Ramina Saadatkhan: The happiness to start work and not know what’s to firstname.lastname@example.org
G.ART Gallery is pleased to begin collaboration with Ramina Saadatkhan, an artist from Azerbaijan. She lives in the capital city of Baku, an ancient city with a hot sun and turbulent history, sea, and oil. Her amazing paintings combine European modernism, traditions of regional folk art, and a trusting childlike views on the world. In an interview with Ramina, we talked about creativity, the Venice Biennale, abstract art and ancient carpets, interest in Iranian culture, the state-of-the-art market in Azerbaijan, and much more…
Modigliani, Picasso, and children: How it all began
Ramina’s artwork is very impressive, but to be completely fascinated by it, you have to see how the author works. It is a real miracle – out of chaos a narrative is born, men and women, fantastic creatures, plants and animals, musical instruments, and tropical flowers emerge from smudges of paint and scraps of paper.
It is not obvious to everyone that years of study are hidden behind works that visually border on naive art. It seems so easy to paint and everyone can do it, right? Ramina studied for eight years, first at art school, then at the Azerbaijan State Academy of Arts. In the third year, she recalls, the desire to do something less academic and more individual appeared. And one should thank her teachers, who appreciated Ramina’s impulse and took her compositions with interest. At that time the young artist was fascinated by Modigliani, learned from his canvases, and explored the possibilities of color.
But Ramina Saadatkhan, as we know it today, was created largely… by observing the work of small children. In the way they paint, Ramina saw immediacy, boundless freedom, and absence of fear. “I’ve always envied that they have so much freedom, they just have to like themselves! Children’s drawings inspired me,” says the artist. – Picasso was like that, he would invite children into his studio and watch them draw with admiration”.
painting by Ramina Saadatkhan
Codes of the East and genetic memory
Experts have noted metaphysical, the struggle of elements, exquisite eroticism in Ramina’s pictures, and the balance of the abstract and figurative in the spirit of ancient Oriental art, miniatures, and carpets. The artist agrees: “It’s a genetic memory, my paternal and maternal ancestors are from Iran. I am always drawn there. I have never been to Iran, but when I look at old things, at art objects I want to do something close to my spirit. Carpets are related to abstraction, their codes, symbols, and schemes are exciting to me”.
Using but not repeating is the most important thing in art, for what distinguishes an artist from a craftsman is his capacity for creative rethinking. In Ramona’s paintings, the rhythms and hot colors of the East are harmoniously combined with the boldness of European art: both technical and thematic.
painting by Ramina Saadatkhan
Painting without a sketch
When the artist creates the first layer, pouring and smearing paints on the surface of the canvas, it seems to be abstract expressionism. But then Ramina adds collage elements, with great ingenuity traces contours of figures and objects, covering them with bright local pigments…
If you manage to create a work in one breath, says the artist, you feel powerful energy in it. A story is created on the fly, impromptu, without a plan or a sketch. Ramina is very fond of the element of surprise: “That moment of joy, when you start working and do not know what happens next. And in the process of work, you discover something new step by step and come to something in the end.
In this element of creation, precise details suddenly emerge and make the narrative appear voluminous. For example, Ramina used the famous synchronous dials, Perfect Lovers, by the Cuban-American artist Félix González-Torres – as an occasion to talk about corporeality and love in its various forms.
painting by Ramina Saadatkhan in process
Traveling around the world – working at home
For a European viewer, this and similar works by Ramina – with stylized, though still naked female figures – would hardly look too daring and shocking. But let us not forget that the artist lives in an Eastern country with its specific traditions and boundaries. She understands that themes of the body, gender, and sexual energy of women are not easy for the public and critics to perceive and she does not exhibit some works in her homeland. She also sees the problems of the Azerbaijani art market: isolation and financial constraints; the best artists leave the country and successfully work in the West.
We could not help asking Ramina a provocative question: maybe she should also leave for the West, closer to buyers, to big galleries and art fairs? But it turned out that for now, she is not considering such an option: “I’m not thinking about moving to Europe. I have the opportunity to travel and to exhibit in various countries. And of course, I don’t want to leave my country, I need to develop my art here”.
painting by Ramina Saadatkhan
The year 2022 was a turning point in Ramina’s career. It began with her participation in the 59th Venice Biennale along with six other masters from Azerbaijan. At the Procuratie Vecchie in Piazza San Marco from April to November, they are presenting the “Born to love” project. Ramona’s series of monumental paintings is entitled Energy of Chaos, and a fragment of one of the works, incidentally, was used for the poster! Shortly, the artist is planning to take part in several projects and exhibitions, for instance, in mid-September, Ramina will be taking her work to Istanbul.
Will Ramina Saadatkhan be the same tomorrow as she is today? Will her paintings change? “Right now I want to work even more freely,” she says, “to move away from some already familiar forms of images. I have no idea what it will be like. I want to change. In general, our whole life is a perpetual movement, a constant change, and discovery.
Ramina Venice Biennale