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STAMP

8.05.2019 - 4.06.2019

The word “Stamp” holds a direct and figurative meaning. The stamp, as a tool with a carved-out design to imprint it on paper or wax, but also the stamp of this design used to certify a recognizable set of characteristics of something within. "Stamp" can also be a sign, a symbolic imprint of a past event. There are other meanings and the versatility of this word helps to understand the deflection of thought and ideas within the exhibition. The object installations with bread stamps fulfil both- their meaning and purpose. They do not deviate either from their form nor function as an object but are instead endowed with the status of a work of art. Meanwhile, the floating boat is completely taken out of its original context, losing its function and purpose as an object. This boat cannot transport anyone, thus completely altering its purpose to becoming an art installation, even though it can never be perceived as anything else but a boat.

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Arystanbek Shalbayev shifts from one medium to another, at times with subtlety and at times with severity, all the while keeping within the framework of the overriding theme of this exhibition project. We see the object in all its essence and physicality. With its usual function from everyday life, he directly conveys the meaning of the work. For example, "The Last Drop", presented in various mediums- as an installation of 70 buckets of water, diagonally opposite a looping video and audio of a single dripping bucket of water. Alongside it is an oil painting, where the same object is elevated to the status of the main subject, and the image elevated to the status of a work of art. The same parallel can be drawn between the dialogue observed within the "Stamp" installation positioned by the painting bearing the same title. 

Why do everyday objects become works of art? Their accessibility and familiarity help discover a common language with the exhibition. Everyone is aware of what bread is, and everyone knows what water is for. Kazakhs are often perceived as superstitious people. Our tradition is to impose additional meaning onto commonplace objects. Arystanbek uses the bread presented in the installation "Bakery on Pushkin Street" as the conclusion to his series titled "Tears of an Immigrant Worker", shedding light on the period of mass relocation of those with no other choice other than to leave their homes and families in search for work, or in other words to be the “bread-winner”. At the same time, bread remains sacred to many who have experienced famine during their lifetime or through stories told by previous generations, which shows the impact of economic development and historical events on the "mentality of insufficiency", leading to a halt regarding spiritual development.

The material and objects, chosen by the artist, undoubtedly have their specific texture characteristics: rust on metal buckets, hand-crafted oars made of bone, an old shovel and a wooden lid from the cauldron, stamps for specific to make patterns on freshly- baked "tandyr flatbread". These are objects that refer to our customs and traditions, regardless of whether we have experienced them. They speak about our culture and classify us. The question is, what do these objects portray today? It remains a question whether it is possible to maintain the traditional way whilst being a citizen within a modern world. Substance acquires a sacred meaning, where bread has not yet become a body, and water has not yet been transformed into wine. In his works, the artist often intertwines the global with the local, the private with the public. The installation titled "Rain" is sited in dialogue with " Destination", alluding to East and West, where the hands have an anthropomorphic image. The boat- a vehicle not for the living but for celestial bodies. A means for the dead to cross over to the next world. The soul of the deceased goes to perdition on the boat of death and returns on the boat of resurrection. The artist explores personal inner anxieties, asks existential questions. "...too firmly chained to the galley of his time not to row with the others, even if that galley stank of herring with too many overseers and, in addition, it had gone down the wrong course" (A. Camus). A confrontation between a man crying out for peace and the reckless silence of the world. The artist goes into internal reflection, but he is not alone, he remains alone with himself.

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