Artist Oguljeren Babaeva: I Draw My Inspiration from Nature
Turkmen artists’ studios are located in one of Ashgabat’s cozy neighborhoods, where the capital’s past and present coexist in harmony, and the area exudes vibrant and creative energy. The Golden Age correspondent has visited artist Oguljeren Atageldyevna Babaeva in her studio.
Oguljeren grew up in a creative family: her father Atageldy Nurmammedov worked at the Mollanepes Turkmen State Drama Theater, and her mother was a dancer, who gave up her stage career to devote herself to her family.
Oguljeren spent much of her childhood in the theater. Her father often took her to his theater rehearsals, and the girl dreamed of becoming an actress.
By the age of 12, she had started painting seriously and had shown good musical abilities as well. Her parents, who had met thanks to the world of art, enthusiastically supported Oguljeren’s creative endeavors.
On her mother’s advice - Mahym Nurmammedova - she eventually decided to concentrate on painting. Even then Babaeva created her works in her personal, distinctive style, blending realism and fantasy and experimenting boldly with colour palettes and composition.
At 16, the girl entered Shota Rustaveli Turkmen State Art College. When she was a fourth-year student, Oguljeren caught the eye of the film director Baba Annanov, who offered her a role in his drama ‘Doves Live in Kyarizes’ (underground water-collecting tunnels). Oguljeren had dreamed of studying under the tutelage of People’s Artist of Turkmenistan Durdy Bayramov, who was looking for four new students among State Art College graduates to be taught at his studio. Therefore she declined the offer.
While practicing at the studio of Bayramov from 1979 to 1984, Oguljeren traveled all over Turkmenistan, searching for subjects for her paintings. The artist was particularly impressed by a large number of architectural monuments and our country’s native plants.
During this period, works by Babaeva were displayed for the first time as part of republic-wide and international art exhibitions. The famous graphic artist Dmitry Spiridonovich Bisti, who produced illustrations for books by Samuil Marshak, epic poems by Homer, among others, and authored a textbook on graphics, praised works by Bayramov’s students for fine, flowing lines and deft brush strokes.
The Soviet graphic artist’s praise acted as an additional incentive for Oguljeren to apply for admission to Moscow Polygraphic Institute in 1984. Her main aims were to improve her brushwork, master the art of book illustration and easel graphics. The then-student was taught by Andrey Vladimirovich Vasnetsov, a direct descendant of the great artist Viktor Vasnetsov, and Larisa Vasilievna Kopylova. The artist remembers her mentors with great fondness and appreciation.
After Turkmenistan achieved its independence, Oguljeren worked as a school textbook and children’s book illustrator for a long time.
Babaeva had her first solo exhibition in 2005 and was presented with the Türkmeniň Altyn Asyry Award of the President of Turkmenistan in 2009 for a series of graphic works and paintings.
Oguljeren draws her inspiration from nature, history, traditions and architectural monuments of Turkmenistan. Among plants unique to our country her special favorite is the ferula or ‘the goitered gazelle’s bowl’. Pieces of jewelry she paints in her works add a decorative touch to them.
Oguljeren often depicts historical monuments of Turkmenistan in her paintings and graphic works. The artist’s most recent works reflect her impressions of a 2019 visit to the architectural monument, the Seyit Jamal ad-Din Mosque in Anau, whose portal features two dragons facing each other.
When creating her works, the artist chooses a genre matching her mood. She finds great delight doing pen and ink drawings of images conjured up by her imagination. The drawings are totally unique, because they are done without rough sketches.
In 2018, 16 graphic works by Oguljeren were included in an international exhibition in Sweden. In 2020, her works were on display at art galleries in California (the USA) and in St. Petersburg (Russia) as part of the online project ‘A Touch of Music’.
Babaeva is now working on two paintings: ‘On the Swing’ devoted to Ashgabat’s 140th anniversary and ‘Kejebe’ that shows one of the national wedding rituals.
Photo: Vyacheslav SARKISYAN