Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Eastern Wind... an Unusual Intersection of Art and Politics

This art event is on my mind since last Thursday when I saw the works but it took me a while to get the right words to start talking about it. And believe me the subject takes one beyond art that meets the eye. It was a unique inward journey to just connect with this artist's process of producing these works full of vibrant influences cast in the backdrop of an endless migration... of man, matter and meaning.

For many artists, their migrations and those of their ancestors are important in shaping both their personal identities and the art they produce. The name of the painting here is Semurg_oil on canvas_90x118_2010 by Ramazan Useinov. Semurg is a miracle bird from an old Uzbek folklore. 25 selected works by this artist is currently showing at the N2N Gallery in Nation Towers Abu Dhabi
Why do we humans endlessly divide each other despite knowing that the consequence is only suffering? Is it lack of insight that breeds intolerance. Why do wars become decisive for a certain clan/community who is forced to leave their motherland? This is not news. It is history. We have seen this forever... across the globe. Forced deportation, immigration and resultant human crisis may have many reasons but most importantly it exposes lack of empathy or in other words a maimed leadership. Artists tell the same story differently. They are honest in their telling because it is their story. They live on to tell this over and again... as it is their artistic process superimposed with their life's journey. Artist Ramazan Useinov visually extracts thoughts and influences that dates before his birth to the present... and offers everything he can't comprehend in words alone in 25 brilliant artworks, now showing in Abu Dhabi.

'Eastern Wind' may be the title of Ramazan Useinov's solo art show currently running in the capital until November 19, 2016... but it is that which blows between Crimea and Uzbekistan and back for for the artist - a Crimean who was born in Uzbekistan on July 2, 1949. He saw the consequences of the dramatic episode of ethnic cleansing of Crimean Tartars, the politics that pushed them out of their own mother land, deported them to as far as Siberia and beyond the Ural Mountains, suffocating a culturally vibrant group of people with the hidden melancholy of turmoil gripped with unrest for the rest of their lives.

Ramazan does not like to speak about himself or his creative process. If you ask him a question it is replied with a smile.

"Everything has been said by the paintings."
- Ramazan Useinov

And that is the truth.

The world seems divided between various labels and tags including religion and ethnicity even today in the 20th century. It is an utter shame but a reigning fact. This art show comes at a time when the news of Syrian refugee crisis continue to shock our integrity and humanness as the migration continues to expose episodes from the history - each time as a consequence when politics outweighed humanity. Ramazan's canvas may have a distinct Crimean hue but not without this crisis that shrieks out of each frame.

Ramazan dips his brush into those days of constant travel that his parents would have endured. And travel was not easy then because you did that with young and old, humans and livestock, sick and wounded... as well as delicate newborns... perched on mules and donkeys... crossing rivers and mountains... in search of hope and acceptance... trying to forget wounds of rejection from ones own birthplace.

A Lady with a Buggy_Oil on canvas_60x80cm_2014_Ramazan Useinov
Foundation and Technique

In most of Ramazan’s paintings we find travellers, buskers, wanderers with poor carts, covered with bright rags. They carry submissively not only all their belongings, but their entire world. It is a loss that is terribly inexplicable even when the artist's imagination deconstructs migration to a cosmic composition of 'search for truth'.

“Oriental dresses are very colourful and bright. Even after so many years of living in Crimea, Samarkand’s colours don’t leave me. They follow me in most of my paintings," says the artist.

All the pain and discomfort is cast in vibrant colours - and hence brilliantly magnificent. Why does Ramazan choose only a bright palette? This is arguable. The artist and some academicians say it is the influence of brilliant colours and motif's originally of his ethnic people. I wonder if it is his sub-conscious effort to enhance each frame with his own journey of life through his certain belief in art as a mode of deeper exploration and expression?

The laconic palette explodes occasionally with bright shiny happy colours, a feature of his Samarkand memories and his life back in Uzbekistan.

Golden Bird_Oil on canvas_60x80cm_2009_Ramazan Useinov

The exhibition Eastern Wind is a journey determined by Ramazan’s endless love towards his motherland, and will remind you of the masters of the 20th century who struggled to bring back the perfect harmony between man and nature. Respecting his roots, Ramazan’s paintings cherish the rich Islamic culture. For this reason, his works always display vibrant oriental details and Islamic motives.

Ramazan's story

Ramazan Useinov is an artist whose journey began long before his birth.

The event is on until November 19. Let yourself be carried away by the same 'Eastern Wind' that blows between Crimea and Uzbekistan and back, shaping a magic universe, where honesty, purity and hope were never lost.
Coming from a family who faced war and deportation, forced to abandon their homeland, Crimea, the artist was born in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, far away from his beloved Crimea.

In Uzbekistan he grew up between vineyards, as his father was a winegrower and winemaker who dreamt for his son to take over the family’s small business. Instead, Ramazan dreamt of becoming an artist. In 1967, after a long and big confrontation with his family, he finally became a student at the Republican College of Arts P.P. Benkov in Tashkent. After graduation, in 1972, Ramazan returned to Samarkand where he started to work at the Art Foundation.

Years of great inspiration followed, as in the 80’s art was flourishing in Uzbekistan. Ramazan Useinov would not miss a single solo or group exhibition, working day and night and dreaming of his art to be special, to be recognised.

Then one day, in the early 90’s, carried away by the Eastern Wind, Ramazan Useinov felt he had to go back, he had to return to the land of his parents. He returned to Crimea and his artworks acquired a more somber, melancholy mood than his earlier paintings.

Ramazan Useinov

His wish is to allow his viewers to look at his works and to find something there by themselves, something very private and unique.

As Svetlana Khromchenko (The State Museum of Oriental Art, Moscow) says, "Ramazan Useinov’s Eastern Wind will certainly make you wonder: “is it from the past or from the future, or maybe from eternal?”

Ethnic Cleansing of Crimean Tartars 

The forcible deportation of the Crimean Tatars from Crimea was ordered by Joseph Stalin as a form of collective punishment for alleged collaboration with the Nazi occupation regime in Taurida Subdistrict during 1942-1943. The state-organised removal is known as the Sürgünlik in Crimean Tatar. A total of more than 230,000 people were deported, mostly to the Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic. This included the entire ethnic Crimean Tatar population, at the time about a fifth of the total population of the Crimean Peninsula, besides smaller number of ethnic Greeks and Bulgarians.

A large number of deportees (more than 100,000 according to a 1960s survey by Crimean Tatar activists) died from starvation or disease as a direct result of deportation. It is considered to be a case of ethnic cleansing. Tatars and Soviet dissidents consider it to be genocide.

During destalinisation the deportation was denounced by the Soviet government, nevertheless the Crimean Tatars were denied the right of return up until late perestroika times - a political movement for reformation within the Communist Party of the Soviet Union during the 1980s, widely associated with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and his glasnost (meaning "openness") policy reform. The literal meaning of perestroika is "restructuring", referring to the restructuring of the Soviet political and economic system.

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