Farhad Khalilov, ‘The Collapse of the Soviet Precedent in Art’, Azerbaijan International, Vol. 7, No. 2, Summer 1999, p.74
Two giant, earthy forms ascend from the furrowed sea of white and slope towards each other as if caught in an embrace, discreetly meandering between the sensitive opulence of the artist’s expression and the visual might of their own geometry. Their curved edges are delicately softened by the texture of the artist’s brush; each considered stroke animating the paint’s surface and giving, as Paolo Columbo describes, “a living sign of a human gesture” (Paolo Colombo, ‘Paintings are Handmade, a Living Sign of a Human Gesture’ in Exhibition Catalogue, London, Saatchi Gallery, Farkhad Khalilov, 2015 p.6).
For the past half century, Khalilov’s representational paintings have evolved into increasingly abstract forms reminiscent of the great artistic pioneers of pre-soviet Russia. In a similar vein, the progressive reduction of representative forms throughout Khalilov’s oeuvre conceals deeper literal meanings to the artist; “People perceive it as more or less abstract work,” says Khalilov, “that’s funny to me because these canvases are what I saw or felt. I sit and look and draw” (Farkhad Khalilov quoted in Exhibition Press Release: London, The Great Room 1508, Farkhad Khalilov: Acquaintance, 2011, online resource). Sustained engagement with the work therefore begins to reveal veiled allusions to Khalilov’s history and inner psyche; the material quality of the vast black, brown and white brushstrokes recalling the natural textures and earthy tones of the Azeri countryside, the forms reflecting the artist’s sense of longing in his increasingly urbanised home City of Baku, Azerbaijan.
This transformation of material depiction into visceral feeling chimes with the works and writings of Kazimir Malevich in that it transcends an objective world of academic naturalism in favour of subjective purity. “Everything which determined the objective ideal structure of life and of "art' ideas, concepts, and images all this the artist has cast aside in order to heed pure feeling”, states Malevich in his Suprematist Manifesto, rejecting the gentle poetics of the Impressionists and paving a new path for abstraction in the world of art. (Kazimir Malevich, ‘Suprematism’ in Herschel Chipp et. Al., Theories of Modern Art, A Source Book by Artists and Critics, California 1968, p.342). In a similar vein to Malevich’s revolutionary Suprematist Compositions, the present work can therefore be understood as being more than the sum of its constituent parts, but as “a "desert" in which nothing can be perceived but feeling” (ibid p. 341).
Both Malevich and Khalilov faced great oppressive forces to their creativity in the shape of the Soviet Union whose stringent regulations censored progressive artistic ideals. At Stroganoff Technical Art College in Moscow Khalilov’s abstract artworks and ideas gained him a dissident reputation that almost saw him expelled before he made the decision to leave on his own accord. However, with a prevailing and singular artistic vision, Khalilov continued to work against the common grain of conformity, progressing his works by transcending strictly objective analyses. Khalilov, like Malevich, found his most enduring artistic voice in the form of abstraction and the boldness of the present work is testament to the strength of his artistic ideals in the face of imposing cultural pressures.
Rather than standing up in the face of the authoritarian control, Khalilov disregarded it completely, solely focussing his attention on producing work with honesty and conveying a harmonic conflation of environment and spiritual yearning. His singular convictions have consistently served to validate his paintings, echoing the sentiment that these are, and always have been, paintings of freedom.
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