Arts professor and master silversmith Serzhan Bashirov, whose work inspired the start of this blog, is in the United States this month. He exhibited his work at the Pueblo Gem & Mineral Show in Tucson, and is now in town visiting Gulnara and exploring local galleries. Handmade jewelry from Kazakhstan is rarely found outside Central Asia because not enough is made for large-scale export.The opportunity to see an artist's collection here in the US is a rare treat.
On Saturday Gulnara hosted a private reception to showcase Serzhan's work. Yes, I came away with a pair of modest but beautiful silver earrings, with Serzhan's signature spiral motif. But what really struck me is how the photographs just don't do justice to his work. The bone incorporated into several pieces is brighter and creamier than the pictures show, and the silverwork is both sturdier and finer. He also had many newer pieces not shown in the store; one large filigree pendant, with green and blue gemstones, is just stunning.
Serzhan is currently Professor of Applied Arts at the State University of Almaty. He has been working metal by hand for most of his life, beginning as a child watching his father work in their home workshop. In his studio now, Serzhan works alone, using the old simple tools employed for generations by Kazakh craftsmen. His contemporary jewelry is firmly rooted in historic Kazakh traditions, often using signs of the four elements -- sun, fire, water, & earth.
Fire and the sun are both enduring, radiant, pure and life sustaining for the artist; the cross and spiral are their symbols. A spiral symbolizes eternal life and spiritual growth; Serzhan's spiral is always clockwise, following the sun's movement. Ancient Kazakhs went round their yurts only with the path of the sun; otherwise, chaos.
A cross with four equal points represents the 4 directions: south, west, east, north. The four elements enclosed by a circle represent the sun. Other motifs often found into Serzhan's work are the ram's horns (richness & fertility), and the shanyrak (the crown of a yurt, and symbolic center of the family).
Serzhan is married and has 2 daughters. His hobby is collecting antique rugs. In 2004 Serzhan's "Umai" silver jewelry was the first from Kazakhstan to be awarded a UNESCO Seal of Excellence; in December 2006 he won the award again for a silver bracelet. His art is in museum collections in Astana, Moscow and Warsaw. Serzhan showcases his art at a gallery/shop in a yurta in downtown Almaty.
More information on Serzhan and his work:
Bio at Karavan-Art
Review of Gallery Opening ("interestingly" translated)
Artist Info at the Tumar Art Group site (Kyrgystan)
Photo of a piece shown in Tucscon
Description of a 2005 joint Navajo-Kazakh exhibit in Almaty