It’s not easy to name all the titles that Azerbaijani artist Chingiz Babayev holds. This artist, sculpture, designer, poet and theorist is as diverse in what he creates as the materials he uses. His characteristic work includes urban, historical, social, political and existential issues. For him, trying various mediums is a great way to express an idea.
CBW interviewed Chingiz Babayev about the messages in his projects:
There are quite analytical, philosophical and even political aspects of your works. Please tell us more about your photo project Cloud Dreams. What events do these maps represent?
I love clouds! I am always watching them. I live on the 17th floor and the only view I have is sky. And maybe that also makes me close to the clouds. As for my works—“cloud maps series”—I was trying to express the world map and different countries’ maps, including Azerbaijan and Georgia, pure and clear as clouds. My wish to see all the world as transparent and light as clouds seem for us. But on the other hand, clouds are not permanent, they do not have borders and those outlines they have can disappear at any time. So my “cloud maps” show us that everything is temporary and fragile in this life.
I must admit, one of my favorite works of yours is ‘’River of Human Pains.’’ What impacted your artistic expression?
Well, there is a story of how I came to this point. Once upon a time, years ago, I made a black and white self-photo portrait, but it was not selfie, because mobile phones functioned only to make a call back then. Otherwise I would take it by phone, like a selfie (I’m joking). Of course I took it by professional camera. It was a screaming face of mine, I made some changes on photoshop and printed it in black and white in quite a big size. After, I decided to sculpt small-scale grotesque portraits of different screaming human faces with real stone in their mouths. I separately sculpted their hands, and each portrait had pair of hands trying to get out of the stones, i.e. pain, but they never could succeed. I was thinking of human pain in general all over Planet Earth—do we hear them? Do we feel this pain? These and many other questions still remain unanswered.
Do you interact with the digital world/technology in your work?
I am using different mediums as tools but not always myself—I do ask friends and colleagues or order professionals to do this job for me. I actually prefer to minimize usage of those contemporary technologies in my art works, but I do use it when necessary.
The diversity of the materials you use is very impressive: silver jewelry, carpets, clay, installations. What’s it like switching from one to another?
As I mentioned above, I use different materials when I need them not because they are nice—I use them as tools to express what I need. First of all comes the idea, and only then the medium. Stanislavski once said: professional is the person who knows what and how!
What’s the story behind the carpets series which is kept at the Baku Carpet Museum?
My carpet “Resistance,” made in 2017, remains in the permanent collection of the Azerbaijan State Carpet Museum, and because of that I am very honored and proud. The story is about a personality that can resist the stereotypes of a so-called “conservative” society. In this carpet I used animals, birds designed as traditional Azerbaijani carpet patterns. So in general this carpet looks quite traditional, while the content is contemporary. Those ornaments don’t exist in any other traditional Azerbaijani carpets, I invented them specially for this carpet.
You had an exhibition in Georgia where you exhibited a photo projection on urban places and played with light. For me, it felt like it’s quite meditative and still, what meaning does it have for you?
Yes, indeed, I had solo show at the Container Gallery in Tbilisi. The project title was “Light” but photos were about shadows created by light in different urban locations. There are interiors and exteriors, architecture and just sea views, but in all of those images I saw magic of light which creates magic shadows. Light is separating white and black, like in our lives. All these constructions erected by humans, separating them from natural life. Unfortunately, we are so far from real nature, it’s even hard to imagine. This project was an attempt to remind us of this issue.
What are you currently working on, what new techniques should we expect from you? Do you have any upcoming exhibitions in Georgia?
Actually I am still working on my carpet sketches and planning a solo show in the near future in Baku and Vienna. Also, I am working on silver jewelry and silk scarf designs. Currently I have no plans for an exhibition in Georgia but would be very happy to have this opportunity.
Thanks for the interview!