A few weekends ago, a friend and former coworker was visiting from Almaty and offered to show us her father’s art studio in Bishkek. Her father, Jyrgal Maturaimov, is a very talented painter. Farrell had seen some of her father’s paintings that she had posted on Facebook, and we had already decided that we need to take one of them back to the US with us. The hard part would just be deciding which one.
His studio is in one of these unassuming old concrete apartment buildings, just like any of the dozens that are scattered across the city. I carried Darwin up several flights of stairs and plopped him on a bed in one corner of the room, next to a shower, which I imagine both come in handy following long nights of painting.
Darwin slept while we admired the pieces on display. Jyrgal would explain the influence behind some of the paintings (that’s me, that’s my grandmother, that’s a wheat silo) and try to point out the paintings’ flaws (I don’t like this, I think I’ll paint over it). Meerim, his daughter, told us he’s a terrible salesman, but he didn’t convince us.
(We’re between the yellow-y one of three blind men that are sort of in the shape of a camel, and the orange-y one of the young boy and old woman sitting next to a grain silo. But let’s be honest, I’d love to end up with any of them.)
It was one of those thick, overcast days, and the light in the studio was soft, but faint. Some of the paintings used bright, almost neon colors, like fuchsia, royal blue and shocking reds. Others were so subtle that I had to wait for my eyes to adjust before the canvas looked like anything other than a mess of brown brushstrokes. (Although it’s obvious in the photo, the painting below of the man with the birdcages is like this, and the effect in person is quite striking.)
It’s so rare that I get to experience real art like this up close, and I was thrilled.
Darwin, on the other hand, was apathetic to his first visit to an art studio.
I already own a shyrdak, the ubiquitous traditional Kyrgyz felt rug, but I think one of these paintings would make an excellent (and unique!) souvenir from Kyrgyzstan. What do you think, which one is your favorite?