Coryphaeus of national painting school: Byashim Nuraly

Photo: Yuri Shkurin

The history of professional painting in Turkmenistan is inseparably linked with the bright figures like Alexander Vladychuk, Ilya Mazel, Olga Mizgiryova, Sergey Beglyarov and of course, Byashim Nuraly whose talent was discussed when he was alive and after his tragic death. It is not only one generation of art scientists and lover who will debate about original author style of Nuraly.

Byashum Nuraly was of the same age of the 20th century - he was born on January 4, 1900. His father passed away when he was a little boy and he had to work for a rich man. After he became a shepherd in Hazydark settlement. In winter, he used to ride a donkey to Ashgabat where he was selling milk of the only cow in the house.

One day, Lady Fortune changed everything. Once at the bazaar, where he could not sell any milk, he was asked by the seaman to deliver all milk to the OAHS and then he would be paid for it. Byashim did not know Russian language but trusted the seaman. Having loaded milk jars to the donkey, they went together to the place with strange name OAHS. It appeared to be beautiful building with large windows. Having entered the building, Byashim was lost. There were bright landscapes on the walls, which looked like those he enjoyed every spring pasturing the flocks in Kopetdag foothills only not real but painted. It made such an impression upon Byashim so shortly, he became one of the student of Oriental Arts High School.

After it was closed in March 1925, the most talented students were sent to Moscow and Leningrad for further study. Byashim Nuraly was one of them. It was very hard and important period for the artist. His former teacher Ilya Mazel put him to the training school of Moscow Department of National Education to prepare himself to enter High Art and Technical Workshop. However, Russian language was an insurmountable barrier in learning of general theory disciplines. Besides, the style of Byashim Nuraly did not find any response. He was blamed in the absence of artistic lightness and non-adherence to the proportion of human body. If it was somebody else he would give up under the load of problems and non-understanding but Byashim was not one of those who yield facing the obstacle. He took offence, proved, argued but did not yield and stayed on his own.

Indeed, the manner of the painting of Byashim Nuraly is unusual. Oriental miniature, primitiveness and carpet ornamentation is traced in them. According to art scientist Pavel Popov, there are artists from the people, just like Byashim Nuraly was, in every country. In Germany, such art was called “the painting of plain hearts”, “the Sunday Painting” in Switzerland, “primitive painting” in America ,“the art of people painters” in France.

Upon his return to Ashgabat in 1930, Byashim Nuraly was offered a temporary job as a director of film studio “Turkmenfilm”. All new attracted Byashim Yususpovich like a magnet. That time the studio work on the movie “Seven Hearts” and they needed an actor for the role of the shepherd. “Why do we need an actor? Who can play this role better than the shepherd himself?” – He exclaimed. He played that role and became one of the first actors of Turkmen cinematography.

After a year, he married carpet maker Amansoltan he felt in love. The painter immortalize her beauty, youth and the eyes shining with happiness in the picture “The Portray of My Wife”. Looking at Amansoltan weaving the carpet in the evenings, Byashim discovered an innovator in himself – what if to weave the locomotive or stone buildings on the carpet instead of usual pattern. Amansoltan agreed with her husband and they started working on theme carpet, having given the start to other carpet artists by their example.

Byashi Yusupovich liked to dress fashionably. He probably adopted this feature from Director of OAHS Alexander Vladychuk. There is huge portray of dandyishly dressed first Turkmen painter, wearing riding breeches and spats, in Byashim Nuraly Ashgabat Children Art School. Having natural stratagem, he thoroughly thought of his appearance. It was noted that went he was leaving for Moscow he put on national dress – calpac and robe and was coming back wearing white tussah suit and carrying cane. He used to dress like Turkmen while in Moscow but when at home he wore European dress.

Probably, the invention of “ruleped” (kind of bicycle) by Alexander Vladychuk and cycling raid of the sportsmen from Ashgabat to Moscow made indelible impression on Byashim Yususpovich. He also started thinking about being an author of some novelty and after few years, he brought new musical instrument to the Union of Composers. It was something combining dutar, gyjak and tar (national musical instruments). However, it was treated like another oddity of Byashim Nuraly and as not supported.

During hard war years, Byashim Nuraly taught at children art school, the one that lately was named after him and which museum has new musical instruments that became one of the most valuable exhibits narrating of outstanding character of their inventor. “He looked like very strict teacher, - one of his former students Lyudmila Ulakina told. – We, the girls, were afraid of him but our rascal boys, having found out that after the classes he changed his dress and went to bazar with the bag of raisings, passed by as if occasionally and everyone got the handful of raisings, which was priceless dainties at those hard war times”. This interesting fact from the biography of Byashim Yusupovich indicates his good heart and his farmer’s eye.

The art of Byashim Nuraly has started from the picture “Kurban Bayram” (Eid al Adha), which he painted in 1923 being a student of Oriental Arts High School. It shows the women in neat national dress watching their young fellow villager riding the swings during the holiday. The picture made in traditions of oriental miniature by the colours and by plane solution. Nevertheless, this is what brings the interest of the picture how the beginner painter sees Turkmen women.

Later, we observe a lighter palette in his works. In this aspect, his picture “In the Registration Office” presents an interest. We see spacious room painted in light blue and decorated with the bunches of roses and two couple in love who will be pronounced as a husband and wife any moment. Byashim Nuraly greeted new spirit of the times that allows young people to choose who to marry. The atmosphere of the solemnity of the moment is delicately transferred by the author.

Democratically thinking Byashim Yusupovich hailed the emancipation of oriental women. This leitmotif was reflected in all his work but specially in the picture “Bakhshy among the Shepherd” where spectators perception is focused in soloing female player. It is significant that the characters of his adult works do not look like silent predecessor of his works who cover their faces from people look at them. They feel themselves equal among the men.

In 1974, Byashim Nuraly, the painter from the peple, was awarded the title People’s Artist of Turkmenistan.

The life of this man was wonderfully rich with radical fortune turns and bright impressions: one day he is shepherd, another day he is painter, artist, teacher and inventor. Even his death was exclusive. In the centre of the Karakums near Darvaza settlement, the plane he flew from the journey crushed.

The charm of Byashim Nuraly was so strong that Turkmen painters often address his image in their works trying to solve the formula of his personal and artistic attraction. Aman Jumayev made one of the most successful sculptures of Byashim Nuraly. It is placed at the entrance of Ashgabat Children Art School that have his name. There is a boy with dutar next to him and the artist himself thinks of the plot of new picture…