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A cycle of exhibitions at the Ashgabat State Museum of Fine Arts marked an important milestone in reviving public interest in the work of prominent Turkmen artists. A large-scale exhibition celebrating the centenary of the master of scenography reintroduced to the general public the works created by the founder of the Turkmen theatrical scenic painting, Khaky Allaberdiyev. A number of sketches and canvases from the museum's funds helped visitors to rethink the intrinsic value of the work of the Turkmen pioneers of art genres.
The history of Turkmen theatrical scenic painting dates back to the day when a prominent artist, such as Khaky Allaberdiyev (1920-1995), came to the theater. His lyric and romantic works took lead in shaping and developing the Turkmen theater. Similar to the first professional theater artists, such as Alexander Lushin, Isaak Rabinovich, Yefim Kordysh, Pyotr Yershov who came in Ashgabat earlier, he did a lot to enhance the scenery culture of Turkmen theater plays.
Khaky Allaberdiyev's artistic path is multifaceted. He worked as a painter and a film designer. Yet, his career was primarily associated with the theater. The works by Khaky Allaberdiyev were exhibited on many occasions in different cities of our country and in Moscow. And every time his works amaze a huge number of visitors.
Basing his works in the original and understandable interpretation of the dramatic concept, searching for figurative solutions in scenic painting, Khaky Allaberdiyev was guided by the principle of realistic painting. Numerous sketches of the scenery presented at the exhibition dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the artist's birth reveal his attraction to the musical theater. In Khaky Allaberdiyev's scenery, the pictorial and expressive principles are intertwined in an amazingly harmonious way.
Khaky Allaberdiyev generously uses painting, making it one of the main elements of the scenery. This is typical even of his early works that he made under coaching of Alexander Lushin at the Opera and Ballet Theater established in Ashgabat in 1940. Working as a co-author of scenery of the first Turkmen operas, such as "Zohre and Takhir" (music by Adrian Shaposhnikov and Veli Mukhatov), "Gul Bilbil" (music by Adrian Shaposhnikov), "Abadan" (music by Yuliy Meitus and Ashtr Kuliev), a young author, who just graduated from an art school (1934-1940), discovered his generous talent of stage designer. Khaky Allaberdiyev's joint work with the well-known Moscow artists during the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945, as well as his studies at the Moscow Art Institute (1943-1947) gave him the opportunity to master in-depth the pictorial culture.
The scenography of the opera "Shahsenem and Garib" (1955, music by Adrian Shaposhnikov and Danatar Ovezov) that Khaky Allaberdiyev did in collaboration with Pyotr Yershov was a brilliant success. In October 1955, during the decade of Turkmen literature and art, the opera was shown in Moscow and gained wide recognition. The scenery and costumes of the opera impressed the audience with their emotionality and national originality. The decorative presentation of the colorful Turkmen life, architecture and nature were inspired by the romance of a distant legend. The scenery of the oriental bazaar of the Shahsenem garden and the Shah's palace is especially captivating. Viewers were impressed tremendously with the rich ornamentation of his colored carpets, color scheme of bright folk costumes and skillful use of lighting. All this helped the artists to create an original artistic decoration which is now one of the treasures of the theatrical art.
Specificity and authenticity of Khaky Allaberdiyev's stage scenery leave a space for laconicism of the image and figurative solutions. That is why the best of his works appear to be those in which the artist finds a measure of generalization with deep undertones in details. The sketches of Allaberdiyev's stage scenery mostly convey the same pictorial motives: pergola of grapes or flowers, invariable vaulted rooms - aivans and flowering gardens. In the opera "Ayna" (1957, music by Adrian Shaposhnikov and Danatar Ovezov) on the life and work of Turkmen girls carpet-makers, the courtyard of Ayna's house (the first act) expresses happiness of the carpet-maker in love. In his decorations, the artist does not want just to present authenticity of details: a fence, an open gate, a trestle bed. He figuratively interprets the original design of a playwright, expresses the idea of an opera about the all-conquering power of love and kindness. In the scenery, the rays of the bright sun burst into a quiet and peaceful corner of the house. This is a very expressive detail.
The interior of the main building of the Ashgabat carpet factory with halls divided by arches became the artistic image of the carpet workshop (third act). Khaky Allaberdiyev's architectural compositions are monumental. A modern workshop where Ayna works with other carpet weavers is reminiscent of the basilica of Romanesque cathedrals. Beams of light penetrating from outside fall on the edges of arches as bright spots, thus emphasizing the rhythm of their alternation. The scenery filled with sunlight and a variety of colors and lines embodies the celebration of labor, as well as optimistic and lofty feelings of the craftswomen, the idea of the continuity of the best traditions of the national culture.
Khaky Allaberdiyev's artistically generalized image of the play "Balsayat" (1960, music by Klimenty Korchmarev) was inspired by the original leitmotif of his homeland that underpins the folk music of the same name. The beauty and uniqueness of the Turkmen nature comes to life on the picturesque backdrops of the play. They were made in soft colors - grayish-pink, pale blue, emerald-bluish. The sky plays an important role in the emotional mood of the artist's scenery. Appearing differently in every new act, often providing a metaphorical interpretation of what is happening on the stage, it was the most characteristic and significant part of the scenery. The sky reflects either a peaceful and unhurried pace of life or tense moments in people's lives, continuous movements of day and night in the foothills of Kopetdag. From action to action, changing its appearance with tones of color, this vast sky fills the stage with air. Brocade curtains hanging down in two rows along the edges of the stage resemble either mountain peaks or the ruins of an ancient city.
The heyday of Khaky Allaberdiyev's creativity coincided with the period when the theater named after Mollanepes was directed by Aman Kulmamedov. One of his best works of those years was the play "Mollanepes" (1963, by Bazar Amanov). Its scenery surprises with unconditional truthfulness and accuracy of conveying the poet's inner world. They impress with their sincerity and sophistication. Khaky Allaberdiyev does not dryly illustrate the scene and time. He rather creates a portrait and an image, the spiritual world of the poet, who in his work called for the life-affirming love and respect for human dignity. Sublimely poetic, romantic scenery emphasized the fact that the artist knows and subtly understands the poetry of the great lyricist. In the scenery, the artist uses frames in the form of a portal with blue majolica tiles associated with the niches of eastern mosques or palaces and ornamented pages of books with miniatures.
In the pictorial decoration of the plays, the artist uses not only architectural compositions but also motives of decorative and applied art and various objects used by Turkmens. They enrich his scenery with the peculiar national character. For example, the image of a headdress - topby -is an essential element of the constructive technique of decoration of the play "Magic Patterns" (1961, by Bazar Amanov). The artist uniquely uses the ornamental motif of women's head capes that complement the artistic expressiveness of the scenery. Allaberdiyev normally used artistic solutions for each picture, changing the scenery in each picture. However, in "Magic Patterns", he used one setting for the entire scene. The rotating stage helped to instantly disclose either the interior or the exterior. The mobility of the general setting also determined the pace and rhythm of the entire play.
The sketches of the scenery for the drama "Keimir Ker" (1974, by Bazar Amanov) revealed the artist's extraordinary skill and delicate taste in terms of finding the artistic solution. The scenography followed the stage direction, emphasizing the dramatic theme of the struggle for the country's independence against foreign invaders. The image of the wise leader, fearless warrior and excellent diplomat - Keimir Ker - who managed to unite around himself representatives of all Turkmen tribes, contrasts with the image of the Iranian Shah Nadir, formidable and intoxicated by the power of his rule and force of arms. The artist presents this confrontation in the compositional and plastic solution of the scenery. The artist depicts all the acts taking place in Iran in the interior, in the palace of the Shah, while the actions taking place on the Turkmen land were depicted in the exterior, against the background of nature, the steppe or mountains.
The play is perceived as motion pictures of the reanimated story which is replete with complexities and events. With the turn of the stage, there appear and disappear a closed palace of the Iranian shah with his throne placed below, like at the bottom of a deep well, or the expanses of the Turkmen land, where Keimir Ker stands among people in the open air. The Iranian Shah in his invented real space is closed to the outside world. The richly furnished palace suggests that the shah is far from the needs of people. He is narrow-minded and deaf to the aspirations of his people. He forgot that it is not weapon but the human spirit that prevails. Keimir Ker is free and his people live in the natural environment, in the open space. He does not feel cramped in this world, he breathes freely. So, this is how the main idea of the drama is narrated through the scenery of the play.
Guided by the traditions of theatrical scenic painting, Khaky Allaberdiyev developed his own style and sharpness of visualization. His work marks an important stage in the history of Turkmen decorative art. Simplicity and sincerity, realism of his scenery and costumes continue to enrapture and gratify the audience. His artistic work is a worthy example for young artists who are expected to devote all their talent to the flourishing of the Turkmen theater.


©Turkmenistan Analytic magazine, 2005