Group exhibition, Make an island for yourself, Museum of Azerbaijani Painting of the XX-XXI Centuries


Make an island for yourself
Create yourself
Strengthen in solitude.
From "Make an Island For Yourself", a poem by Aydin Efendi, 1991

YARAT Contemporary Art Space is presenting the exhibition project “Make an Island For Yourself”. Composed from both private and public collections, the exhibition is held at the Museum of Azerbaijani Painting of the XX-XXI Centuries and includes works created in the late 80s – first half of the 90s of the 20th Centuries by 21 Azerbaijani artists of different generations. Many of the works are being presented to the general public for the first time. The curator of the exhibition is the Honored Artist of Azerbaijan Republic – Sabina Shikhlinskaya.

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.

In the title of the exhibition, we hear the themes of loneliness and solitude as a 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 world 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 ­ 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 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.”