Splendours of Turkmenistan

Durdy Bayramov Art Foundation

A journey with Durdy Bayramov

Turkmenistan through the eyes of Durdy Bayramov
Splendours of Turkmenistan is a testament to Bayramov’s craftsmanship and skill as a visual artist. The included works are from a multiplicity of genres and embody important cultural views, traditions, artefacts, and symbolism treasured by the artist. The exhibition allows the viewer to journey alongside Bayramov as he journeys throughout Turkmenistan, returns to his roots, participates in traditional horse races and converses with his community about life and work. The paintings are carefully curated both to show Turkmenistan’s cultural development and to understand Bayramov’s career as an artist. They show that craftsmen and ordinary citizens continue to work in a traditional way even today, when globalization is at its peak. 
Still lifes
Known for his rich still lifes, Bayramov depicts the gifts of his motherland in the most intricate ways. Juxtaposing the fruit against the busy background of a Turkmen rug, he is able to discern the colors and the light captured by each individual piece. For the artist, fruit symbolized nature’s endless bounty and served as an expression of his deep appreciation and respect for the natural world. There is a plethora of melons and other fruits in this painting, creating a veritable cornucopia upon the rug.

The artist’s unparalleled use of deep reds was inspired by the Turkmen culture’s appreciation of the colour, which has implied wealth and purity since the early ages.

In this painting, Bayramov’s key objects are set against a traditional Turkmen rug. The artist combines music and visual art in this still life through his inclusion of a violin and a traditional two stringed instrument known as a dutar with his own palette and brushes. This was done purposefully as it shows that the beauty of the fine arts is without borders.

Bayramov often travelled through rural regions in search of majestic landscapes and hidden mountain valleys. This painting was composed while he was visiting the region of Turkmenistan where the dedicated poet and spiritual leader Magtymguly Pyragy was born. Magtymguly insisted on maintaining Turkmenistan’s culture through his writings and orations, and often discussed the experiences of the common man. It appears that Bayramov visited this village in the middle of summer. The trees are still lushly green and clouds hang lazily in the sky. Four women in traditional clothes can be seen in the centre of the painting, two are sitting on the ground. There is a garden in the foreground beneath with various crops growing. The artist likely painted this rural village not as a testament to Magtymguly as a person, but rather as a declaration of the authenticity in which the poet describes the land and its people.

Painted en plein air, Bayramov masterfully captures the changing season in this work from the series Autumn in Taymaz. The artist visited the village of Taymaz (now known as Telman) for this series, and created over 35 works in a period of two weeks. As an artist who sought the most stunning landscapes for his artworks, Bayramov found the most unique places in his native country and travelled there with his students. The light that pours across these works is a dim yellow, indicative of the changing of the sun’s placement in the sky during the change of the season. There is a rusty under painting to many of the green trees, suggesting a looming inevitability will soon explode into reality.

In this rather abstract work, Bayramov masterfully captures the old fortress of Nisa. The city itself takes up a small portion of Bayramov’s painted landscape. The constructed yellow lines of the fortress and road are accented by an earthy brown, but seem to almost sit inside the foothill on its border. The mountains and surrounding land are dense with colour, suggesting an infinite number of native plants and shrubs.

A UNESCO world heritage site today, Nisa is thought to be the first seat of central government of the Parthian Empire and is located only 18km from Ashgabat (the capital of modern-day Turkmenistan).
Dedicated to the preservation of ancient ruins, Nisa has remained untouched and unchanged to this day.

"Girls Are Resting" is an excellent example of one of Bayramov's early works, with its clear lines and contours. It depicts four girls resting on a summer day in Turkmenistan. The girls are wearing traditional red dresses, symbolizing fertility and purity, and are sitting on a Turkmen keche with freshly picked fruit at their reach. On the far right, a girl embroiders the bottom of a pant leg known as a balak. This composition demonstrates the mastery with which Bayramov captures even the quiet moments of daily Turkmen life. 

Displayed at the Tretyakov State Gallery, this painting captures three carpet makers in the process of weaving a traditional Teke rug. The highly skilled women work together as a team to create beautiful patterns and complex motifs. Bayramov uses deep red hues to create a feeling of rich history as the artisans weave the silk threads back and forth.

Bayramov was passionate about depicting ordinary working class Turkmens. In this early work he captures hard working silkworm breeders in the process of cutting branches with cocoons. The day is hazy and hot, and rows of lush field plots can be seen in the background. These activities signal the beginning of Bahar; the Turkmen word for spring.

Hanging at the Museum of Fine Arts in Ashgabat, this painting has become the symbol of the proletariat class of Turkmenistan in the 1960s. A woman and man walk side by side with a shovel and a rake in hand as if they are heading into a distant future. The background of the painting captures a Turkmen village with yurts, traditional dwellings in the past but rarely found as housing in modern-day Turkmenistan. This early Bayramov work is quite flat and blocky, a major departure from his later expressionistic style.

One of Bayramov’s most powerful pieces was a commissioned thematic composition featuring women adorned in traditional clothing. They have gathered to pay respects to soldiers serving in the war and are donating their valuables, such as jewellery, rugs and handmade items. The women collected several tons of silver jewellery. These pieces were often highly personal which shows the selflessness that Turkmen women are known for.

This work features four elders of the “Pravda” community. Bayramov enjoyed working with older subjects, which stemmed from the reverence he had for elders in the Turkmen community.
The background seems to flow around the figures, suggesting that these individuals were the heads of their community and integral to its continuity and strength.

There is even a holiday dedicated to the wisdom of older generations, as the people of Turkmenistan respected these individuals greatly.

This portrait depicts Bayramov's mother-in-law wearing one of the oldest forms of Turkmen jewellery to date. The necklace decorated with carnelian is ornamented with silver coins. The sitter is wearing multiple layers of traditional dresses and headwear to accentuate her age and status.

Almost lost in the folds of detailed, woven fabric, the woman in this painting stares out into the distance with concerned consideration in her eyes. Bayramov wanted to show the beauty of traditional clothing and practices. The woman’s attire includes a long scarf covering her hair and neck. A Turkmen practice known as yashmak involves covering the mouth with one end of the scarf. At present, out of respect for their elders, married women in Turkmen villages are still expected to cover their mouths in front of their husband’s parents and elder brother, and other elderly men they encounter.

In this painting, Bayramov juxtaposes a mother and daughter in different clothing in the midst of a conversation. The daughter is listening to her mother’s advice with respectful attention. She wears a skullcap known as a gupba: a traditional headdress that indicates that she is not yet married. Pendants in the form of slices (chekelik) are fastened on the headdress, which protect the head from two sides. The back of her head is covered with the thick ornamented slices and pendants known as enselik. The mother is wearing a kurta; a handmade tunic featuring detailed designs and motifs. Conversation truly shows the beauty and detail of Turkmen clothing in all of its richly coloured glory.

This portrait is of a famous Turkmen feminist Ene Kuliyeva, whose ideas helped form a movement for the liberation of Muslim women after the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. She was also the head of the first women's section "Zhenotdel" of Soviet Turkmenistan. This portrait is from Bayramov's series of "First leaders of the Republic". She is framed against vibrant reds and blues, pulling the viewer into an array of memories and images from her work.

Bayramov received many art awards over his lifetime, but the most prestigious of all was the honour of being named the People’s Artist of Turkmenistan. The artist was indeed a man of the people: his warm and generous personality was loved and respected by many. Class did not divide the artist and his people; in fact he sought to share the collective traditions and stories of even the poorest workers as the heritage that made up his own Turkmen identity.

Durdy Bayramov Art Foundation
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