(SEPTEMBER-16)-Art exploring the relationship between the poetic and the everyday in former Soviet Republic nations went on
display on at the Calvert 22 Gallery on Tuesday (September 13).
’Between Heaven and Earth’ features the diverse contemporary works of 23 artists and groups working in Central Asia, including Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
David Elliott, who especially curated the exhibition says artists from the Central Asian region work with fascinating, long and complex histories and have found new ways of expressing themselves.
”The exhibition is looking at the generation of artists who have emerged in Central Asia, in fact we call in the Centre of Asia – it includes Afghanistan and Mongolia as well, not just the ‘stans’. Over the past ten years something really remarkable has happened in that time, with huge amount of energy, and people have either rediscovered or invented new way of expressing themselves, which I think is really remarkable,” said David Elliot.
Elliot says the exhibition aims to overcome Western dismissal of art from Central Asia and encourage a new perspective of the region.
”There are obvious, rather dismissive, western views of the rest of the world still, which is rather sweet, rather pathetic. I mean the kind of Borat idea, the post Soviet, the fact that it is uncultured – it is all total nonsense, in fact the culture goes back considerably further than it does in Great Britain,” he added.
One of the artists taking part in the exhibition is Almagul Menlibayeva, who has taken a mythological approach to the difficulties natives face as the Aral Sea rapidly shrinks.
”The protagonist is the father of a young girl, he is a fisherman, his name is Noah, and he is searching amid the desert for the sea, water. Everything is in opposites,” said Almagul, who spent two months living in a small village near the Aral Sea as she completed her fictional documentary.
Other works at the exhibition, like ‘Kazakhstan, Blue Period’ by Viktor Vorobyev and Elena Vorobyeva, also focused on the changing landscape of Central Asia, but with attention to the imposition and later liberation from Soviet symbols in architecture.
”Basically we began our project by noticing the details of the architecture of former Soviet buildings. Wherever there were reliefs with the images of flags they were simply painted over with blue paint, and we felt that was the quintessential symbol,” Elena Vorobyeva said.
”In a way it was as if Kazakhstan in order to get rid of the Soviet past it had to get rid of the symbols of the buildings,” she added.
Self proclaimed political artist Erbossyn Meldibekov,whose works have previously been exhibited at the Venice Bienalle and London’s Rossi & Rossi, said his installations examine the continuing shift in political systems that influence a nation’s heritage.
”After the fall of the Soviet Union, Central Asia became very similar to Afghanistan, because under the communist rule it was the same system. And I research this shift,” he said.
Many of the artists featured in the exhibition have not been seen in the UK before.
The self confident contemporary and at time humorous works promise to challenge widespread stereotypes and evoke critical responses to vibrant displays.
The exhibition opens to the public on 14 September and ends on 13 November 2011.