Curator of Exhibition Center of Montreal University,
Scientific worker of Le soi et I'autre group UQAM University

Bodies-masks of Vagif Rakhman

Each one has his own path in the dale of time. And each one moves of his own free will.
Some plod along sensing their lot, Others rush in the heaps of the Passion...
Khakim Bulibekov

Prior to modernist revolution sculpture was almost exclusively connected with the problem of body: human-, animal-, mythological one. All such creatures as gryphons, centaurs, sphinxes had real bodies: fighting, reaching, absorbing, copulating. The tradition turned to be so lasting that the first experiments of "cubistic" and "mechanical body" by their authors continued mechanically being associated with "girls", "clowns", "musicians", "loving couples" and so on. Perhaps, only Russian suprematism and constructivism added in the West by sculpture "ready-made", minimalism and any such sophisticated innovations of "dehumanization" restricted the frames of this realm of body in sculpture, however not to the end and not for long. Criticized, prohibited, separated and torn away body survived and its representations remain to be one of the main problems in plastic arts.

Meanwhile, sculpture developed within the framework of soviet space though had common roots with sculpture of the West still traversed its own path in many respects different from the latter. Its main problems after denial of formal path offered by avant-garde, man-machine, collective body, heroic body, typical body and, at last, individual and erotic body remained within the bounds of figurative and, what is the main thing, humanistic tradition called in question and destruction in the West. It might be asserted that poetics of body changed in the course of soviet epoch. Not only its image became less and less naturalistic but, for the most part, changed types of its representations: it was evident that the heroic beginning gave way to lyrical one, and, alongside with this, corporal itself more and more gave way to imprints and traces of the spiritual start. On the post-modern threshold former soviet sculptors, thus, traversed another path unlike their western colleagues, and, correspondingly, the post-modern itself in the present Middle Asia sets and solves other problems in contrast to the West. In the creative work of Vagif Rakhman we see many-sided post-modernist body for which the main thing is relation of the outer and the inner, part and a whole, form and content, envelope and letter. The body presents itself open and frequently hollow whereas outer appearance as carnival and often sending the looker to personages of del-arte comedy. In this sense, possibly, it would be more correct to perceive it as body-mask.

However, mask played too diverse roles in the history of culture so as we could confine ourselves to this attractive association. It would be more correct to connect body-masks of Vagif Rakhman with those peculiar functions that mask takes upon itself in conditions of post-modern. Perhaps, more interesting theoretical source for this could be the dissertation of Uzbek researcher Sabira Gulyamova "Mask as a theatrical problem". Within the scope of the given work there were described transformations of mask which being changeable and easily adapted symbol to circumstances played various roles in the course of new and newest time. Man-mask of del-arte comedy changed in the epoch of Romanticism to man under mask: in the latter case mask served as protection, cover for a vulnerable personality. Then approaches another stage: mask for which memory of culture sets aside all possible substantial values often masks not the personality but just its absence. At this stage arises the problem of plurality of masks and absence of the own face. Apparently, this classification would organically include the concept of "simulyakra" by which Jak Bodriyar ends his description of signs implying that behind the mask of such kind hides the absence of whatever content.

The form of bodies in works of Vagif Rakhman sends us to the problems of post-modern: these bodies are hollow, their flesh is apportioned, in it arise unexpected voids, they may be perceived at gleam, often representing a transparent skeleton in the spirit of Jan Kokto portraits. In them one can see fragmented body as, for example, in Marcelle Dyushan (Couple de tablier, 1959) or Alberto Jakometti (Table surrealiste, 1933). In them one may also guess right the theme of envelope which as wrote about post-modernist body Jak Fontainy, - serves as surface for other kinds of notes and imprints, both of corporal and mechanical kind.

However addresses of Vagif Rakhman to these post-modernism layers seem rather formal whereas on the whole characters created by them retain an obvious connection with a humanistic tradition which saw flesh in the body and in the flesh "incarnated spirit". Behind fragmented, half-transparent details of bodies created by a sculptor one may always guess right an entire image. Particularly boldly this method of demonstration of "spiritual whole" through "corporal partial" is incarnated in a series "Hands" where sculptor demonstrates various types of human emotions and relations through plastics of hands of invisible personages ("You and me", "Prayer", "Friendly meal"). Within the framework of our museum this series is exhibited in the thematic exposition "Hands" together with pictures of London painter Timur De'Watts. That's why, if to speak about image of body as mask then in Vagif Rakhmanov it is present rather not as post-modernist simulyakra but as mask type going up just to carnival and Italian people's comedy. That is, we meet here as well as in a great many artists presented in the museum certain reminiscences concerning imaginary gone time and space. Romantic and symbolic remarks dressed up into postmodern mask.

Interaction of two materials is featured in works of Vagif Rakhman. It may be wood and paint, metal and glass or metal worked up to glittering gold luster "from the outside" and exposing all wealth of texture and patina "from the inside". In this case, one of the materials takes upon itself a role of "outer envelope", another that of "inner one" whereas the function of content is more often fulfilled by that void space which is exposed within sculpture. Just because of this, at perception of Vagif Rakhman's works light is of a specific importance. Flowing through sculpture it penetrates inside and shoots out of it bearing the feeling of "inhabited void". It is not accidental that the last series of sculptor's works is executed in the original genre combining sculpture and stained-glass window. Physical light refracted by body-stained-glass window is inevitably associated with "light" of spirit and almost religiousness. Thus, mask-screen transforms into mask refracting and exposing a certain essence.