Find Yourself to Know Yourself 

Durdy Bayramov Art Foundation

Cultural and Personal Identity in Durdy Bayramov's Art 

Celebrating life
Durdy Bayramov was born in 1938 in Turkmenistan. In his native Turkmen language, Bayramov’s name is simply “Bayram” without the Slavic-style ‘ov’ suffix added to Russify names during the Soviet era. The name “Bayram” means “celebration” in Turkic languages, which is very fitting as throughout his life the artist brought great happiness to his friends and family who often gathered on special occasions to celebrate with him.

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
Find yourself
To know yourself.

Was Bayramov asking this question of himself?

Bayramov grew up in an orphanage in Kizyl-Arvat, Turkmenistan. He never knew who his parents were, and only discovered the approximate location of where he was born because the children were entered into the orphanage’s registry based on where they came from by train.

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.

New family
Bayramov captures his muse, Gozel, adorned in vibrant, colourful and traditional Turkmen clothing. Gozel is painted with a motherly stoicism, hands gently clasped on her lap and her posture tall. The love that Bayramov had for his wife is apparent here, particularly in the way in which he renders her features: this is the woman he married, who bore him children, who aged gracefully alongside him.

Bayramov's four daughters were a constant inspiration, and was constantly using their likenesses in sketches and drawings

This portrait depicts Bayramov's mother in law wearing traditional Turkmen jewellery. This work captures the wise stoicism of an elderly woman who became part of Bayramov’s second family. She looks off into the middle distance in contemplation.

This is a face of knowledge and experience; of the dedication to family; of the importance of maintaining cultural tradition. This is a woman who knows the stories and secrets of the past and in this portrait we seem to have come upon her in a moment of wistful remembrance.

Art
Bayramov always sang great praise of his teachers, as they helped to shape his artistic practice as much as his caring personality. His first teacher, Gennady Brusentov, was the father that the artist never had. On Bayramov’s 60th birthday, he created this large painting to pay tribute to his incredible mentor. The artist paints Brusentov in his element, surrounded by paint brushes, still life objects and Turkmen vistas. He looks into the viewers eyes with an experienced gaze, which is quite fitting: Brusentov influenced an entire generation of prestigious visual artists.

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.

The artist was never privy to his lineage, or cultural history, and was therefore on a lifelong mission to discover his identity. This was not necessarily always related to an introspective journey, but rather how he, and those he painted, became a family and shared a collective cultural identity.

Through the creation of paintings celebrating Turkmenistan’s rich culture, Bayramov captured the country’s complex identity and, in discovering his place in a collective identity, Bayramov, in turn, would finally find himself.

Durdy Bayramov Art Foundation
Credits: Story

Curated by:

Rachel M. Thomas and Tatyana Shmatlay

Project Director:

Keyik Bayramova


Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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