An innovative artist develops scroll art for nomadic Kyrgyz

By Julia Kudaibergenova

Yuristanbek Shygaev is a famous person in Kyrgyzstan. He is known not only because he is now the head of Bishkek’s museum of fine arts, but also because he is one of the first artists who brought to Kyrgyzstan innovative styles of fine arts, such as pop art, vanguard, and other  mixed techniques.

As an artist, Shigaev is considered a master storyteller of ancient Kyrgyz myths. He shapes the legends and heritage of the people by layering geographical, philosophical, religious, and national symbols and signs to create rich, abstract canvases that have won him international praise.

In 1995 Shygaev was going to Europe to present his pictures at the art exhibition. The number of canvases was quite large and it was very expensive to transport them by airplane. So he started to think over making it easier to transfer the canvases. Finally he found the answer. He began to make his pictures not in traditional way – canvas under the glass with a wooden frame, but he made them in a form of scroll.

According to Shygaev, the scroll has certain symbolism. Because of its portability the scroll fits the national nomadic spirit of ancient Kyrgyz people. One of the themes of the scrolls is the national epic of Kyrgyzstan, “Manas.”

Also among of the favorite themes painted on the scrolls are poems and novels of famous Kyrgyz writer Chingiz Aitmatov. The scroll is a flag and banner of Manas, Kyrgyz national epic hero.

“For me the scroll is like a tumar (amulet), it supports and protects me,” said Shygaev.

The scroll is a mix of Kyrgyz nomadic traditions, because of its transportability, folklore, national symbols, signs and ornaments, and of modern trends in fine arts.

A scroll is like a tapestry on a large canvas (200×100 cm.) made from sackcloth, and painted by acrylic paint which doesn’t crack during rolling. At the top and bottom of the scroll are nut wood lathes which help keep the shape of scrolls and are used to hang them on a wall. The main feature of the scroll is its practicality and its weight, about one kilo. It is very easy to transport. Even a little child can hang it on a wall.

Absence of glass and wooden frames make the scroll alive, because it can be touched. The paint and structure of material can be felt by hands. The artist was able to combine functionality, practicality, and proportion in one work of art. This art innovation excites interest and admiration.

This work of art earned Shygaev not only a Grand Prix in 1995 in a Los Angeles art exhibition, but also international recognition.


2 responses to “An innovative artist develops scroll art for nomadic Kyrgyz

  1. I really love how you compared the scroll with the nomadic spirit. Very descriptive!

  2. The scroll is a fascinating piece of retrospective on media history. Some discussion of the scroll itself begs interest. Why the sword; why the falling man, why the faceless, stitched quality of the figure; what Atlas figure is holding up the inner rectangle? Anyway, fascinating.

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