Art keenly reacts to modernity, recreating the visual image of an epoch as a whole. Each landmark in the development of states and nations remains in the memory of mankind because of art.
We live in a time when art is becoming increasingly globalised. However, in the mid 20th century, the world of art was quite different. For one-sixth of the globe, art was divided into two mutually exclusive concepts — Soviet and Western. Although the achievements of western European culture — including the development of 20th-century modernism — had become part of the west’s cultural canon, they were absent from the world of Soviet art.
But time doesn't stand still, even in a country as tightly regulated as the USSR. At the end of the 1950s, innovative Azerbaijani art that contradicted Soviet art ideology developed on the periphery of official art. In the 1960s, artists who deviated from the Communist Party line were no longer arrested. They weren’t banished to Siberia and shot as they were in the terrible 1930s. Instead, they were punished differently. Their artworks were ignored. Nor were they shown at exhibitions, as the artists themselves were not permitted to travel abroad. The Soviet Government simply pretended that these artists did not exist. Free from the watchful eye of State officials, they found self-expression, and became independent creators. But they paid an expensive price for this freedom. They had to refuse success, glory, and financial security. They have passed away in obscurity. But today Azerbaijan honours their names, and considers their artworks to be Azerbaijani art classics.
Azerbaijan proudly presents their works in Beyond the Line within the Azerbaijan Pavilion in the 56th International Art Exhibition - La Biennale di Venezia 2015, which showcases the work of the Soviet period non-conformist artists Javad Mirjavadov, Tofik Javadov, Ashraf Murad, Rasim Babayev, and the sculptor Fazil Najafov. The exhibition also includes the film ‘Stepping over the Horizon,’ directed by Shamil Najafzada from a script based on the memoires of Sarah Oghuz Nazirova, an art historian and critic. Additionally, it contains an installation by Huseyn Hagverdi, whose career suffered under Soviet rule, but whose creativity nevertheless blossomed. His sculptural installation greets visitors to the exhibition, and bridges the lives and creative output of two eras – the era of Soviet totalitarianism, and the period of Azerbaijan’s independence. Dedicated to all those who travelled a difficult and thorny road to freedom, this work binds together generations. It says that memory is alive, and that true art is imperishable.
This hallmark for the fine arts of Azerbaijan — an exhibition that showcases masterpieces of avant-garde art from the last century — is made possible by the initiative of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation and the personal participation of the First Lady of Azerbaijan, Mehriban Aliyeva. With the support of Mehriban khanum Aliyeva, these priceless artworks leave Azerbaijan for the first time to appear before a general and professional public at the oldest, most important, and most prestigious art world event: the 56th International Art Exhibition – la Biennale di Venezia.
Emin Mammadov, Artistic Advisor of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation