Solo Exhibition of Kuanysh Bazargaliyev’s Works
Esentai Gallery, Almaty
3-17 September, 2016
Curator: Valeria Ibraeva
Koshkarmuyism etc. is a solo exhibition of Kuanysh Bazargaliyev’s recent works united by their reflections on Kazakhstan and its place in the world community. The artist’s blatant lack of concern about achieving national recognition starkly contrasts the government’s craving thereof by means of state projects. Unlike the unsophisticated “national” official state designs mechanically imprinted on decorative objects commissioned for big-budget projects such as Olympic Games, Universiades, EXPO, and grand international forums, Bazargaliyev’s compositions examine structural interactions weaved in the processes of establishing parity relationships in the world.
In his earliest series When All People were Kazakh (2013), Bazargaliyev explores non-European artistic systems and cultural environment as well as their formal adaptation of the European painting. With an unconventional sense of humor and firm artistic stance that enabled him to withstand harsh conditions of Kazakhstani postmodernism, Bazargaliyev presents the world’s evolution of painting executed in a Kazakh manner. In fact, the only traces of painting on these prints are the brushstrokes outlining Napoleon's epicanthus and the kimeshekis on the heads of Malevich’s female serfs. The appropriated world masterpieces are then placed in faux frames, which are merely painted reproductions. This grandiose series comments on the circulation of cultural processes, expansion of globalism, cultural networking, production of art and exhibitions that belong to everyone and no one at once.
In Koshkarmuyism etc., Bazargaliyev applies a more complicated structure on seemingly simple compositions. Consisting of nine works, the series presents images of various cultures and religious and political symbols superimposed over the most typical element of the Kazakh ornament. The ornament is, in turn, itself superimposed over a background that semantically alludes to the symbol of world civilization.
The positive-negative principle of the Kazakh ornaments lies at the core of compositions, while the equal proportions of backgrounds and patterns represent the symmetry of opposites. The superimposition of foreign civilizations’ symbols multiplies the effect, thereby creating a new, strained structure. The dominance of koshkar muyiz by means of repetition in each of the nine works symbolizes Kazakhstan and its role as the testing ground for various ideologies, influences, and experiments.
Koshkar muyiz is also a basic structural element in the series When All Flags were Kazakh (2015-2016), which similarly circulates the idea of opening the country to the world and vice versa. While Kazakhstan’s world recognition is important to Bazargaliyev, reciprocity also plays a substantial role geographically as well as politically, historically, culturally, and ideologically. Hence, the artist deems it appropriate to place the ornament on a rainbow flag, too.
The land reform, which stirred up Kazakhstan at the beginning of summer 2016, exacerbated the "Chinese question”. Examination of global expansion is central in Union of Chinese Capitalist Republics (2016), which features the artist’s play with the main symbol of the state – the national flag. Chinatowns and Chinese goods have jostled Italy, Japan, Germany, and Russia. In the series, the absence of the Kazakhstani flag speaks volumes about our country; as a matter of fact, the use of state symbols in Kazakhstan is heavily regulated.
The installation is site-specific: Bazargaliyev locates flag-modules depending on various conditions of an exhibition space. The artworks are hung by themselves, as was the case at Manifesta in Zurich, or, more commonly, embedded in frames. The grandiosity of the constructed iconostasis and the scope of the project trigger a direct association with the title of Evelyn Waugh’s novel “Put Out More Flags”. Its epigram, borrowed by the writer "from an ancient Chinese (oh, the irony of history! – V.I.) sage”, may well be interpreted as a dedication to Kuanysh Bazargaliyev, quite a Renaissance man himself:
A man getting drunk at a farewell party should strike a musical tone, in order to strengthen his spirit... and a drunk military man should order gallons and put out more flags in order to increase his military splendour.
Valeria Ibraeva, curator and art historian (Kazakhstan)