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2023  N9-10(222-224)
A constellation of outstanding painters with their own individual style and artistic worldview has emerged in Turkmenistan’s fine arts. They are all different and each of them is original in their own way. Among the bright personalities, the people’s artist of Turkmenistan, painter, graphic artist, monumentalist Chary Amangeldyev, whose ninetieth birthday was recently celebrated by the country’s art community, enjoys an indisputable reputation.
He was born in the village of Karakala in 1933. He lost his parents early and ended up in an orphanage in Keshi, on the outskirts of Ashgabat. The boy was lucky. His teacher Yevgenia Stepanovna Dabich became a second mother for him and for all the children in his group. The artist carried his love and respect for this woman throughout his life, and having established himself as a master painter, he dedicated a large canvas called “Mother’s Love” to her.
It was at the orphanage that Chary’s talent to painting was noticed, and he was sent to an art school, and then, in 1947, he entered the Ashgabat Art School named after Shota Rustaveli. After a year of study, a catastrophic earthquake happened in 1948, which was the tragic year for Ashgabat. Chary was not hurt. The hostel in which he lived withstood the onslaught of the natural disaster. Yet, the horror of what happened remained forever in his memory. A fifteen-year-old boy witnessed the city turning into ruins overnight. This episode of his life has forever become entrenched in the artist’s soul.
Chary has always been goal-oriented. Like the main character of Veniamin Kaverin’s novel “Two Captains,” he followed the motto “Strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.” Having failed to enter the Moscow Art Institute named after V.I. Surikov, Chary was not deterred. He immediately entered as an apprentice the restoration workshops led by the famous painter, Igor Grabar.
Chary’s time as a student coincided with a well-known incident of vandalism that became historical. A mentally ill visitor to the Tretyakov Gallery damaged a painting by Ilya Repin with a knife. The painting was widely known to everyone under the name of “Ivan the Terrible Kills His Son.” Students of the restoration faculty, including Chary Amangeldyev, took part in the painstaking one-year long work of restoring the painting. Chary helped prepare the adhesive compounds to glue the damaged threads, supervised the chemical analysis of the primer and paints. When the work was completed, students were allowed to touch the restored area with their hands, and none of them could feel the difference. This was an invaluable experience acquired by the future master.
After two years of study in Moscow, he returned to Ashgabat and worked at the State Museum of Fine Arts where Chary Amangeldyev applied his knowledge gained at Grabar’s workshop. Devoting a lot of time and efforts to the restoration of paintings by old masters, he at the same time studied their artistic techniques and styles. While working as a restorer, Chary Amangeldyev continued dreaming of entering the V.I. Surikov Institute. And the dream came true. He became a student at the cherished university whose teachers were the heirs of the best traditions of the Russian school of fine arts, including venerable artists Dmitry Zhilinsky and Dmitry Mochalsky.
His friend, People’s Artist of Turkmenistan Kulnazar Bekmuradov recalls this as follows:
“He really wanted to study to be a painter. He was going to do it alone, in spite of everything, with nothing to his name, to plunge into the world of great art where masses of people mingle with each other. Yet, he did not know where to study and people to learn from. He knew that there was an art institute in Moscow, and he had to go there at all costs. And his aspirations were realized! Now, he had to endure the hungry years of a student life, get professional education. While his fellow students were able to complete one painting of sitters, he did two. He painted, made sketches, without getting up or leaving the studio for many hours in a row, observed, studied the works by Moscow’s master painters. Chary survived this six-year long test. After graduating from his favorite institute, he returned to his homeland with a diploma in painting.”
Back home, the artist immediately plunged into work. His goal was to gain recognition of his skills. The year 1971 became a turning point in the artistic development path of several young Turkmen painters. At the exhibition in Moscow, the works by Chary Amangeldyev, Durdy Bayramov, Kulnazar Bekmuradov, Mamed Mamedov, Shamuhammed Akmuhammedov, Stanislav Babikov and Dzhuma Dzhumadurdy evoked enthusiastic responses from the Moscow critics, artists and art connoisseurs. After reviewing the exhibition, art critics called the young Turkmen painters the “magnificent seven.” In the later years, the art works and personalities of these masters of brush made a serious contribution to the flourishing and establishment of Turkmen fine arts.
In general, the 70s were a very productive period for Chary Amangeldyev. He was awarded the Lenin Komsomol Prize for his series “Towards the Light”, consisting of five paintings dedicated to youth. Art critics compared this work to a symphony. This success did not extinguish the artist’s brightly burning creative fire. He studied his people with even greater enthusiasm and temperament, wrote, painted, found new images and started work on deeply philosophical topics.
The language of his paintings has a unique interpretation and color. The plot is harmonious and mysterious. The compositions are emotionally rhythmic, making the viewer peer into his canvases for a long time.
Paintings such as “In the Yurt”, “Swing”, “Tuidukchi” (Flutist), “Poet Myatadzhi”, “Sleeping Old Man” that are original by the manner of execution glorified him as a master of art compositions. In his works, Chary Amangeldyev always traces the connection between modernity and folk traditions, between the new and old generations, between present and future. His characters are often people from the art sphere – folk musicians, scientists. At the beginning of the new millennium, he again turned to the portrait genre, creating more than thirty images of the legendary Turkmen commanders of the Middle Ages, figures of history and culture of the Turkmen people.
He went through a difficult life path and performed a creative feat. He was awarded the honorary title of People’s Artist of Turkmenistan for his outstanding contribution to the development of fine arts. And he, that same orphan with big eyes, with a gray head, continued working. He was the first in the 90s of the XX century to paint portraits and monumental paintings dedicated to the great Turkmens of the Middle Ages – Bayram Khan – Turkmen, Queen Tomiris, Shah Ismail, Tomiris’s Struggle for Freedom and many, many others. In 2003–2004, the outstanding painter painted a four-meter monumental, psychological, symbolic and philosophical canvas, which was subsequently exhibited at his exhibitions. The artist depicts over thirty commanders on this canvas – Arsak the Great, Oguzkhan, Attila, Toshrulbeg, Alp Arslan, Sultan Sanjar, Jelaleddin, Keymir Ker, Bayramkhan Turkmen, Gundogdy Khan, Ersary Baba, etc. They look at us from the master’s canvas as if they are alive.
Chary Amangeldyev was always attracted to one more topic – Space, the Universe. When he talked about this, boyish eagerness would appear in his eyes. In his studio, the artist had a book selection on astronomy. His favorite hero is Konstantin Tsiolkovsky.
He once happened to meet the Russian cosmonaut, native of Turkmen land, Oleg Kononenko at the Academy of Arts. When talking to him, Chary Amangeldyev admitted that, despite his age, he would also like to fly into space, and presented the cosmonaut with one of his paintings.
He naturally was perfectly aware of the fact that flying into space was a fantastic, impossible dream, so he took a large canvas and depicted the docking of spaceships in near-Earth space. This is how the painting “Conquerors of Space” appeared. One would agree that not every 83-year-old person is capable of dreaming about something so infinitely lofty and beautiful.


©Turkmenistan Analytic magazine, 2005