Central Asia in Art: Art Historian Aliya Abykayeva-Tiesenhausen in conversation with Hamid Ismailov

Semion Chuikov, A Daughter of Soviet Kyrgyzia, 1948. Oil on canvas, State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow.

Semion Chuikov, A Daughter of Soviet Kyrgyzia, 1948. Oil on canvas, State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow.

Join us for a conversation with art historian Aliya Abykayeva-Tiesenhausen about her new book Central Asia in Art, with celebrated Uzbek author, Hamid Ismailov. 

Presenting the 'untold story' of Soviet Orientalism, Abykayeva-Tiesenhausen reveals the imperial project of the Soviet state, placing the Orientalist undercurrent found within art and propaganda production in the USSR alongside the creation of new art forms in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. 

The book reinterprets art production in Central Asia within the context of the Soviet propaganda mission during a time of social and cultural transformations, and uncovers how Soviet and Stalinist depictions of Central Asia are still in use in modern representations of the region.

From the turmoil of the 1930s through to the post-Stalinist era, the author draws on meticulous new research and rich illustrations to examine the political and social structures in the Soviet Union - and particularly Soviet Central Asia - to establish vital connections between Socialist Realist visual art, the creation of Soviet identity and later nationalist sentiments. 

Petr Konchalovsky, Portrait of V.E. Meyerhold, 1938. Oil on canvas, State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow. © Petr Konchalovsky Foundation.

Petr Konchalovsky, Portrait of V.E. Meyerhold, 1938. Oil on canvas, State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow. © Petr Konchalovsky Foundation.

Erbossyn Meldibekov, My Brother, My Enemy, 2001. Colour photograph. Courtesy of the artist. © Erbossyn Meldibekov.

Erbossyn Meldibekov, My Brother, My Enemy, 2001. Colour photograph. Courtesy of the artist. © Erbossyn Meldibekov.

Aliya Abykayeva-Tiesenhausen is an art scholar of twentieth century and contemporary Central Asian art. She was born in Kazakhstan and now lives and works in London. She received her doctoral degree from the Courtauld Institute of Art.

She formerly worked as an icon specialist at Christie’s London and is deeply involved in the promotion and exploration of Central-Asian art. Her work has included: co-curating an exhibition of Rustam Khalfin’s works at the White Space Gallery, London; co-organising a conference on Russian Orientalism at Cambridge Central Asia Forum; organising ‘Beyond Borat’ symposium on contemporary Kazakhstan culture and co-convening ‘Framing the Other: 30 Years after Orientalism’ conference – both at the Courtauld. Aliya has published a number of articles on the subject. Central Asia in Art was published in June by I.B.Tauris.

Born in an ancient city in what is now Kyrgyzstan, Hamid Ismailov is an Uzbek novelist and poet who was forced to leave his home in Tashkent when his writing brought him to the attention of government officials. Under threat of arrest, he moved to London and joined the BBC World Service, where he is now Head of the Central Asian Service. In addition to journalism, Ismailov is a prolific writer of poetry and prose, and his books have been published in Uzbek, Russian, French, German, Turkish, English and other languages. His work is still banned in Uzbekistan. He is the author of many novels and books of poetry, including The Dead Lake (Pereine Press, 2014), which was nominated for the 2015 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize. His book The Underground (Restless Books) was published in 2015. He has translated Russian and Western classics into Uzbek, and Uzbek and Persian classics into Russian and several Western languages.