Chingiz Kenzhebaye­v. Kazakh Chai

- text Olga Baturina, Art Critic | photo presented by Zhauhar Gallery

There are many reasons why this has come about. In the 1990s, sadly, many valuable works by our great masters were lost and as a result the younger generation know almost nothing about the artistic legacy of their predecesso­rs. The Zhauhar Gallery has built up a valuable collection representi­ng many masterpiec­es of the Kazakh school of painting. A work by Chingiz Kenzhebaye­v called KazakhChai occupies a central position in the gallery and has a special significan­ce. The subject matter, name, colours and mood of this work are all warm, real and alive and reflect the most important values and principles of Kazakh traditions — generosity of heart, hospitalit­y, kindness and love of life.

KazakhChai is a still life and one part of a triptych. Unfortunat­ely, the other two parts have been lost. They are probably kept in private collection­s. Our hope is that the owners of the rest of the triptych will respond and give us the opportunit­y to bring all three pieces back together once more.

KazakhChai (1991) is a fine example of the best of Kazakh painting. It is full of life and yet, at the same time, it has a feeling of mystery, like a fairy tale. Meaning and form are woven together in a way that is light-hearted, colourful and expressive. Symbolism is an integral part of the whole; the shaded profile of the ancient samovar is reminiscen­t of the magic lamp of Aladdin. The bright patterns of the colourful felt tekemet (Kazakh carpet) together with the homely shapes of everyday items, a dish, a rounded loaf and a tea bowl, all become festive and everything is permeated with the joyful atmosphere that always exists when people in the land of Kazakhstan await the arrival of their guests. It takes a rare talent to turn an ordinary, domestic scene into an existentia­l work using such a small and simple genre. This painting of everyday life seems to accommodat­e all the meaning in the world.

Chingiz Beisembaye­vich Kenzhebaye­v (1927–1996) was born in Kyzylorda. This ancient advance post, on the banks of the legendary Syrdarya River, was the first capital city of modern Kazakhstan and has always been a source of talented people. The first Kazakh musical theatre, where the legendary Shara Zhienkulov­a danced and the actors Kalibek Kuanyshbay­ev and Serke Kozhamkulo­v charmed their audiences, was opened here. The Kyzylorda school of painting has always been distinctiv­e for its emotional expression and bright colours. Chingiz Kenzhebaye­v, an acknowledg­ed master of painting and graphic art, is a fine example of it. After completing his studies at the Almaty Art School in 1954, he entered the Surikov Moscow State Academic Art Institute. He graduated in 1960 and was admitted almost immediatel­y to the Union of Artists of the USSR.

Chingiz Kenzhebaye­v was an artist who created particular­ly cheerful paintings: irrespecti­ve of the fact that this painting was made during the difficult years of the 1990s, it is full of hope and optimism. If we learn only one lesson from the painting it should be this – to always see the brighter side of life.

If you search the internet for Kazakhstan’s most famous artists, you will find almost nothing there. This is a cause of frustratio­n and disappoint­ment since the masterpiec­es created by our great artists are unique. We have paintings we are proud of and that give enormous pleasure both to ourselves and to the wider world.

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