Over 100 contemporary art cognoscenti and friends of Azerbaijan, including H.E. Fakhraddin Gurbanov, Ambassador of Azerbaijan to the UK, visited The Gallery in Cork Street, located in London’s prestigious Mayfair district, on 14 December. Here, they attended the private view of the first exhibition by Azerbaijani artist Gyunel Rustamova.
Born in Baku, Gyunel draws inspiration from her travels and experiences living in Azerbaijan, Switzerland and the UK, and her childhood memories of growing up in Nagorno-Karabakh – an Azerbaijani cultural centre that is now under Armenian occupation. Holding a degree in Economics from the Azerbaijan State Economic University (2000), Gyunel has merged her business expertise with an interest in art and design, attaining a degree in Fashion and Fine Art from the London College of Fashion and Central Saint Martins’ College of Art and Design. She has since lectured at the Azerbaijan Academy of Art, launched a fashion brand, and worked as a fashion consultant and adviser in her native country.
Gyunel completed the series of 13 paintings on display in Cork Street whilst staying at her family home in Contemporary art connoisseurs were intrigued by Gyunel Rustamova’s symbolism Baku. The works playfully reflect her life on the shores of the Caspian Sea, mixing dark humour with her diverse life experiences and multicultural background. In Gyunel’s Legend, the artist gestures towards a 1970s adaptation of the traditional Maiden’s Tower myth as a popular children’s cartoon. Named after the cartoon’s ill-fated princess, Gyunel intends the work to be both autobiographical and historic in nature. The largest work, Lunch at Skyscrapers, Swings, combines Gyunel’s first encounter with Lewis Hine’s iconic photograph of Empire State Building construction workers with memories of her grandmother. The violets refer to her grandmother’s favourite flower, whilst the presence of a child’s swing is a nostalgic interpretation of Hine’s exposed apartment beam. All of the artist’s images are evocative, yet deeply personal.
From popular culture to a fascination with psychology, Gyunel proves the scope of her talent to be limitless. In Late or Not? Gyunel presents a hyper-real portrait of a bikini-clad woman in the Caspian Sea squeezing a pomegranate – a symbol of abundance and prosperity. The red juice trickles down her wrists like a trail of blood, its colour filling the sea and the sky, whilst a swimmer enters in the horizon. Sigmund Freud dines with Lecter, My Love – inspired by the popular film The Silence of the Lambs – depicts a dinner scene between Hannibal Lecter and Sigmund Freud; Freud representing the vitality of mind and body, Lecter a symbol of death and decay. The equilibrium of life and death is presented in a delicate balance, displaying Gyunel’s extraordinary ability to produce narratives that are rich in meaning and symbolism.
All of those in attendance at the private view were astounded by the variety and intensity of Gyunel’s vision. This exhibition was supported by Color Studio, the Qiz Qalasi Art Gallery, The Gallery in Cork Street, and The European Azerbaijan Society.