Kazakhstan is a country of great contrasts, of seeming disparities thriving side by side. Whether that is more than 130th ethnicities living in harmony, a traditionally Muslim culture fully open to the world’s modern ideas or its uber-modern capital city nestled in the vast natural beauty of the Kazakh steppe, young Kazakhstan is a study in diversity.
And the country’s culture of contrasts recently caught the eye of renowned German artist Bernd Luz, who told EdgeKz that he was fascinated by the country’s embrace of two contrasts: modern urban infrastructure surrounded by well-preserved wildlife and nature. That inspiration turned into a Pop art series, and this summer and for the first time, Luz presented his Pop art interpretation of Kazakhstan in the National State Museum in Almaty.
The paintings that Luz exhibited June 13 through July 9 are defined by the character of the country, its culture and heritage. “I wanted to show big and colorful variety, the flair, the particularity of this place and also express a lot of emotions I have for this country and the cities in my KazArtPop-Paintings,” Luz explained. His works can be divided into three categories: the wild animals of Kazakhstan, images of traditional Kazakh life and photography-based depictions of the country’s urban infrastructure.
Nature is one of the main sources of inspiration for Luz, which is why one of his series of paintings is devoted to Kazakhstan’s natural diversity and beauty. The artist chose to depict the most significant and symbolic animals and birds traditionally associated with this country: horses, wolfs, snow leopards and golden eagles. Luz chose to focus particularly on the animals’ eyes, which give the viewer a sense of the animal’s strength, fearlessness and pride.
Kazakhstan’s traditional culture is also unique and has been formed over many centuries. Luz captured this culture formed on the ancient steppe through his depictions of the country’s nomadic past. His works depict men and women in traditional garments in front of traditional nomadic tents, known as yurts, and against backdrops showcasing vast and serene steppes. Luz said he hoped the works would also help showcase Kazakh culture in Germany. “I want to show this country and its rich history in the frameworks of my exhibitions and make it an impetus for travelling and having a vacation here,” said Luz.
The last series of Luz’s Pop art works depict the unique architecture in Kazakhstan’s capital, Astana, and business center, Almaty. Travelers and locals familiar with those cities will easily recognize Astana’s Ak Orda Presidential Palace and Baiterek Monument, as well as Almaty’s unique Orthodox Church, National State Museum and skyscrapers. The mixed photography-paintings represent the developing urban life and prosperity of these two cities.
In creating his Kazakhstan series, Luz pushed the boundaries of the ways in which this country is traditionally represented to an international audience. Luz combined painting and photography to create dramatic, colored canvases. “The texture of my paintings is a mix of brush and spatula. I like to work with a very big spatula, about 40 centimetres. So I can make a unique effect. I also use from two to four photography layers in different colors and print them one over the other,” Luz explained to EdgeKz.
Luz also said he appreciates the comments that he has heard about the series from Kazakhstan residents who are pleased that he has depicted the country in a unique way.
Although, the exhibition was well received and was extended due to popular demand, Luz was told while preparing for the exhibition that this is not what people in Kazakhstan really like. “Many people warned me that locals only appreciate the old-fashioned style paintings in golden frames, depicting nature drawings of rivers and mountains and that this is not a proper time for my exhibition. Maybe in 10-15 years such art will become popular here,” Luz told EdgeKz.
Despite that warning, Luz’s work was well received and the artist’s popularity in Kazakhstan has significantly increased as a result of the exhibition. Luz says he is going to come back to Kazakhstan soon and continue working here. “It is now like a second home for me. And there are still so many places and things I want to see and visit that will give me inspiration for my new exhibition.”
Bernd Luz is also owner of the RevoLUZion (revolution) advertising and design company, which has representation in Germany and Switzerland. To see his works, visit www.berndluz.de.