Not the flesh, but the Soul

Durdy Bayramov Art Foundation

A selection of Durdy Bayramov's portaits

Bayramov's Sketches
If Bayramov was meeting an individual for the first time, he would offer them a tea so that they could sit and have a conversation. This allowed the artist to better understand his sitter and unravel the features of their character. Here: portrait of Guseyn Guseynov, detail of the original drawing.

People in Bayramov’s paintings always have a sense of vibrancy and stoicism.

Each is rendered with utmost respect and care, creating a sense of personality for the viewer. Upon the completion of this drawing, Bayramov asked Paltayeva to tell him her thoughts. She stated: I'm amazed by your talent and your ability to capture my expression in such a short period of time.

Inscribed on the right: I am sincerely happy with what you have created and wholeheartedly wish you success in your powerful work and, most importantly, good health.

The artist shows us that each person is unique and interesting in their own way, whatever their task may be. Seeing her finished portrait, the musicologist stated: Thank you, Durdy, for revealing who I am!

Bayramov did not see a class division and painted the most well known cultural figures to members of the working class with equal respect.

Cultural Figures
Inspired by Turkmen traditions, Bayramov considered it a great honour to have the opportunity to interact with other cultural luminaries. The relationships he developed with these individuals allowed him to create his most famous series “Cultural Figures”. 

This large body of work contains more than 150 portraits of individuals recognized by Bayramov as making significant contributions to Turkmen art, music, film, theatre, science and many more during his lifetime.

Bayramov would often create multiple compositions before beginning the final oil painting. He wanted to capture each person as true-to-their-character as possible, and would often change their position, objects, and even clothes.

In this painting famous musician Sahy Jepbarov plays on a traditional Turkmen instrument known as a dutar: a two stringed lute made from the wood of the mulberry tree. The musician is otherwise referred to as a bagshy, which implies his status as a renowned community performer who plays Turkmen traditional songs. Jepbarov wrote over two hundred folk songs and was known nationally.

Bayramov paints musician Annagelgy Julgayev with his instrument, a traditional Turkmen gijak. Julgayev played an innovative role in the development of Turkmenistan’s national music culture. He is middle aged and has a spirituality about his face that suggests he has considerable musical experience. The musician’s fingers are long and muscular from years of dedicated practice. The most detailed part of this work is Julgayev’s face, and the viewer is drawn to it by the comparatively loose brushstrokes in his clothes and the curtain in the background.

Some portraits took a few years to complete, as his subjects were busy with their respective crafts.

While Bayramov only met some of the subjects for the first time when they came for their sitting, they were invariably lifelong friends by the time their portrait was complete.

A visual artist, Baba Ovganov was a close friend of Bayramov’s. The two were studio neighbours: they worked on the same floor in the same building.

When speaking of the artist, Ovganov stated: Durdy was the only person I trusted enough to visit my studio and give a second opinion on my new works

This painting of Gulbahar Musayeva might suggest she was a dancer simply because of her position on the chair. Honoured for her choreography and dancing skills, she was named ‘People’s Artist of Turkmenistan’.

Despite her baggy shirt, Bayramov captures Musayeva’s lithe form. Her strong arms and slender fingers wrap around her as if she is preparing to enter into first position. Despite her fairly slight figure, it is obvious that Musayeva is as muscular as she is energetic in her ballet movements.

This painting captures a Turkmen ussa; a Turkmen jeweller with his tools and equipment for creating traditional silver jewellery. In the artist’s classic style, he captures the sitter against a background of a Turkmen flat tapestry woven carpet known as a kilim. This painting is a good example of Bayramov’s use of deep and rich earth tones. The contrast and depth allows the images to pop off the picture plane and become three-dimensional. The ussa’s face gives us one of many focal points as he explains to the viewer the process of silversmithing.

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's ability to connect with people and uncover their essential qualities as he painted them allowed him to skilfully reveal the spirit of an entire generation of Turkmen visionaries.

Bayramov's Paintings
Deeply expressive, Bayramov used oil paint to create incredible depth in his portraits. No detail is left out; he painted each of his sitter's features with utmost respect and care. Bayramov worked with a vast array of individuals, from very young children, to highly respected elders in his community.

The artist was always looking: looking for his family, looking for his identity, looking for his country’s identity.

The expressiveness of each face shows Bayramov’s dedication to finding a person’s innermost sense of character while simultaneously allowing for his unique artistic interpretation.

Within his portraits, he found Turkmenistan’s culture. Whether it was a distinguished luminary or a simple farmer, Bayramov shows us the identity that was shared and cherished by all Turkmens: one of family, love, and tradition.

Bayramov once said that when you paint a portrait, you paint not the flesh but the soul.
In his portraits, we see not just a soul, but a cultural legacy that will live immemorial.

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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