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2023  N7-8(220-221)
The art biography of the Umarov family of painters from the eastern region of Turkmenistan dates back a little over three decades. However, this biography deserves a separate story about a dynasty of representatives of different generations and art movements who are united by the desire to reflect the polyphony of feelings and harmony of human relations in their works.
The future painter, Rakhman Umarov, and the novice ceramist, Dilbar Gulyamova, met in Tashkent in 1987. The young Turkmen boy came to the capital of Uzbekistan to continue his studies at the Tashkent Theater and Art Institute named after A. Ostrovsky. The grains of the acquired knowledge fell into the fertile soil, as he had years of experience at the art school in his native Turkmenabat and the Ashgabat Art School named after Shota Rustaveli that he graduated with honors.
At that time, a girl from the ancient Uzbek city of Samarkand was the first-year student at a university in Tashkent. The young people first met at the central post office, where they awaited telephone calls with their parents. They struck up an acquaintance with each other that first turned into friendship and then imperceptibly into a different, hotter and stronger feeling that led them through life, making them allies not only in marriage but also in arts.
Despite the fact that they studied at different courses and faculties, they often met in workshops and at student exhibitions, exchanged impressions, consulted with each other and shared stories. And this tradition continued for many years. The young artists did not want to wait long and got married, although Rahman still had a year before graduation. A fine young man from Turkmenistan took the Uzbek beauty to his homeland. They started working in Turkmenabat and gave birth to three children who inherited the talent of their parents.
Each of the Umarov family members works in their own artistic direction and style, but all of them share unconditional talent, great diligence and craving for beauty. Rahman Umarov’s paintings of different years, as well as ceramic sculptures of small forms of his wife Dilbar were presented at a recent solo exhibition of Rahman Umarov at the Exhibition Center of the Union of Artists of Turkmenistan, dedicated to the 55th birth anniversary of the artist. This exhibition once again emphasized the harmony and organic nature of their creative tandem. The exhibition was called “Harmony”.
The anniversary vernissage provided each of the spouses with the opportunity to demonstrate their artistic maturity, personal artistic perception of reality and themselves in it. Dilbar’s terracotta compositions and Rahman’s canvases, diverse in genres and themes, organically intertwined in the space of the exhibition hall, as if complementing the emotional artistic narrative, saturating it with subtle psychological intonations.
Their works also have commonalities in thematic terms. They both are inclined to immerse themselves in history and folk traditions, both are passionate about the lyrical landscapes of their native land and still life, and most of all about everyday scenes. Family stories are a cross-cutting theme of the artists’ work. Paintings depicting one of the artist’s favorite images – a jug – gravitate to this theme. This vital household item of Turkmens receives an original interpretation in the works of Rakhman Umarov, acquiring more and more philosophical meaning over the years.
Painting “Portrait of Mother” that the painter created in dedication to his mother Senever-edzhe became a kind of chronicle of the Umarov family. It depicts an elderly woman with a pile of patchwork national mattresses behind her, personifying the past years, completely devoted to the family and full of care for happiness of children. In front of the woman are three small bundles – bukcha (dowry for three daughters). The portrait of the mother is full of iconic details for the family.
A special place in the artist’s work is occupied by landscapes, portraits and narrative canvases on a historical theme, dedicated to his native land. “The artists from Lebap region are noted for their special vision of space and color, inspired by the harmony of their native expanses and landscapes of the Amu Darya, their own images associated with the history of the region” Rahman Umarov explains.
Rahman Umarov is a laureate of the art contest of the President of Turkmenistan “Golden Age of Turkmens”, a participant in art exhibitions in Russia, Uzbekistan, France and Turkey, Singapore, China and many other countries. The painter regards his participation in the International Art Salon “Together Again” at the Central House of Artists in Moscow in 2018 as his personal artistic achievement of recent years. “I represented the Union of Artists of Turkmenistan, and I am very proud of the honorary mission entrusted to me. I brought 20 of my paintings to Moscow and received a huge boost of creative energy from my engagement with colleagues,” Rahman recalls.
The geography of Dilbar Umarova’s art travels is more modest compared to her husband, as she was busy raising children and working. Despite the fact that Dilbar has been making ceramics all her life, her first solo exhibition took place only 15 years ago. The ceramist’s works are regularly exhibited in the capital at vernissages dedicated to the art of Lebap artists, as well as within the framework of various thematic exhibitions. It has always been important for Dilbar to know not only how professionals perceive her work but also the opinion of art lovers. And she has not lost this important for the artist emotion to this day.
Beginning her first exhibition, the ceramist won the hearts of connoisseurs and lovers of fine art with her original terracotta characters that seem to be imbued with her kind view of the world around her, love for people and subtle humor.
At first glance, her miniature compositions are extremely and even emphatically natural and simple. The author deliberately refuses to glaze her figurines, while skillfully combining “natural” patterns and sizes in small plastic. At the same time, she by all means opens something extremely touching and wise in the most ordinary things or images. History, philosophy and aesthetics of the East can be read in her compositions.
“I have always been passionate about terracotta that makes it possible for the master to put in it the warmth of his hands and kindness of his heart. Clay is a living material for me. It is important to feel its soft plasticity and only then it will become an ally in conveying the artist’s state of mind, his mood and understanding of the world around him,” Dilbar says.
Dilbar Umarova’s original works convey the warmth of her hands and unconditional talent. Ceramic images are full of national color, and they organically combine the motifs of ancient Uzbek cities, ornamental Turkmen patterns and ethnographic details.
Dilbar’s characters are touching and sincere. One can say that each of them is copied from real life. Characteristic movements, looks, temperamental attributes and mood, emotions of people that she meets in daily life do not escape the professional and kind eye of the artist. Terracotta sculptures very often reproduce funny episodes from rural life.
The master’s most favorite topics include the original folk customs and traditions, everyday scenes, including the oriental bazaar with its special atmosphere seething with emotions. Many of her original works are exhibited at the Local History Museum of Lebap province and the Museum of Fine Arts of Turkmenistan in Ashgabat. Like her husband, Dilbar Umarova is the winner of the “Golden Age of Turkmens” contest.
As artists, Rahman and Dilbar never compete but successfully complement each other. They both share similar understanding of things, draw the plots of their works from life. Sometimes, they share them, and the same plot gets an original refraction in the painting and clay.
The Umarovs arrange joint exhibitions or family opening days every five years, with participation of their daughters, Khijran and Jeyran. They followed in the footsteps of their parents, both graduated from the State Academy of Arts, and in 2022 became members of the Union of Artists of Turkmenistan.
The elder daughter, Khijran, is a painter. She teaches at the Turkmen State Pedagogical Institute named after Seytnazar Seydy. Jeyran is a designer. After graduating from the university, she is now improving his skills in Turkey. From childhood, the youngest daughter showed interest in applied art and mastered the technique of batik at a later stage.
The sisters’ works have been exhibited more than once in the gallery of the Academy of Arts. And in 2018, a solo exhibition of paintings and decorative and applied works by all members of the talented family was arranged at the capital’s exhibition center. Each of the works is distinguished by their original artistic style. The son of the Umarovs, Arslan, is also not without artistic talent, but he chose sports medicine for himself.
In his art life, Rahman Umarov painted about 300 paintings, each of which he treats as especially dear and important, while noting that the main one is yet to come. Dilbar’s creative plans include making a series of ceramic works on a historical theme, dedicated to her native old town with architectural monuments and, of course, the oriental bazaar. Representatives of the younger generation of the family also have their own creative aspirations.
And this means that we will soon have new exhibitions of works by the artists from the banks of the Amu Darya, who share with us their original talent, charging us with their positive attitude to life.


©Turkmenistan Analytic magazine, 2005