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Aspan Gallery, Almaty, Kazakhstan, presents its first UK Exhibition at Cromwell Place

Almagul Menlibayeva: It’s Easy to Be a Line / Yerbossyn Meldibekov: It’s Difficult to Be a Point

5 October – 18 October 2020

Aspan Gallery, Almaty, Kazakhstan, is pleased to present its first project in the UK – a duo exhibition by two of Central Asia’s most prominent contemporary artists, Almagul Menlibayeva and Yerbossyn Meldibekov. The exhibition is part of the inaugural programme at Cromwell Place, a first-of-its-kind hub for the arts in the heart of South Kensington, opening 5 October 2020.  

The exhibition titles come from a phrase by an important Soviet avant-garde artist Sergey Kalmykov (1891-1967): “It’s difficult to be a point – it’s easy to be a line, as everything in our world is moving”. Kalmykov moved in the 1930s from Moscow to Almaty, where he was able to paint his imaginary parallel universes with fantastical creatures, far removed from the Socialist Realist constraints imposed by the Soviet State. Kalmykov was an important historical figure, and whilst under-recognised, the fact of his existence itself had a tremendous impact on the development of the contemporary art scene in Central Asia.
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Almagul Menlibayeva, Exodus, 2009, Single-channel HD video
For Meldibekov, the existence of Kalmykov is one of many events, like the re-naming of a single mountain three times in the course of a century, depicted in the Lenin Peakinstallation (2007-2014), or 10 monuments replacing each other on a 300m2 square in Tashkent, documented in Transformer (2013) and Contest (2010), which could have happened only in Central Asia. Time flows differently in Central Asia, according to the artist, and that’s why all kinds of strange events happen there. In his artistic practice he explores these occurrences through video, photography, installation and performance.

“During the struggle between the colonies of Britain, Russia and China in Central Asia, there was one city that had a strategic importance. Transport nodes of Central Asia, the blood circulation of the whole body took place, were connected at one point in the city centre. This point is 300 m2 in size. From this place constantly emanated impulses, similar to the heartbeat, and sometimes magnetic storms. They gave out all the biological movements of a large monstrous organism.” Yerbossyn Meldibekov
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Yerbossyn Meldibekov, Lenin Peak, Installation view, Kasteev Museum, Almaty, 2015
Menlibayeva also explores the painful histories of Central Asia in her video and photography work. In her seminal video Exodus (2009) female spirits dressed in black are seen thrashing their hair against the backgrounds of concrete ruins of former concentration camps, mixed with the images of a large number people packing up their yurts and leaving, reminding not only the myth of Moses leading his people out of Egypt, but also the current migration crisis.In her work, Menlibayeva often draws parallels between lines and forms she finds in the steppe with the female body, comparing low round tables used in the yurts to breasts, or scarce steppe vegetation to the body – in parts smooth, in parts hairy. For Menlibayeva, fluidity is one of the main characteristics of her work and female identity.

“Working with the mediums of video and photography made me an observer of endless realities, it transformed my relationship with the surroundings. Textile, felt and threads taught me fluidity. They are complicated architectural materials, that can connect distances and create spaces, become a black hole, bend spaces without corners, and spread out like a huge projection.” Almagul Menlibayeva

About Yerbossyn Meldibekov
Yerbossyn Meldibekov’s monumental installation Transformer is currently displayed at the Garage Museum in Moscow, as part of the Square Commission project (until 29 November 2020). In 2015, Aspan Gallery staged Meldibekov’s’ mid-career retrospective Eternal Return at the A. Kasteev Museum of Arts, Almaty, curated by Viktor Misiano. Notable recent group shows include Eurasian Utopia: Post Scriptum at the Suwon I’Park Museum of Art in Suwon (2018), Signature Art Prize at the National Museum of Singapore (2018), Suns and Neons above Kazakhstan at Yarat in Baku (2017), BALAGAN!!! in Berlin (2015), the special project of the 6th Moscow Biennale Svoiia zemlia/Chuzhaia territoriia (2015) and Grammar of Freedom at Garage Museum of Contemporary Art in Moscow (2015).

About Almagul Menlibayeva
Almagul Menlibayeva’s recent notable exhibitions include a solo show at the Grand Palais in Paris (2016) and the group shows Asia-Pacific Triennial at the Queensland Art Gallery in Brisbane (2020), Lahore Biennial (2020), Focus Kazakhstan: Bread & Roses at the Momentum in Berlin (2018), Elective Affinities at the NCCA in Moscow (2015), BALAGAN!!!in Berlin (2015), Moscow Biennale (2015, 2011) and The Union of Fire and Water at the 56th Venice Biennale (2015).

About Aspan Gallery
Aspan Gallery is a contemporary art gallery based in Almaty, Kazakhstan. The gallery’s mission is to represent and support multidisciplinary work by Central Asian artists through exhibitions, publications, residencies, educational programs and commissions.

In 2015, the gallery initiated a series of mid-career retrospectives from a number of Central Asian contemporary artists, held jointly by the A. Kasteev Museum of Arts and Aspan Gallery in Almaty. These were the first museum shows in Central Asia of these artists who, although internationally acclaimed, are little-known in their home countries.

The gallery’s focus on Central Asian contemporary art is complemented by its international programme which will introduce a wide range of contemporary art to Central Asia and provide a platform for its understanding and appreciation. It believes in the capacity of art to develop critical and creative thinking, and through that, to transform and open up society.

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