Cultural and Personal Identity in Durdy Bayramov's Art
Durdy Bayramov found inspiration in a multitude of places. From music to poetry, he was always jotting down interesting experiences in one of his many diaries. He once copied a quote from a poem by Hajy Bayram:
Look for yourself
To know yourself.
Was Bayramov asking this question of himself?
Growing up as an orphan, Bayramov had the same hairstyle as the shaved-headed girl and boys in this painting. A historically popular tradition, Turkmens believe that shaving the head produces healthier and stronger hair. They are set against a lush rural background, suggesting that these are the children of farmers. Their expressions are serious; they are already helping their parents with household chores but have the satisfaction of playful childhood.
Multiple symbolic threads run through Bayramov's Girls are Resting. The artist’s Turkman heritage, his empathy and his lifelong search for family are all woven together in this richly rendered oil painting. Four women sit together in the warm summer light in front of a sunflower field. Three are dressed in embroidered gowns of deep burgundy, the color of youth and fertility in Turkmen tradition. One sews diligently in the corner, while the other two rest against the central figure, eyes softened from a day’s work in the hot sun. This last woman appears to gaze off into the distance in satisfied contemplation. We might assume that she is the matriarch of the group given her position and the hue of her silken gown. Bayramov’s skilled use of color and composition reminds us of the warmth of both summer and human connection.
While Bayramov did paint his figures from real women, his incredible empathetic connection to his subjects asks us to consider our own background. Perhaps this is a mother and her children, three sisters, friends; a family not so different from yours and mine. For now, we will leave our extended family to their moment of rest. But the threads that Bayramov leaves us to follow continue on through his portraits, weaving a magnificent tapestry chronicling the rich journey through human experience.
Bayramov was known for setting complex backgrounds in his portraits. In this work, the sitter is placed against artworks created by his students. As an academician of art (and creator of the first school for female artists in Turkmenistan), Bayramov was keen on depicting portraits of young and talented individuals. This work features his student Jeren Babayeva, who is a renowned artist in Turkmenistan today. Babayeva is holding one of the works she created during her apprenticeship with Bayramov.
Her expression is soft and wistful; she looks off into the middle distance with thoughtful interest. Babayeva’s features are rendered in a painterly style and are as bright and colourful as the background Bayramov has her against. Her dress suggests that she is still young, but the complexity of the included painting indicates an artistic maturity far beyond her years.
Rachel M. Thomas and Tatyana Shmatlay