At the Museum of Modern Art (under the patronage of the Russian Arts Academy) on Petrovka Street in Moscow, an individual exhibition of paintings by artist Maryam Alakbarli from Azerbaijan opened recently. She presented more than 80 paintings created over the last three years – portraits, still-lives, ornamental drawings, and her animalistic depictions.
This was the largest individual exhibition by any Azerbaijani artist (and not only Azerbaijani, but modern artist from abroad) in Moscow during the last quarter century. The exhibition was undoubtedly a genuine revelation. It revealed a shining talent, and an extraordinary work ability which demonstrate that for this artist – to paint is to live. You can undoubtedly sense the influence of Matisse and Gaugin in Maryam Alakbarli’s work. Still only 21, that influence appeared, more than likely, when less than a year ago she started studying at the Higher School of Decorative Arts in Paris. In works such as ‘Frida’, ‘The Pink Dance’, and ‘Gaugin’s Girl’ the ecstasy of discovering a new, previously unchartered world of art is positively tangible. In her earlier works, you can catch glimpses of her first introduction to the Russian Avant Garde circa 1900-1910. You can track how she familiarised herself with the traditions of the Azerbaijan School when you look at ‘Ornament’ (2008), or ‘Bears and Roses’ (2011). The intense years of study in Baku and Moscow clearly were not in vain.
Against a backdrop of a natural sensitivity to the outside world, and the growing role of art in the young artist’s life, Maryam’s skill strengthens from year to year, preserving a wonderful immediacy of perception and expression of life which singles out her art as being unique.
As a rule, increasing skill, acquiring professional knowledge and a reserve of artistic techniques, borrowing from the great masters, painters, and draftsmen who have gone before all lead, more often than not, to the loss of a freshness of perception, the magnificent sharpness of a child’s view of the world, which in later life only geniuses possess.
Preserving that purity of perception of both the inner and outer worlds, having already acquired the very highest level of professionalism, is a legacy gifted only to the chosen few, to which, without a doubt, Maryam belongs.
For her painting is, if not the only means, then certainly the most important means of communicating with surrounding reality. That is the source of her incredible creative thirst, an unstoppable work with her brush – a desire to open up to her consciousness a symphony of light, colour, and space; in the profundity of the subconscious and unconscious, the artistic process always astonishes.
The game played between light and shade is for her the beginning of all beginnings. Colour and shape emerge in her paintings more than anything else as the transformation of light. In his analysis of Maryam’s work, Thierry Dufrene, the French art critic and modern art historian, put this magnificently: “…light is (for Maryam) the beginning of all beginnings, it is primary. Light is life. Maryam understood this a long time ago. When I saw her drawings and abstract compositions the first time, I immediately understood what she had achieved and was trying to portray though her work which is a return to something primordial, when all shapes and forms are merely light and, as a result, of equal importance. There is no distinction between people, animals, plants, and minerals. There is only a wonderful sense of colour which dominates everything…”
Such a perception – a magical, heavenly view of the world – is exactly what begets in Maryam’s painting and drawings an intensified expression of colour. It’s no co-incidence that, when opening Maryam’s exhibition in Berlin last year, Inge H. Schmidt, the German art critic and professor at Berlin Art Academy, particularly noted this quality in her work: “ She chooses the most brilliant colours, added to which is a sense of contrast, meaning that over and over again her paintings exude almost a noble sense of tonality. Anyone who understands colour knows that extra colours create a stronger effect. Above all, yellow and green are the most striking colours in Maryam’s work. Of course, she chooses those colours intuitively, and that is exactly what makes her so unique. Intuitively she does what it takes others years of study and practice to achieve, and that for me is incomprehensible”.
This penetrating intuitive gift is noted by all of the art professionals who become familiar with Maryam’s work, which has been determined by her destiny, her uniqueness, if you will – her very special relationship with the world and the people around her.
Artists, particularly those ones who have distinguished themselves at such a young age, always differ from the rest of us ordinar
y mortals. But in Maryam this is almost magnified two-fold. Down’s Syndrome from birth seemed to set a predictable course for her life’s journey. The love and enormous spiritual and professional work of her family and friends, the doctors who treated her, and the teachers who taught her revealed in that ‘predictable course’ the mystery and higher meaning of her appearance on this earth. Love in a way enchanted her creative gift, and encouraged its awakening. And Maryam Alakbarli did more than just absorb that love, she transformed it into her paintings, returning it a hundred fold, amplified and embellished with harmony and beauty.
Olga Sviblova, Curator of Maryam’s Moscow exhibition, Vasiliy Tsereteli, Director of the Moscow Modern Art Museum, and Zurab Tsereteli, President of the Russian Arts Academy, along with many other experts who visited Maryam’s exhibition, all spoke of her work as something of a genuine artistic discovery without any special dispensation or allowance given for her condition.
We never know what price the artist pays for discovering in himself, and revealing to all of us, the glorious music of the heavens; for representing us, daring to communicate directly with the gods. When I look at this young artist who sees the world through the round lenses of her glasses in such a clear, pure, and untarnished way, full of trust and goodwill, in my thoughts, I thank her parents, and all of those around her who love her, for awakening Maryam’s talent, and revealing to her the compassion of life.
It’s almost a century and a half since Dostoyevsky wrote that ‘Beauty will save the world’, yet that phrase never loses its relevance. In relation to Maryam Alakbarli, this is the first thought that automatically springs to mind both regarding her art, and her life. When you pick up a catalogue of Maryam’s work, you simply cannot take your eyes off it. It radiaties an extraordinary concentration of the brightest energy. This is characteristic of this particular artist, and everything which she comes in contact with. When viewing her work, you are taken on a journey through the entire history of art from Impressionism through to the Russian and European avant-garde, from Neoprimitivism to Abstractism, at the same time recognising that Maryam’s is a completely individual world with its own themes and motifs which are allowed develop and which she nurtures, to which Maryam refers to over the course of the years she has been an artist.
The suppleness and sensitivity of Maryam’s work is completely unique to her, the expressiveness of her articulation of an emotional state charming to the limit. The titles she bestows on her paintings are always both touching and yet precise: ‘A sad kangaroo against a backdrop of red’; ‘A lonely cow’; ‘An angry crocodile’; ‘A happy lion’…A great number of artists enter the World of Art having already mastered their profession, aiming for a successful professional career. Maryam lives her art, lives in Art, discovering the path to her self through it, transforming it into her main means of communication with the world. Perhaps that explains why her creative message is so incredibly powerful, and convincing.
It seems as if her sense of colour and composition is natural gift, but beyond that the freedom with which she reveals her true self in her work is astonishing as well. That freedom is founded in a great trust – in the world, in people, and in herself. And Maryam’s Creative World is evolving. Not just in the emergence of new themes and subjects, but in the perfection of her skills, and the use of new techniques and an expansion to new formats. As a source of inspiration, The Art of the Great Masters – which she first came across in the Museums of France – for her is on a par with Nature and everyday world that surrounds the house where she was born. And that is how works such a ‘The Gaugin Girl’; ‘Frida’; ‘The Pink Dance’, and many others, come to be.
Maryam is only 21. Her astonishing capacity for work, and the energy of her artistic impulse promise that new artistic frontiers will be reached, just as her life’s journey so far affords us the hope we ourselves need to live, and be happy not only for people who – like Maryam – have one extra chromosome, but also for all of the rest of us.
At the Berlin Art Academy, I often tell my students about ‘honest’ paintings, the ones that have no calculated or deliberate ‘effects’, works that are born of ourselves. If, at the time, I had been in possession of Maryam’s album, I would have shown it to them and said: ‘Look at this, and learn from Maryam!
I examined each painting carefully and with great pleasure and what I wrote came to me easily. It’s startling how these paintings really struck a chord. Mixing her paints with the greatest love, she creates a harmony in each of her paintings, the strength of which is impossible to overestimate. It makes no difference what she paints, whether it’s a horse, a fox, a lion or some other kind of animal, they are all worthy of being loved. And it makes no difference how many times she paints them. Each painting is very individual. The same can be said for her paintings of flowers. At that time, I thought that I might never meet Maryam, and maybe I didn’t need to. Her paintings say so much about her, and how she sees, feels and experiences the world around her. She has become a very close friend. It seems like Maryam sees the world with different eyes. She helps us to see so much of the beauty that some of us never notice at all.
I opened her exhibition in Berlin on May 4, 2011. In my introductory speech, I made a particular point of how Maryam uses incredibly fresh colours in her work. Her paintings are very direct and it’s hard to believe that between them and the person who painted them are a pair of hands and a paintbrush.
She chooses the most magnificent colours. These are colours of complementary contrast, generous tones appear over and over again in her work. Anyone who understands colour knows that complementary colours create a stronger effect. Above all, yellow and green are the most striking colours in Maryam’s work. Of course, she chooses those colours intuitively, and that is exactly what makes her so unique. Intuitively she does what it takes others years of study and practice to achieve and that, for me, is unimaginable.
What is admirable in Maryam’s work is that she sees the world through her own eyes. To me, these are the eyes of a child – curious, inquisitive, full of honesty, and that really is wonderful.
When I was given Maryam’s new album, I was pleasantly surprised. Her work had noticeably changed: it was more skilful and had become more mature. A great step had been taken in a new direction. When I saw Maryam’s works in the original in the Dolmabahce gallery, I was amazed by the enormous formats – this is probably what’s most difficult. This is the greatest challenge an artist can undertake. Maryam copes with it surprisingly freely and with artistic innovation (freshness).
Maryam has taken a step forward. She is increasing and refining her work, expanding her technique. Acrylics have replaced oil. Oil and pastels on paper are a great risk in terms of technique, but Maryam does this simply, uncompromisingly, intuitively. She acts intuitively, but seems to be absolutely certain of what she is doing.
Probably, Maryam’s teachers were able to teach her what has to be learnt from the great masters. They understood where they could develop her potential. The name of the exhibition, “The Wonderful World of Colours”, does not surprise me at all. Maryam’s colours are full of life, freshness and lightness. They are a synthesis of colour and line. They are expressive, full of strength, objective. Her passion for paint is irrepressible, her perception of colour finely nuanced. Large canvases consist of small, distinct, rhythmic sections.
There is something new in her pictures: the spectrum of colours has expanded. She is using new combinations: black with yellow and whitened, light, reddish violet, cobalt blue, indigo and green earth; white has grown in significance. In her early work she often used pure, main colours and complementary ones. In some pictures she uses lambent red as the base and it suffuses the whole picture. Her pictures are cheerful, joyful.
But one picture is quite different – Pain (pastels, canvas, 65×50 cm, 2012). It is unobtrusive – deep, difficult, painted in several strokes. I singled it out for myself straightaway. It’s quite different, unlike the others. I love it. Does it say what she wanted to tell us? What changed the artist herself? Her constant creativity makes her work more mature and serious. This is clear. With all its vitality this picture talks quietly to us and, for me, this is something new in Maryam’s work. Maybe this is the beginning of a new, intense, creative period?
The pictures reveal the greatest spiritual depths. It takes subtlety to understand this language of the soul, but when you surrender yourself to the power of these pictures, you can hear the quietest, finest sounds. This is the greatest secret of her work; it’s practically mystical.
I would like to conclude by quoting the great artist Picasso. He said: “When I was very young, I could paint like Raphael, but it took me a lifetime to show that I can paint like a child.”
‘Why is the sky blue?’ ‘Why are leaves yellow?’ ‘Why is the grass green?’ a child asks. And without thinking an adult replies, ‘Because of the light.’ We are all children of light. Light penetrates literally and figuratively all aspects of our life. We live and see the world as it is thanks to its divine energy. We choose this energy and, like trees processing oxygen, project it onto the objects and phenomena around us. Light helps us to see and comprehend the world. Where light is reflected, thousands of colours and shades are revealed to our eyes. In other words, light is the beginning of the beginning, the primordial, light is life.
Maryam understood this a long time ago. The first time I saw her drawings and abstract compositions, I immediately understood what she was doing and trying to show through her work. This is a return to first principles, to a time when all shapes were simply light and, therefore, equal. There is no distinction between people, animals, plants, and minerals. There is only the amazing sense of light, which prevails over everything, and from which later flow the details of the distinction of shapes, colours and elements. For Maryam is an artist who reveals all that we see in the fullness of colours and abundance of shapes. Maryam loves the combination of colours, as can be seen in the labyrinth of her compositions, figures, drawn on a monochrome base, or in the gentle interweaving of carpets. If she draws a pattern, she does not allow any shape to dominate at the expense of another. And when she depicts her family and her brother, then it is clear that she is showing them together, similar to the motifs of that bright reality.
Have you noticed that she expresses this community through the touching depiction of round shapes brought together? Circles, round tea tables, the vibrant colours of flowers in a vase and their radiant coronas, the oval shape of eggs decorated in the festive colours of the Novruz holiday… Or an eye and a look, a rainbow and a luxuriant lion’s mane…
The very beginning of all this is the disc of the sun. Its light harmony gives birth to the colourful gentleness of Maryam’s bouquets, her lilies and sunflowers, which wake from slumber inflections of white, intensify the greens and golds of nature. This illuminates the waters of the sea, revealing in them the multi-coloured fish.
Perhaps the most living shape, which speaks for itself, is the roundness of the circus ring, where the eyes of the children seated all around are fixed on the show in the glory of the spotlights directed at the animals or acrobats.
This circular stage unifies everything: eyes, colours, attention. And it comes too from roundness – the pupil, the eye, the look… The look of Maryam the artist who often paints self-portraits. These are her eyes, which are fixed through spectacles on the golden cross section of light – eyes which, nature alone knows how, can absorb the shapes and contours of objects and things and present them to us just as they are.
When you browse through the pages of Maryam’s album, you almost get the impression that her simple, unpretentious pictures, and her sense of light lure us away from the world of absolutes and dogmas like a kind of magnet. You can’t help being drawn into what is a watercolour-like, gentle sense of sadness and grief, demonstrating to us the relativity and conditionality of our happiness and misfortune, of all of our desires and hopes.
Maryam paints fish. Her fish don’t exist in real life or, more correctly, we are unable to see the kinds of fish that she can see. However, the colouring of these fish, and the blues, greens, and yellows of the sea in which they swim, all combine to create a sense of something painfully familiar to us. Furthermore, it seems to me that these extravagantly coloured seas are a kind of living substance, with which I’ve been closely acquainted for a very long time.
Maryam paints flowers. Many of these flowers are, more than likely, very hard to find in the real world. But many of them are drawn as they exist in the real world, What is most astonishing, and most touching, is that the white and red roses, the sunflowers, lilacs and poppies painted by Maryam, I had seen not in reality, but in my very deepest, long forgotten dreams.
In a word, what we all see in our wonderful dreams, Maryam sees in the waking world. Maryam’s still-lifes and landscapes – these are the still-lifes and landscapes we can recall from our dreams. You get the impression that everything we encounter in Maryam’s album is everything that we, once we have woken up from our dreams, have forgotten. She reminds us through the contents of her drawings of these forgotten, distant dreams, gradually, step by step, restoring for us the memories we have lost. Perhaps by virtue of that, as we browse through her album, we so intensely sense the fantastic purity and transparency of the emotions and feelings which Maryam’s world is infused with.
The lions, foxes, dogs, and roosters depicted by Maryam are all the most affectionate and trusting creatures. Along with that, they are all pure in spirit, and their naiveté is a consequence of their sincerity. They are probably in equal measures both pure in spirit, and genuine.
Maryam really loves the Sun, which she regularly paints using thick yellow paint. When you look at her Sun, you understand that the celestial bodies love her in return with the same sincerity. Maybe that’s why, even in those paintings where there is no Sun, you can feel its warmth and breath. Maryam’s yellow and red horses, her red-nosed kangaroo, her giraffe with its large blue, green and violet patches, her blue striped zebra, her red, yellow and green rooster, her high contrast butterfly – all of them are so brightly coloured and charged with emotion because they are reflections of this fantastic warmth.
Maryam! Loved and adored she is one of the beautiful children of God. Given to us to make us better people. To help us see others in a more understanding and kind manner. This beautiful child has found a place on this earth to express her inner feelings, the brush and the canvas. Others are allowed to see into the soul of someone different than themselves; accept, appreciate and honor what they see for the honesty with which it was given.
Many artists live in their own world, others put their fantasies or personalities in their paintings.
The other extreme we find those who simply paint because it is their profession and they happen to enjoy it. No matter what the reason is for painting, each artist puts a bit of his soul into each picture. Many artists attempt to pour their inner self, thoughts and feelings onto a canvas while professionals basically keep with a certain form and theme.
With Maryam, we see it all. Her pure soul allows her to show all her feelings. Her paintings seem to vary between the joy of duplicating a beautiful flower and the frustration of trying to place a huge sea perfectly on a canvas. She goes from her simple, childlike animals to the complexity of portraits. They are all a part of all the exciting feelings her heart experiences each day, even each hour. Her way of releasing and expressing these feelings.
Looking at her work, it seems that she is happy to turn into her inner strength, see what she feels and reproduce it so that all can share. A child living in her own world of peace and happiness; able to play on canvas and describe the imagination within herself. As all people, she has feelings of sadness, grief, joy, frustration, anxiety, anger and love. Each painting enables her to take her feelings and not just deal with but share them. Each painting has a different character showing what she wants to say, what she feels at that moment. Her need is not to establish a signature format but rather document the beauty she sees from within. From within the pureness of her soul.
So few people rarely see what they are looking at because their minds are cluttered with too many other things. Maryam sees so much deeper. Her unpretentious, pure heart allows her to see what she looks at. She sees the aura and light-being of each subject. She looks deep enough to see the colours, the beauty, the simplicity, and the depth of all the beauty of the Universe. How she interprets it, is her own decision. Even if the subject matter is pale or dull, the light that shines through her from above, produces a bright, vivid and exciting result on canvas, as only a gentle and pure child could visualize. Her heart is clean and thus, sees everything in an exciting and beautiful colour. Many of her paintings are outstanding, others may be her escape into a world of calm and peace. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we all had a place to go and be at peace while producing beautiful memories for the world to see!
It is wonderful that so many people have opened their hearts and held out their hands to guide and teach Maryam. With their efforts one is able to see how she has moved forward with art. Her bright vivid colours still remain, they will always be there because her fabulous energy flow demands such. With each step forward her confidence in working with colour, brushes and canvas increases and her life improves, her pride in her work grows, all to make her spiritually, physically and mentally a stronger person. This process should be embraced by all who do not view themselves as enough. What really is enough… effort, devotion, confidence, love, endurance? Maryam, with the help of her supportive family and friends is becoming an example for all mankind. Because of her tireless effort she excels as a person; something we would all like to do.
Good luck, little girl, continue to share the bright light of love that shines through your eyes! You are a role model for anyone, that may think they are not good enough to accomplish what their inner self and hearts would like to do.
Everyone can take an active role in a society that accepts the importance of education to form an educational system. All children, regardless of difference in these communities make it an integral part of this system. This difference is that such stories begin to form in us more energy, more zest for life will. As if we realize our lives again. Here’s a name that makes up this difference; Maryam Alakbarli is a talent with Down syndrome.
We know that such individuals in the world take part got involved as an integral part of education and supported like other children become successful. Such individuals recorded in history as actor, actress, musician, athlete, and fiber artist. Maryam Alakbarli also took place in the history as a well known paint artist. She has proven her ability and personality with her paintings and revealed her thoughts. When we remember that Down Syndrome is not a disease, it is a difference; it is very natural to accept that Maryam had a unique personality, talents and ideas. I believe that Maryam will overcome in a lot more work. The important is the fact that our society is not only changed by the individuals with normal development, it is also changed by the individuals who don’t recognize their disability as a barrier.
Maryam’s drawings are very impressive. Of course, it is the job of the art experts and painters to criticize technical and art part of her drawings. But, I would like to share with you the feelings rising on me. It looks like Maryam with her drawings is telling us her dreams and ultimate point that she will reach. In addition to that she has self-confidence on her face, sensation on her looks. I know that, these individuals performed great success in the areas that we can’t imagine and they are the individuals who have proven this fact. Maryam has already proven that success and differentiation.
I would like to end my lines with a word of Down syndromes; “Maybe, the world would become a place much better and not having ego wars if everybody on this world had 21 chromosomes”. Congratulations Maryam.
Maryam Alakbarli (Baku 1991) is the emblem of the intrinsic relationship of creativity and life, artistic instinct and iconographic communication. It is the involving effect of wonder in which the young Azerbaijani artist gets lost; as though she was Alice, she joins hands with us to disappear into a world made of dream, fantasy as well as reality. It is the world of truth, naturalness, wonder and discovery. The source of creativity recalling the art journey of Picasso (“… It took me a lifetime to paint like a child”), a few reflections by Kandinsky (“… art innate perception is exactly the evangelical talent, which must not be buried”, or “… the artist is to turn an eye to inner life, trying to hear inner needs”), or by the poet-essayist Maeterlinck (“… Nothing in the world wishes for beauty more than the soul, or would be able to become more beautiful than the soul”).
Drawings, mixed media and silk batiks are full of energy, and with a refined strength expressed with virtuosity and rhythm. These works synthesise emotions; they are real visual poetry in which chromatic tone variations and signs chase space, chart a course, write a story, and beat the time of existence: they are works uttering an inner sound.
From each work, one can perceive small glares, traces of old contaminations recalling Azerbaijan, a land full of overlapping traditions: Orient, Caucasus and Central Asia. Sometimes, while watching the “tensions full of love” of Maryam, it seems to be listening to distant “mugams” (Azerbaijani music from oral traditions) in which the fluctuation of the voice timber goes from throat to head. Similar oscillations are found in the deep inner feelings of the Artist, impressions going from heart to thoughts. The shapes and the colours of the works are balanced in space: like vortexes (gestural and immediate mixed media) or spears (batik: sign-decorations), they leave their supports and reach the environment. They are hymns to joy, sorts of howls launched to the world, seeking contact. They are flows originating from special sensors and perceptions of Maryam, personal vibrations coming from her world.
Aesthetical references to important artists in the History of Art are like flashes from the mind of the Artist, who has visited important museums immersing herself in works by Matisse and Gauguin, tasting Cubism, getting acquainted with Expressionism and Abstract Art, sharing visions of the Informal and messages of contemporary gestures and actions.
The canvases propose plays of figures, shapes, spaces and light. Chromaticism is often bright. Nature is constantly present, in all its expressions and periodicity. Seasonal rhythms and evolution genesis create the theme of timeless composition: an endless rhythm in continuous evolution. They are inner needs entirely expressing Maryam, the one we all know as well as the one to be discovered, maybe hidden under the black colour (warm/cold, vivid/lifeless, bright/dark) coming to the surface every now and then. Black, but not dark: a painting area where the Artist decided to put the light off for one moment; however, that area is luminescent underneath. In each work one can breathe the instinct and awareness every one of us is looking for every day, and which we usually do not find. It is also the awareness of the caducity and fragility of life itself.
The works of Maryam are melodies full of love, a somewhat nostalgic love, expressed with improvisation marked by bright tones. The colour has a physical fascination pointed out by beauty and quality, and a psychological effect. The Painter prefers to use red and green (two colours which Delacroix used to mix in order to produce a sense of stillness). Maryam’s green is emotional breath, colour of Nature, sense of life. Red, the colour of the flame, is remarkable energy, released with difficulty: a warm, vivid and bright colour. Several green, red and blue colours are combined naturally, creating harmonies and balance of the whole. As for signs, she prefers white or gold orange, which in a few canvases is the symbol of universal splendour; as dynamic material dust, it is dropped onto veiled sadness, immediately dissolving. Brushstrokes and signs enclose hope and vitality. They are uncommon experience and experiments. And thus the meaning surpasses image and abstraction.
Through repeated rhythms or symphonies, the compositions of this young Artist express visions taken from a glance permeated with great sensitivity. They let us ponder over society, Man and Art. In their apparent simplicity and inherent complexity, they are examples of visual synthesis and confirm that soul and spiritualism are essential elements for artists. Of course, study, knowledge and creativity which the real artist has “in the blood” are important factors, but without innate impulse no technique and no means can change concepts, provocations or aesthetical effects into works of Art. After all, that’s what Maryam reminds us through her works.
Maryam has a new perspective on the application of colour. Rose red, brownish yellow, star-like green, blood red, eye black. She fearlessly illuminates an object, just as nature might. Inspired by the teachers of the past, she depicts the naked body in the freedom of nudity, filtering this through herself and her feelings. All her painting is feeling. There isn’t a single brush stroke that isn’t connected to her. There is no affectation, no arrogance, no sentimentality, only the state of thankfulness and grace that is typical of children. Neither composition nor perspective holds any fears for Maryam. Intuition leads her to technique, a crazy thirst for life inspires her to think and she fights for life from one picture to the next.
Flowers, boats, fish, fruit, portraits, seascapes, lizards are all themes to which she surrenders like a ray of sunshine, reflecting her striving for happiness. If some talk of art as therapy for Maryam, I would say it is she who is healing us. Her thirst for life is infectious and is conveyed to us, just as she creates her paintings, in a single movement. All her painting is in fact one great movement. There is never any satiety here, just immense amazement at beauty. She tells us: look around you, look, there are no divisions, it is all you.
Rosemary Beach, Portrait of Louisa, Portrait of Madame Charpentier, Rest – these are works worthy of the greats that make you want to see her creative growth, to see where her painting takes her, when her work becomes even freer, when she flaps her wings and reaches beauty.
Maryam is a young artist to whom promises should be kept.
Maryam Alakbarli is a European artist, whose work encompasses major traditional genres of European art, such as still life, portrait, landscape and figurative painting. Self-portraits, too are European in style, and are part of Maryam’s work. We think of Lovis Corinth, Paul Cezanne, Edvard Munch and many more.
Good training and the southern light make themselves felt in her work. This is not restrained, tonal Latvian painting, but the fruit of another culture, whose motifs are fantastic and colours bright.
Maryam trained with a Parisian teacher, while expressionism and colour come from her homeland, Azerbaijan.
At first glance, Maryam’s work seems to be spontaneous and transient (direct). But when you look more closely at her pictures, for example at the still lifes which are close to my heart, it becomes clear that they are the result of concentrated observation. What makes me say this? Of course, it’s not that Maryam’s interaction with the world around her is, for objective reasons, unusual, often introverted, and allows her to see phenomena in their unhurried flow.
I have other arguments in favour of Maryam’s exceptional nature. Here I would like to draw a parallel with Latvian artist Aya Zarina. When her bright star appeared in the artistic firmament in the early 1980s, many people said that any child could draw her work. But a child can draw one piece and all the rest will be similar, as though all cut from the same cloth. Mastery is determined by variety, rich colour from one work to the next, which is especially noticeable in the still lifes.
Neither should we forget the expressiveness of concentrated, sometimes spontaneous gestures, which with a minimum of interventions define figures and their background – breathing, vibrating light. The people in her work are alive. The landscapes are alive too – the sea, flowers, cityscapes.
Two works about Paris are in Maryam’s catalogue – the Eiffel Tower and a view of a park that reminds me of my beloved Jardin des Plantes. I would like to have both pictures in my home in order to see again and again how the young artist Maryam can make a fresh, original and harmonious painting of a subject that has been painted a thousand times already.
Nonetheless, what I have said is not enough to reveal the artistic qualities of her drawing. Some kind of goal is needed. I feel a strong, utopian component in Maryam’s pictures – a desire to harmonise the world. This desire distinguishes her art from the painting of, for example, Neo-Expressionism.
The words of outstanding French artist, Jean Dubuffet, written in 1951 though just as relevant today, can be applied to Maryam’s work: “Painting operates with signs that not abstract or incorporeal like words. The signs in painting are much closer to the objects themselves. After that painting manipulates subjects that are in themselves living substances. This is why it permits us to go much closer than words can in approaching objects and their evocation. Painting (and this is quite remarkable) can more or less evoke things at will, that is, with more or less presence.”
My wish for Maryam is that she and her art will continue to evoke the real presence of things at will. It often seems to me that in art life is revealed more deeply, truly and attractively than in the bustle that we call our daily life.