“Post-Nomadic Realities” (text from Thibaut de Ruyter)

The works for the first solo exhibition of Gulnur Mukazhanova in the Artwin Gallery in Moscow — entitled Post-nomadic Reality — will be linked by the use of a material: felt (while her forthcoming show in Baku will focus mostly on silk and fake silk). Felt and silk are materials that we strongly connect with Central Asia. The first one for being the material used by Kazakh nomads to create carpets called Tekemets, the second one as being the trade product that initiated and gave its name to the famous Silk Road. Felt is to be found in Gulnur Mukazhanova’s sculptures, photographs and canvases. For example she uses felt to create a white mask that people will simply hold over their faces in a series of twenty photographs titledGlobal Society. By this gesture, the artist hides and erases the identity of her models and they become anonymous. But their environment is still visible. A table, frames hanging on the wall, objects, wallpaper, buildings or landscape, all those elements are creating the decor in which the almost anonymous characters are appearing. And one tries to figure out which image was done in Europe, which one in Central Asia. We suddenly understand that the world around us tells more about us than our face and expressions.

Our clothes can also tell something about us and our identity. One can see from brands or materials how rich people are. But also, they are strongly related to tradition and nation (think about Tracht in Austria and Bavaria). For her piece Post-nomadic Reality — that also gives the title of the whole exhibition —, Gulnur Mukazhanova designed a dress from pieces of burnt felt. It looks like a wounded skin that hangs in a violent way to emphasize its sculptural and disturbing aspect. It’s too big to be worn by a normal human. And even if it comes from a traditional form (Chapan) but becomes, in this case, an abstraction.

The visitor of the exhibition will also discover a few abstract artworks hanging classically on the gallery walls that, at the first glance and because of their abstraction, could have been done by somebody else. There is no figuration, no human being or traditional object, but a pure and plain rectangle of color surface. Those works refer, here again, to the use of a material and to decorative power. Painting, as Europe has known it for centuries (a canvas stretched on a frame with some figurative representation) appeared only in the beginning of the XXth Century in Central Asia. But the Kazakh wedding carpets, the traditional Tus-Kiz, where ornamented with abstract patterns and used as wall elements long before. Abstraction has always been present in the local art history. With the simple stretching of plain material on a frame, Gulnur Mukazhanova manages to combine both, European and Central Asian history. With humor and irony, she continues the story of abstraction in Central Asia but focusses not on a motive but the traditional material, a material that, normally, should not be stretched on a frame.

There is a strong polarity in the works of Gulnur Mukazhanova, like the North and the South on a magnet. And that polarity comes clearly from her Kazakh origins and her life in Germany. On one hand she portrays people but, on the other hand, she denies them any identity, her abstract canvases that don’t tell us where they really come from can be read in similar way. We want them to represent something but they are merely symbols. This is maybe the definition of the Post-nomadic Reality: one is not here to tell the beauty of the Kazakh steppe and its inhabitants but to understand it’s origins and to question how it can exist today.