On October 6, an exhibition of paintings by the prominent Azerbaijani artist, FarkhadKhalilov, opens in The Great Room 1508. “Acquaintance” is his first showing in the UK, and features 15 paintings. Most are acrylic on canvas, and impress with their geometric expression, their pensive colors, and their size in the range of 2 meters-by-2 meters.
Khalilov was born in the East and his mind was sharpened in the capital of the Soviet empire, but his paintings are pungent, ascetic and austere. His art is marked by a minimalist formal vocabulary. While they are commonly mistaken as abstract paintings, in fact they record theimpact of the Azeri oilfields and countryside on the artist. We can see this effect most clearly in the series “Unexpected views” of which four works are in the current exhibition. Five of the paintings in the exhibition are from the series “Meeting” that Khalilov has been working onover the past three decades. Ever since his time in Moscow the artist’s work tells the ‘truth’ of his relationship to landscape. Hailing from Baku, the city of wind and fire, the truth of these surroundings is intense. A flameis the symbol that represents the city on flags, and this emblem is because of the burningground – eternal fire, which springs from the rocky earth mere kilometres outside town andnear the artist’s studio. To get there, as Khalilov does almost every day, he must pass by an expansive oilfield – more than a thousand winching pumps, ceaseless in their movement, amid reflective pools of crude.
Khalilov’s compositions have a spatial sensuality, and they are structured as music pieces, as ancient chants or Azerbaijani mugams based on a single theme with numerous variations bothalong horizontal and vertical lines. The visual series have been created thanks to spontaneous illuminations rather than conscious construction.
In the contemporary art world today Khalilov is an outsider and a rebel, who has struggled against the tide in an era when Conceptualism holds sway. Many think that art must containsome sort of deeper meaning not visible to the eye, but Khalilov’s paintings are the art of directapplication. He is not a symbolist and does not play with hidden meanings and codifiedmetaphors.
“People perceive it as more or less abstract work,” says Khalilov. “That’s funny to me becausethese canvases are what I saw or felt. I sit and look and draw.”
The Painted Ground