Askhat Akhmedyarov / Асхат Ахмедьяров

° 1965

Based in Almaty (KZ), born in Aleksandrovo Gay, USSR (KZ).

Belonging to the generation of artists that was formed at the juncture of Soviet times and Kazakhstani independence, Askhat Akhmedyarov has been active since the 1990s. His multi-faceted practice — spanning drawing, photography, installation, and performance — deals with the development of the historical and political landscape of Kazakhstan.

Pursuing his artistic aspirations, Askhat Akhmedyarov (°1965, Aleksandrovo Gay, USSR) moved to the southern city of Shymkent in 1985 where he studied under the founders of the Shymkent Trans Avant-garde group, Vitaly Simakov and Moldakul Narymbetov. Unlike the more Russia-influenced west of the republic, where the Soviet doctrine of Socialist Realism was still prominent, the southern region of Kazakhstan has always been a crossroad of various cultures and traditions. Free from the constraints of the academic tradition, the artists in Shymkent were experimenting with spatial-structural schools of the 20th-century avant-garde, rich local cultural heritage and shamanic rituals. Primarily working with painting at that period, Akhmedyarov created works that reveal a strong influence of Surrealism. In the mid-1990s, in the wake of the liberating transformation of the country, the artist took part in several experimental performances and exhibitions with the members of Kyzyl Tractor art group. In 2002, he participated in Off the Silk Road: No Mad's Land (Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin) — one of the first extensive presentations of contemporary art from Central Asia. The euphoria of freedom that characterised the first decade after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the establishment of Kazakhstan's independence has been followed by economic instability. Burning bridges and, literally, his early paintings, Akhmedyarov cut ties with Shymkent group and moved to Astana.

The historical and cultural landscape of the developing capital city and its surroundings had a significant influence on his artistic quest during the following twenty years. Focusing on an independent practice since the 2000s, Akhmedyarov continued to explore various media, while critically reflecting on the Soviet colonial past, as well as blatant social inequality caused by the rapid modernisation of the independent Kazakhstan. Filled with profound symbolism and poetics, Akhmedyarov’s artistic practice is first and foremost an expression of his civic position in a society that remains largely alienated from both politics and contemporary art. His actions and performances invite the viewer to engage in a critical dialogue with the collective traumas that have long been suppressed, as well as the conflict situations of the present day. While the elements of traditional culture and shamanic rituals, often incorporated in his work, appeal to the latent vitality of the myth in the subconscious of modern Kazakhstan. Referring to personal and collective memory, as well as mythological and historical narratives, the artist is not simply attempting to reconnect to the past, but rather seeking to reveal the ruptures in the collective identity.

In this regard, Akhmedyarov’s particular close attention to environmental issues – including works such as Toray-Proton (2013), Maly Taldykol (2021), Balkhash (2021) and Save Bozzhyra (2022) – should be perceived not only as an attempt to shed light on the relationship between reckless practices of the depletion of natural resources of both the Soviet-era and the present, but also as an address to the depth of the Kazakh being for which nature and culture have always been inherently interconnected. In a similar way, the motif of fire, which accompanies the artist's own biography and runs through many of his works as a common thread – Autumn Purge (2012), If the Pain Burned Away (2018), and In Dialogue with Fire (2019) to name a few – can be seen both as a key to understanding Akhmedyarov's practice as well as the societal and political subjects addressed by his practice. Representing the artist’s inner fervour in his fight against the abuse of power, it also seeks to appeal to the intrinsic creation-destruction dynamics of human existence. His works in the collection gathers the artist’s reflections on the relationship between art and activism. Combining a critical stance with irony, Akhmedyarov's oeuvre places local issues in the global context and refers to the human condition at large. (EV)

Askhat Akhmedyarov lives and works in Almaty, Kazakhstan. Selected exhibitions include: In Dialogue with Fire, M HKA, Antwerp (2023); Clouds, Power and Ornament – Roving Central Asia, Centre for Heritage, Arts and Textile (2023); UMIT, Aspan Gallery, Almaty (2022); Singular Plural, National Museum of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Astana (2016); Post-Nomadic Mind, The Wapping Project, London (2015); Protagonists. The Invisible Pavilion of Kazakhstan, Venice (2015); Lost to the Future: Contemporary Art from Central Asia, LASALLE College of Arts – ICA Singapore (2013); Off the Silk Road: No Mad's Land: Contemporary Art from Central Asia, Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin (2002); and Communications. Experience of Interaction, Soros Center for Contemporary Art, Almaty (2000).

The works by Askhat Akhmedyarov form part of the Shagylys collection created as a result of the long-term collaboration with the Tselinny Center of Contemporary Culture in Almaty, Kazakhstan.

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