Legends of the Caucasus

The poetic story of the life of the Chechen people, lyrical and tragic, meek and heroic, is revealed in Rustam Yakhikhanov's works. His graphic works and paintings reflect his deep respect for the land of his ancestors and his love for his history and people. His heart's memory echoes in his pictures of national heroes, landscapes and usual live of Chechen people.

The exhibition "Legends of the Caucasus" is a kaleidoscope of vivid national images, which tell visitors about the history, culture and people of this mountainous region. It is the people who are the main ideological focus of the exhibition. These are personalities that have made history: heroes, rebellion leaders, commanders of military detachments or loners - all those who stood up for their people. But it is also the images of those who often remained in the shadows, in the rear - women: mothers, wives or children. As time goes by, in the minds of people who honor the memory of their ancestors, historical heroes who defended their homeland, their honor, their traditions, their land turn into legends: stories about them are passed from mouth to mouth, they become examples and moral reference points, encouraging and inspiring. This is how legends of the Caucasus are emerging.

The central part of the exhibition is dedicated to twelve graphic works devoted to the heroes of the history of the North Caucasus. The creation of the graphics began several years ago, when the Chechen clothing brand "Boomzi" offered the artist a collaboration with them. This collaboration gave Rustam Yakhikhanov new goals, in which he was able to go beyond his usual creativity, and create the interaction of his works with everyday life in a completely utilitarian context. Working on the ideas that were to be later used in textiles and consumer goods was a peculiar challenge for Rustam: he had to create images that could convey different and complicated characters of the heroes, emphasize their national character and at the same time the artist had to draw them in a unique, modern manner. On top of that, the drawings had to be technically executed in such a way that they would look equally good on a T-shirt and a phone case. As a result, artworks in which the strong drawing and the generalized shape solution predominate, have appeared under the master's hand. A peculiarity in these images was the absence of drawn eyes: it was a difficult task for the artist to create a finished emotional image of a man without a glance. But this also became a characteristic detail in the graphic work dedicated to the heroes of the Caucasus, and gave the images a certain monumentality. The painter managed to convey individuality and character of each of his personages only through color, its contrasts and the dynamics of the line.
Working in collaboration with "Boomzi", Rustam Yakhihanov pursued a very difficult, noble and important goal for modern person: to popularize his cultural and historical heritage. As the author himself says: "the artist can give a lot to the society". And Rustam feels and uses the impulse of the modern world, he puts national and historical subjects into a modern form, he manages to find a suitable mechanism that corresponds to our time.

As if in contrast to such bright and stylized interpretations of the images of legendary historical figures, the exhibition presents two monochrome lithographs with images of Sheikh Mansur and Tughuzhuqo Kyzbech. In these pictures the artist turned to an absolutely realistic method of interpretation, and as a result, the graphics turned out in the tradition of the best samples of lithography of the 19th century. Thus, the viewer at the exhibition has the opportunity to compare how multifaceted the same image is interpreted and revealed in different artistic techniques.

The other part of the exhibition sounds completely different: quiet, meek, and light - these are tender images of girls, wives, mothers, and children. Many hardships and trials have befallen Chechen women throughout history. However, they have always stood by their families' rear, inspired their defenders, helped the wounded, and often, like their men, stood nearby and spearheaded the enemy's bayonets with daggers.
They always protected not only their honour but also the honour of the Chechen people, the inviolability of their customs and traditions, on a par with the men, and continue to do so up to this day. It is not for nothing that an old Caucasian wisdom says: "When you raise a boy, you raise a man, and when you raise a girl, you raise the whole nation". All the hypostasis of female personages are found on the artist's canvases: girls, women, brides, mothers, grandmothers, warriors. In contrast to the chiseled, compositionally sharp graphical sheets with historical heroes, these canvases are filled with tenderness and light, respect and love, they are distinguished by a special poetry and by the natural joy of perceiving the world. Women's images at the exhibition are represented in reproduction of the paintings by Rustam Yakhikhanov, printed in high resolution on foam board sheets. The original canvases belong to permanent museum collections or private collections.

A separate part of the exposition is occupied by the works executed in the technique of linocut, which is new to the artist. About a year ago he discovered the possibilities and plastic features of printed graphics, which can create more linear and " sharp" compositions, to transmit the rhythm and "nerve" of historical images. To one of these linocuts in the exhibition presented printing forms for each color from the print. They show almost a step-by-step printing of such a work, which allows visitors to the exhibition as if to have a glimpse into the studio of the artist, to see the amount of work he is doing.

Variety of techniques, in which the work at the exhibition a are made, Rustam Yakhihanov on the one hand shows the wide range of his creative abilities, and on the other - tells visitors and introduces their view a variety of artistic means of expression.

The exhibition "Legends of the Caucasus" brings together tradition and contemporary artistic experience. Rustam Yakhikhanov was able to convey the great willpower and the will to live, unbending spirit and wisdom of his people, who have been able to survive despite their difficult history.
An exhibition with such rich content - historical and artistic - dedicated to the preservation of national identity, appreciation of the importance of one's nationality, and its value, is essentially unique. In the unusual form of narration about historical characters founded by the artist, he wants to promote the development of self-consciousness, education of culture of international communication, as well as the preservation of the vast cultural and historical heritage in a modern format. Rustam Yakhikhanov sees in the multinationality of his native country its strength, its uniqueness, its peculiarity; and aims to awaken interest in the history of its people.

Art historian
P.V. Nikitina.
"Ethno Caucasus" 2021. Linocut.
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