Author: Valentina REZNIKOVA
Anar Shamsiyev is only 31 years old. He is an artist by passion, state of mind and daily mental process, which, in addition to the ‘usual suspects’ received from his ancestors manifests new and independently developed aspects. They are a product of rethinking the phenomena of the modern world. In the focus of his interest as an artist is a person; a person with all his problems and imperfections, with all the small and big worries, with all the experiences and searches: his place under the sun, his own self in the structure of contemporary times... Why does not he become a psychologist or becomes a specialist in the increasingly popular gestalt-therapy and gestalt-psychology? Because he strongly believes that fine art influences our state of mind and soul more than any medicine. Because art can heal us no worse than any traditional therapy. And maybe even better. Because it is the visual arts that can make humans more humane, better in quality and manifestation. It is amazing to learn about the humanistic view of our compatriot on the essence of things and his practical contribution to the idea of preserving and developing spirituality in humans.
In Azerbaijani, ‘Anar’ means an intelligible, wise person. After three hours of conversation, we can confirm that this is true. From early childhood, his relatives told him that he was born with a brush in his hand. Since then, he’s almost never parted with his brush. This, of course, is an allegory, yet it allows us to award Anar with an honorary title of Artist.
Education in high school was easy for Anar. He treated the learning process as a hobby, an exciting game. He could easily champion the school competitions in subjects that were far from humanitarian. It was a game! For Anar, physics, chemistry and mathematics were the practical manifestation of the main and only true discipline – fine art. After graduating from high school, he nevertheless opted not for the exact sciences but on painting. Many blamed him for being impractical. Anar was surprised and amused by this criticism coming from his friends. He firmly believes that the love should determine the choice of a job of life for any person. Because everything in this life, like life itself, begins with Love. Utopia, you say? Sounds archaic? Who knows?! Anar is an idealist and romantic. His philosophy of life resonates with the Age of Renaissance. He regards his art as a tool that makes him perceive not only the surrounding world consisting of people and their ideas, but also oneself.
"Each person is a special and interesting world. I like being a part of this world..."
He has the right not only to make such a statement but also to reflect on it, constantly improving his communication skills with people aged 5 to 60 years. Anar Shamsiyev, a graduate of the Baku Academy of Arts (2015), has so far had 16 foreign and domestic exhibitions (one of them is his personal). Since 2014, he has also worked as a teacher. He proudly says that he was a teacher of drawing at school, that he conducts master classes for the Yarat contemporary art space program, as well as master classes at the Museum of Azerbaijani Painting of the 20th-21st centuries, that he is teaches drawing at preparatory courses. He even pronounces the word ‘teacher’ with special trepidation and respect. He believes that teachers have a special mission on Earth. And it doesn't matter where the teacher transfers his knowledge and skills to people - in the university’s lecture hall, high school, studio, or through a dialogue with his audience using his canvases exhibited in a museum. Confirming his point of view, he immediately began to talk about the works of Sattar Bahlulzade, Picasso and Tahir Salahov. The difference in the artistic styles of famous masters and Anar's love for their work prompted the following question:
"What’s your favourite genre in visual arts?"
"Nothing specific. I think that an artist should try his hand in all genres and trends of classical and contemporary art. The main thing is to materialise your thoughts during these trials and experiments by answering the questions ‘why am I doing this?’, ‘what’s my message to the audience?’, ‘who is my audience?’."
"What kind of artists did you teachers try to make you and your fellow students at the Azim Azimzade Academy of Arts?"
"Making us free to choose our own style, genre and theme, be creative... Creativity was both encouraged and welcomed. Always. We were taught that it is possible and necessary to speak with the audience only if we have a soul. No soul – no conversation. It’s impossible to become an artist otherwise. In addition to other skills, including the technical skills."
There are quite a few of his works in the tiny workshop: still-life paintings, landscapes, portraits, even a self-portrait, which is a work in progress. From an amateur’s perspective, Anar’s works are very interesting from the technique of performance and his thoughts expressed in the works. Let’s take, for example, The Sage. Eyes burning with sorrow and a presentiment of something dramatic! The longer one looks in these eyes, the more clearly he sees through time. Involuntarily, I thought about the pandemic. Should I ask when Anar completed this work? Why? I interpret it as much as I can. Everyone has a right to his own interpretation anyway.
Teaching in dialogue
"Why do you do this?"
“I mean teaching. Isn't it more interesting to retire in the studio, alone with the canvas, with your thoughts and feelings?”
"It's not the same for everybody. For me, teaching means the continuation of the creative process. Kind of art with its own laws. The laws of humanity and trust. I believe that teaching is my passion. I like my teaching approach, which is a process of collaborative creation. I feel that my students, regardless of their age, get more from the learning process than pleasure. And I see how their lives are gradually changing, becoming brighter and better."
"What’s the law of harmony for you?"
"I haven’t thought about it. Perhaps because I create the harmony myself."
"Through art. It helped me see myself and the people around me from a different angle. Through teaching, I help other people see and know themselves."
"It sounds too beautiful. Can you expand what you mean?"
"My practical experience. Before realising this, I went through my own ‘universities’, the ones that I organised for myself. I have worked in completely different areas, which were far from art. I have even worked as a bartender! Then I realised the primitive truth: whatever we do in this life, we must love what we do today, here and now. This is the only way to create our own harmonious life. I loved and still love everything I did, and everything that I do. This love gives me joy and meaning to everything that happens. The feeling of harmony does not depend on the amount of money one has earned. It depends on love. I live with this..."
Life is like improvisation
"This period of pandemic, did it affect the course of your life?"
"Alas. I got to know and saw in many people what I have never known before."
"Did it upset you?"
"I felt disappointed. But it helped me understand another important point related to human soul: we are a reflection of thoughts we ‘carry’ in our head. Apart from being a test, difficult times such as this one help reveal this simple truth. Nothing is secret any more. Someone can pass these tests with dignity, while others cannot."
"What about the 44 days of the war?"
"They made us cleaner and more honest in relation to ourselves. It put an end to the long-standing and rotting problem. We got rid of a pain that tormented us for almost thirty years. But now everything is different."
"Are you going to use this as a new topic in your artistic research?"
"Quite possible. But not right now. I'm not ready yet. This was a theme for my students. They depicted their thoughts and feelings on the canvas. I am not yet ready to take out what has not yet matured in me completely. I need some time. The war should materialise itself in my artistic thoughts. But I can see no image yet. Some scattered thoughts here and there plus strong emotions are not effective. It is necessary to transform the emotional upsurge into a finite Idea. This is the only way to depict the war the way I feel and understand it."
"What does ‘being happy’ mean to you?"
"It means being healthy to be able to help other people and support those who need it. The way we did it during the war. Happiness means an ability to maintain positive and good mood under any circumstances..."
"What do you expect from life today and in the future?"
"I'm not expecting anything. I live a simple life. I'm not planning anything. Just living! I could not predict my life yesterday, nor can I do it today and tomorrow. The pandemic and the war are proof of this. But I know that there are people whom I visit and who need me. This is their life, and I am a part of this life. There are my obligations to them and to myself. I have my own goals in this life. But the goal is an Idea, not a plan for practical implementation."
"In other words, your life today is a sheer improvisation..."
"Exactly! Improvisation. And no one can think of anything better than that!"