) These were the years when folk masters of the Republic has been united by organization named "Usto" (that means, "master" in Uzbek) where the studio of miniature painting has been organized under the leadership of the well-known painter Chinghiz Akhmarov.
But in fact the lacquer miniature painting has deep traditional roots in Uxbekistan. A few samples of the ancient crafts have been preserved but specialists have proved, basing on the works from the collection of the State Museum of fine Arts of Uzbekistan that it existed along with book miniatures and ornamental painting and was highly developed in medieval Central Asia.
There are several publications on this subject by Kh. S. Sulejmanov, V. Dolinskaya, and E. Ismailova. The lacquer miniature painting on the territory of Uzbekistan was mainly utilized for decoration of different objects commonly used in everyday life, maybe that is why not many of them have been preserved but they are in close connection with tradition of the neighboring Iran and have something in common with the Russian crafts Fedoskino, which present mixed tradition of icon painting and folk primitive.
In early 1980's young specialists from Uzbekistan started their practice at Fedoskino and Palekh, and these professional contracts were developing cooperation started in 1937. Painter I. Chepurin from Palekh was invited to the State Museum of Fine Arts of Uzbekistan in the end of lacquer miniature painting. As the result of that cooperation there appeared the works by K. Alimov, demonstrated at the All-Union Exhibition of Folk Arts and Handicrafts in Moscow, 1939.
Uzbek masters have thoroughly examined the old technology of form making and paints, gilding technique and making of special brushes. There have been many difficulties in formation necessary to find the form that could be utilized in modern life, but it was very important to decide what colors will dominate so that to give up traditional for Palekh black background which was not acceptable for this region.
There was formed a group of enthusiasts seeking for new style, materials and forms, they were Niyasali Khalmatov, Shamakhmud Mukhamedjanov, Abduvasit Kambarov, Nataliya Tzoi, Munira Sativaldijeva, Gairat Kamalov, Abdugany Juldashev who have been actively working under the leadership of Chinghiz Akhmarov.
Due to the energy of the staff and painters of "Usto" many new interesting works of high professional quality have appeared and the structure of the organization itself gained gentle forms. The works of the artists were shown on different republican and all-Union exhibitions, were purchased for museum collections and are of great demand in art-stores.
This process has attracted great public attention to the painters whose works were developing the old traditional national handicraft.
Shamakhmud Mukhamedjanov's creative work contributed a lot into reborn and development of contemporary miniature painting in Uzbekistan. When he was 13 years old he has been invited by Professor Kh. S. Suleymanov to the Alisher Novoi Museum of Literature under Academy of Sciences of the Uzbek SSR. There the young painter studied Makhmud Kashgari's works (11th century A. D.) whose work "Dictionary of the Turkish Folk" ("Devoni Lugati Turk") comprised of old legends, songs and epics impressed him a lot. He also illustrated works by Jusif-khos-Khojib, Akhmad Jassavi, Rabguzi, Durdeg, Furkat, Khamza, but mainly - Alisher Navoi. Professor Suleymanov has named him "Begzod of the 20th century" for the 50 sketches dedicated to the 520 anniversary of Alisher Navoi, which was celebrated in 1968. Prominent scholar of Oriental literature Prof. Suleymanov has done everything possible for the young man to continue his education at the P. P. Benkov Republican Art School.
In 1981 Mukhamedjanov was invited to "Usto" where he with the held of Chinghiz Akhmarov created his first monumental experimental work in technique of distemper covered with varnish. Deep knowledge of the old Oriental tradition gained during the years of work at the Alisher Navoi Literature Museum, good academic school influenced a lot of his works and have made them really outstanding. Their main specific feature is beautifully harmonized color. The painter uses five or six main paints: red, golden, white, dark-blue, green enriched by different shades of them that make composition more decorative. In each work he chooses one dominating color and develops it together with the others. Being a master of drawing and good colorist he becomes successor of the traditional school of the past who is able on the basis of modern outlook and technology create new and highly professional works.
Sh. Mukhamedjanov has made a lot of illustrations to the unique handwritten books of the classics of Central Asian literature. He used special self-made paper for the page illustrations, reflecting the key subjects of the narration, wrote texts and made covers and dust covers when the book was finished. The samples of this technology are "The Dictionary of the Turkish Folk" by Makhmud Kashgari and selection of ancient Indian fables; "Kalila and Dimna" retold in Arab by Abdullakh ibn al-Mukaffa.
Works by Sh. Mukhamedjanov are psychological, expressing deep personal characteristics of the image; the only existing personified portrait of Makhmud Kashgari, very individual and realistic may illustrate this thesis. The painter proved to be true master of drawing, having delicate taste, good knowledge of history, literature, ethnography and the epoch of Makhmud Kashgari.
In each miniature composition of the handmade book Sh. Mukhamedjanov uses complex foreshortening that reflects the image in movement. The scenes of dance are most dynamic; one can feel exact perception of traditions of the classic miniature in these works. The painter uses silhouette and pose to underline characteristic features of his personage, as well as gesture, outline of costume, its decoration and color that represent the feelings of the personage. The painter uses traditional signs of different emotion (finger at the mouth), confusion of tender feelings (faint), ecstasy (dance), trouble (raised hands, torn to pieces clothing's, not covered head). But the main idea of the painter is not to give the details but the essence of the subject and spiritual state of the image, his inner world and character. Personages of Sh. Mukhamedjanov are real living beings with their own joys and sorrows, troubles and hopes.
Creating these works the painter was limited to a certain extent by the frames of the old tradition of the genre of miniature in his artistic self-expression, but he is very careful with it: there is no perspective in his compositions, the size of all the figures is equal despite their place in it. He follows traditions by using archaic devices and ornaments, but doesn't limit himself in ethnic of the minor personages.
The painter ties to reflect the contents of the literary material in his works and that is the main and the first that differs him from his ancient predecessors. Using decorative means of miniature, musical line, beautiful color he manages to create harmonious and pure in style device reflecting logic's of the author's creative way of thinking.
Generalization and symbolism of the elements of the composition, their saturation with ideas and thoughts are typical of the fold art in general.
After B. V. Veiman we can repeat that this is specific feature and peculiarity of culture of the Orient which uses both different notions of ornamental and imaginative way of thinking along with old and new decorative traditions. These principles of work have been also used by some other miniature painters. But it was not mere copying, because the set compositional schemes create general decorative background. In Sh. Mukhamedjanov's works one can see a kind of stylization in creating images of human beings and animals, landscapes and some other details, but it doesn't prevent him from gaining artistic expressiveness and charm.
These qualities are characteristic of his works "Farkhad and Shirin" (1983), "Lady and Majnun in the Desert" (1983) and "Death of Khurmuz" (1984) after "Shakh-namah".
The principle of conventionality is applied by the artist to the scale of the image, for example in illustrations of 1983 made in traditions of the medieval masters of miniature, such as "Battle of Rustam with Dragon"(1984) after "Shakh-namh" by Firdousi.
Creative work of Shamakhmud Mukhamedjanov has become the forerunner of the new phenomenon that has formed a certain tendency in the fine arts of Uzbekistan which assumed deep roots and was enriched by the modern perception and professionalism of the painter. Modesty, exquisite design, musical rhythm, intensive color, harmonious composition, and philosophic master made in technique of book-miniature and lacquer painting.
Young and talented Nijazali Khalmatov is one more follower of traditions of ancient miniature painting. Well-arranged combinations of warm and cool colors in creation of serene artistic forms are specific for his search. Bright pure colors of his miniatures sometimes seem to be enamel. His drawings are modest and precise, manner of painting is characterized by lack of any fancifulness, and composition is impressive and based on laconic images. N. Khalmatov follows the narration precisely, reflecting only the key points necessary for the main development of the action.
He uses landscape as the background underlining only the elements, which play some certain part in the narration (mountains, river, lake, flowers, etc.). Giving individual characteristics to the faces of the images, the author limits the number of personages he includes into the composition. The scale and type of figures differ immensely. N. Khalmatov manages to reflect emotions of his heroes: sorrow and joy, horror, triumph, despair, combining dramatism and expressiveness with bold foreshortening of the figures.
Typological approach of N. Khalmatov's art turned on reborn of the stylistics and imaginativeness of the medieval miniature is at the same time aimed on complete activation of the monumental way of thinking.
His monumental frescoes should be mentioned in this aspect. In these works he uses plastic imaginative innovations in miniature tradition realizing his bold desires and technical experiments. Good artistic taste and desire to examine something new are reflected in exquisite works marked with symbolic color, metaphoric images, and deep philosophic study of the subject. He manages to create specific world of folk humor, common life of the people, local traditions in such works as "Khosil Bairami," "Begzad", "Dutar-player", "Surnaichi", "Doirachi", "Nasreddin Afandi", etc. created in 1982-1985.
Valentin Lugovskoy's creative work presents another typological approach to the subject by individual and skillful design of composition. Being adapted to plain composition he is trying to gain exact forms in general and in every separate work and image. He gives great attention to the historic epos surrounded by the elements of architecture of that time. One of his best works is "Battle of Farkhad and Akhriman" (1983), in which Lugovskoy has performed good knowledge of traditions of the leading school of the oriental miniature of the first half of the 16th century. His individual manner is marked by well-arranged composition; he manages to use the old method of the miniature painters to hide figures of his personages in delicate decorative ornamentation. He increases the number of personages in order to attract more attention to their faces.
Along with traditional scenes from the works of classics of Oriental poetry, Uzbek miniature painters are working over compositions not connected with literary material, reflecting scenes and personages of contemporary life. This tendency mainly dominates in the works by A. Aldashev - "Tashkent in 2000" (1992), also in N. Khalmatov's "People's solemnity" (1982) and great number of different others.
Great interest to the old tradition is characteristic of the works by Abdubosid Kambarov. He is fond of old compositional designs, themes, connected with classic poetry is reborn in the painter's work, full of picturesque sights of the images by Alisher Navoi, his immortal "Farkhad and Shirin".
Sometimes the author uses European manner of making composition by means of direct perspective, but he tries to combine it with the miniature tradition and makes the figures of the main heroes bigger in size.
Some of the painters modernize ancient traditional schemes and typological devices, but it is not the process if mere change, it would have been more correct to treat this process as mastering and developing of tradition using imagination of a contemporary artist, interpretation of a contemporary artist, interpretation of these traditions from modern positions.
Certainly, there do exist several painters who are just repeating poetic imaginative row of traditional miniature and folklore. The authors are using samples of images worked out by their predecessors. But majority among the younger generation of the painters is very careful with the subjects taken from the classics of the Uzbek literature. Famous subjects from the well-known poems "Jusuf and Zuleika", "Laily and Majnun", "Farkhad and Shirin" find their new realization in the works of skillful masters. These gems of the world poetry and of the medieval east have inspired many generations of different painters.
Some of the painters of the lacquer miniature studio have tried themselves in fresco paintings. Their first experiences belong to 1984 when they have performed a mural for the Gulistan Town-Musical Comedy Theatre in Syr-daria Region of Uzvekistan. Before starting this work, painter Nijazali Khalmatov has thoroughly studied the new material - pressed wooden blocks made of sawdust. They have made sketches for the murals with some help of Ch. Akhmarov and basing on the experiences of the Palekh specialists. The authors were seeking for a new style, technique, and fresh images.
Finally the work has been composed of the four big murals: "Song of the Earth", "Song of the Water", "Folk Theatre", and "Song of the Happiness" - all of them showing the fruit of the earth warmed by hands of the toiler.
The painters have managed to find synthesis of the form and style, traditional composition and modern subjects. This was really a new in the Uzbek Fine arts and the genre of lacquer miniature.
In 1984 n. Khalmatov and G. Kamalov have performed murals for the restaurant "Uzbekistan" in Moscow in which they have developed principles of the artistic imaginative language of the technique they have chosen. Each mural was comprised of seven parts telling about the episodes from poems by Alisher Navoi and the favorite folk hero Khodja Nasreddin. These compositions were installed into specially made niches and decorated by carving in ganch (alabaster).
All compositions differ in form and color - oval for the first hall and square for the second are being united by the general solution of the ornamental design. The painter has used conventional generalized background that rhythmically repeats from one composition to another. The pictures are situated so that poem from them.
Good humor, artistic utilization of the old miniature traditions, deep contents and easiness of visual perception are characteristic of these works. N. Khalmatov's next work was also made for the restaurant "Uzbekistan". In 1985 he has started the mural that received general title "Eternal Motif" and consisted of three parts: "Birth", "Youth", "Fertility". While creating this cycle, the painter has used one more principle of the old miniature: that is the accent on blue and gold colors that have become dominating is characterized by contrast combination of warm and cool colors what underlines the contrast of evens of the human life. Decorative manner, poetic atmosphere, and exquisite ornamentation of this composition make it a notable event in the development of miniature painting. It has become a harmonious original unit though one can feel influence of Usto Mumin and Chinghiz Akhmarov, traditional miniature school and folk crafts. The author has managed to find most interesting composition. All these taken together have made this work true success of the master.
Experiences of lacquer miniature painting gained by the modern Uzbek master prove that this genre of arts is of great vitality. Even precise revue of the works of contemporary masters give us the proof that composition becomes more spacious, great attention is given to increasing decorativeness, one can feel the tendency to fresco painting forms. General tendencies in the monumental-decorative art become more and more evident in the works of the painters and the last canvases and cardboards by Ch. Akhmarov are one of the samples of it.
Even when miniature painters turn from the small forms to monumental frescoes it seems to be natural process in the modern art of Uzbekistan. We witness the process of syntheses of tradition of the ancient masters that is being continued today and the search of contemporary artists. This problem is the most urgent one for the work of the lacquer miniature painters and for the entire development of arts in the Republic. The future will show whether it will get any solution and practical support in the suitable conditions for the development.
But now we can examine the most interesting process of reborn and creative realization of traditional genre of crafts in the work of the modern painters of Uzbekistan. Researching influence of medieval miniature painting on contemporary miniature, monumental and decorative-applied arts helps to expose several tendencies in the evolution of this genre. One of the leading one among them is the study method of classic miniature school with the aim to master its philosophic, romantic and artistic imaginative background. This tendency has found its most complete reflection in creative works of the artists who are keen in understanding the basic difference between illusive painting and the laws of the ancient miniature, who brilliantly master all the old devices and methods of the craft. Such painters as Sh. Mukhamedjanov, H. Khalmatov, V. Lugovskoy, A. Juladashev and M.Satibaldijeva are no doubt bright creative individualities. They have formed the nucleus of the research folk art center in Tashkent named "Musavvir".
But this main tendency of development is being hindered by the itch for making big series of the images once found despite the form of the object, which it decorates. In such works the silhouettes of many figures are identical and dull, they blindly follow the form of the box or plate, the paintings do not coincide in one unite. Not very high artistic level is demonstrated first of all by the absence of harmony of the subject's form and the decorative composition, its scenes and ornamentation. It's not correct examining modern miniature painting apart from the total process of the development of arts in this country. And preserving contacts with the centers of Russian miniature painting in Palekh, Kholuj, and Fedoskino. The Uzbek lacquer miniature painting mainly develops the local traditions of the old masters of Central Asia which were formed under the deep influence of the folk art, what can be easily seen from ornamentation and composition as well as specific multicolor decorativeness.
All above-mentioned caused active process of search for self-expression, new original compositions. Creative perception enriched with the modern imaginative outlook at he traditional samples of miniature has resulted in domination of the associative and symbolic aspects of the contents of composition that reflects up-to-date tasks and demands. Experience proves that the artist mustn't give up the richest heritage of the cultural tradition of miniature and its creative realization in the contemporary historic situation.
Reborn of the art of book miniature and calligraphy is one of the notable successes on the way of mastering of the old art tradition. The works performed in this technique reflect individual author's hand and high level of mastering technique of ornamental preparing of special paper and paints, etc...
So today there is one more branch giving beautiful flowers on the tree of arts of Uzbekistan which will certainly enrich cultural life of our Republic and make it more diverse.