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2020 †N3-4(180-181)
The Dayakhatyn caravanserai on the left bank of the Amu Darya river is the most significant of many historical monuments in Lebap province. This grandiose building dates back to the 11th-12th centuries. Many local painters paid tribute to its magnificent appearance. The works by Alymjan Ishankuliev are especially notable among others. And it is not just about the fact that he created three paintings of the old inn. It is also about the rare genre of grattage (from French gratter, meaning scraping, scratching) in which the painter worked to create them.
This unique technique is much more complicated than the more famous and widespread pen and ink painting technique. After a concept is born, a painter transfers a sketch to a special black thin rectangular paper. Using a needle, a painter creates a picture consisting of a strict combination of many strokes and dots, leaving no holes. There is no room for error, because, unlike painting, it is impossible to correct the wrong hand move. Studying at the Ashgabat Academy of Arts of Turkmenistan under Alexey Kinyakin, Alymjan Ishankuliev mastered this laborious graphic technique, which is devoid of polychromy and noted for special strong expressiveness and laconism. Nowadays, he is the only graphic artist in Turkmenistan who works in the genre of grattage.
Speaking of the medieval caravanserai, it has to be noted that in one his works the painter recreated the arrival of the caravan in the caravanserai. The plot of another painting in blue and white was suggested by the legend, saying that this fascinating building was erected on orders of the wife of a rich man named Baykhatyn who lived in the local area. Her husband went on a long journey, and his wife waited for him all this time and decided to build a shelter for caravans on the northern branch of the Great Silk Road in the hope that people's gratitude would reach the Almighty and help her beloved return safely.
In a small drawing, Alymjan Ishankuliev embodied the extant legend of female fidelity. It depicts a fixed look of a middle-aged woman framed by the majestic portal of the central entrance of the caravanserai. Expensive jewelry emphasizes her wealth. Her hair flows down into a winding long road, the hardships of which are emphasized by the tired look of camels lying on the ground.
The third painting of Dayakhatyn depicts the resting time of travelers after a long journey. This is the most compositionally complex painting of the old inn. It pictures four dozen characters in different backgrounds - near, middle and far. They watch with passion the fight of roosters in the center of the canvas and exchange views. Their clothes and especially headwear - caps, turbans and hats of different shape - demonstrate that these people come from different countries.
The painter's skills make it possible to discern even in the background of the painting the delicate work of medieval builders who masterfully used simple burnt bricks to decorate the walls. How can one not recall the words of famous historian Galina Pugachenkova, who studied Dayakhatyn in detail more than half a century ago. As she noted, "the expansion of international economic relations with various countries of the East and West justifies the intensive pace of construction of caravanserais and market buildings. These buildings are big and stately, their architecture is sometimes very elegant. Dayakhatyn caravanserai impresses with richness of the brick decor of its exterior and palace facades. Skillful masonry, wall cladding with an original ornament testify to the high skill and delicate taste of ancient architects."
Another work by the Turkmen painter is also devoted to architecture, yet modern one. It is called "Homeland of Prosperity". The majestic buildings erected during the years of independence in Ashgabat and the regions of Turkmenistan that became the face of the capital city and every region are placed circle-wise in the 80x80 centimeter canvas. The Turkmen national ornament (gel) is depicted in the center with cranes circling around it in a free flight - a symbol of the peaceful creative life. According to the author, this painting was the most challenging for him. It took about eight months of painstaking work from conception to completion.
Similar to many Turkmen painters, the world-famous Akhal-Teke horses occupy a special place in Alymjan's works. Six years ago, he painted Goushut Khan on a dashing horse rushing into battle. This work was followed by the painting about famous fellow countryman Seyitnazar Seyidi. The poet and warrior is depicted sitting on the bank of the Amu Darya river, lost in thought, and his faithful horse with a beautiful harness stands nearby at the foot of the ancient Ersary fortress.
Another multi-faceted canvas by Alymjan Ishankuliev is called "Turkmen Hunt". It depicts three horsemen racing at full speed along the river bank with hounds of Tazy breed and falcons. Two of them chase a hare, while the third one demonstrates his riding skills by lowering the reins and aiming his bow at one of the soaring pheasants.
Other than grattage, the Lebap artist naturally works in the genre of painting, in which, as is known, color is the main means of expression. Alymjan Ishankuliev has proven his brushwork skills. First of all, this is evidenced by landscapes, in which he painted the Amu Darya river and Kugitang mountains at different times of the year. In these paintings, speaking professional language, one feels light and air, as well as colors that are inherent only in the local nature. Combined together, they add poetic mood, warmth or coolness to landscapes, even inconspicuous ones.
In addition to the State Museum of Fine Arts of Turkmenistan and the Regional Museum of History and Local Lore, Alymjan Ishankuliev's works can be found in the magnificent building of the regional library. There are large-format paintings of books, scrolls, national musical instruments, ancient ceramic jugs against historical monuments in the library. Such compositional technique helped the author to convey the inextricable link between times and richness of the historical and cultural heritage of the people.
The painter works hard and enthusiastically. He also teaches at the regional special school of art. He exhibited his and his students' pictorial works not only in his native Turkmenabat, but also in Ashgabat and Mary. Moreover, Alymjan Ishankuliev, being the winner of the contest "Turkmenistan Altyn Asyr" by the President of Turkmenistan, also held exhibitions in his alma mater - the Academy of Arts of Turkmenistan.


©Turkmenistan Analytic magazine, 2005