Postcards: Honolulu, Hawaii
Classical Arabic poetry was directly influenced by the historical events of its time. As with other literature from regions belonging to the Silk Roads, it is deeply rooted in spatial and temporal realities. Due to sparse documentation and fragmentary evidence of literary works, concrete evidence about the early developmental stages is lacking. Nonetheless, it is known that the literary heritage of the classical period included numerous collections of poetry, maxims and proverbs known as amthal, narrative genre, and rhetorical prose. This literature can be divided into two demarcated phases. The first phase dates from its origins to 660 CE, and includes what authors have referred to as Jahiliyya, or the period before Islam. The second phase dates from 660-750 CE.
Literary material attributed to the first phase constituted a variety of legends involving fools, cowards, crafty individuals, and accounts of mythical creatures. These were orally transmitted by poets who enjoyed immense public prestige due to their linguistic prowess. Two elaborate forms were implemented that later acquired considerable prestige, eventually being recognized as classic structures of Arabic poetry: the marthiya, strictly reserved for funeral elegies, and qasida (the ode), which served as the framework for all thematic developments due to its unity of style and tone. Three generations of poets applied a diversity of these elements in their art. Notable pioneers of the first classical phase include Imru’ al-Qais bin Hujr al-Kindi,oftentimes considered the father of Arabic poetry, al-Muhalhil Adi ibn Rabia’, Tarafah ibn al-ʿAbd, and Ka‘b ibn Zuhayr. These poets succeeded in imprinting individual sensibilities on poetic discourse that was viewed as an aesthetic, literary model for successive generations.
During the second phase of classical Arabic poetry, the marthiya and the qasida both continued to evolve, thus reflecting imminent societal concerns. These included the development of Islam, as well as the cultural symbiosis produced by its rapid expansion. Therefore, poetic expression expanded in directions which encouraged exploration of the self, political commitment, and deeper meditation. As a result, poetic themes transformed, producing three new genres: the love poem (ghazal), the political poem (al-Shi’r al-siyasi), and the ascetic poem (zuhdiyya). Moreover, the development of Arabic poetry at the end of the 7th century and beginning of the 8th century was accompanied by a significant renewal of literary prose. This was reflected in an intense diversification of the art of rhetoric, which reflected the eloquence of oratory discourse in a variety of themes. It was also apparent in the creation of a new genre, the epistle, written in a fluid direct style that used picturesque expressions and strongly accented rhythms.
Finally, this developmental transformation was evident in the acclimatization of the fable, such as Kalila wa-Dimna, a collection of Indian fables. First written in Sanskit, with origins possibly dating to 4th century, it was subsequently translated into Arabic by Ibn al-Muqaffa in the 8th century. Translated into over fifty languages, it is still read in contemporary society. Due to the reciprocity of these exchanges, these literary forms also transferred to other languages and cultures, such as Persian and Turkish. Through the originality of their content and elegance of style, these works inaugurated a new literary period that embodied the creative contributions from a diversity of cultures.
image © Zhenia Perutsk
sources provided upon request
Postcards: Paris, France
Bernard Arnault, President and CEO of luxury goods conglomerate LVMH, collaborated with Canadian-American architect, Frank Gehry, to create a new museum in the Jardin d’Acclimation. Extensive and costly renovations were estimated to be approximately 158 million Euros. The French cultural center has been dedicated to artisanal crafts and traditions, and is located in the Bois de Boulogne in the former Musée des Arts et Traditions Populaires (MATP), an ethnographic museum which has been classified as an historical site. Since the MATP is classified as an historic site, it cannot be sold. The city of Paris struggled to find a new tenant willing to undertake massive renovations of the defunct building. Therefore, Arnault has agreed to a 50-year lease at 150,000 Euros per year in order to create a new museum, which is housed in a building adhering to sustainable development codes.
The building is located just 300 meters from Arnault’s Fondation Louis Vuitton. Inaugurated in 2014, it was also designed by Gehry. By transforming the MATP into a lucrative asset, Arnault has increased visibility of the Fondation Louis Vuitton. For example, welcomed more than 1,200,000 visitors to its Chtchouckine collection. It has also strengthened awareness for the LVMH brand universe, further highlighting the importance of artisanal work and exceptional craftsmanship inherent to the brand’s DNA. Over a three year period, the MATP will be subsequently renamed La Maison LVMH / Arts – Talents – Patrimoine. The 13,600 square-meters of usable space includes exhibition rooms, gallery spaces, an artisanal workshop welcoming resident artists, an event hall, and a rooftop restaurant.
The collaborative efforts between Arnault and the city of Paris could be viewed as a strategic maneuver. Geographical expansion of the mogul’s empire would not be farfetched, especially after its aggressive and failed attempts to acquire Hermès in 2010. Designed by architect Jean Dubuisson (1914-2011) in collaboration with Michel Jausserand and Olivier Vaudou, Georges-Henri Rivière’s MATP officially closed its doors to the public in 2005, and its 250,000 art objects were transferred to the Musée des civilizations de l’Europe et de la Méditéranné (MuCEM) in Marseille. Since its closing, the MATP has fallen into a state of disrepair due to conflicts with the city of Paris and the Ministry of Culture. The city of Paris hopes to decrease its debt burden with these recent collaborative efforts between Arnault and Gehry.
Postcards: Honolulu, Hawaii
Interview with Russian Artist, Oleg Sheludyakov
I met Russian artist Oleg Sheludyakov (b. 1971) while we were both living in Berlin, Germany several years ago. His gentle, unassuming nature complemented the intensity of his gaze, revealing a highly intuitive, introspective individual whose visual language matches his intellectualism. As a friend and avid supporter, I have followed his artistic journey and continue to remain inspired by his ability to evolve. The artist currently resides in Marseille, France. His work was recently part of the Yellow Butterfly Effect exhibition in his Siberian hometown of Novosibirsk, Russia.
I asked Sheludyakov to describe when he decided to embark on this particular journey, and it would seem that he was always destined to become a professional painter. In 1977 his parents enrolled him in Kaleidoscope Fine Art School for children. He recounted with nostalgia being completely enchanted by the ambiance of the atelier with its fresh smell of paint, life-like plaster models, magical paint brushes, colorful palettes, and a profusion of art history books – a veritable Paradise on Earth. It was during these formative years that Sheludyakov decided to embark on a non-traditional professional path.
The artist’s trajectory has been susceptible to frequent oscillations and shifts in forward momentum. However, it has never diverged far from its intended course. At the age of 17, he began his studies in architecture at the Novosibirsk Engineering Institute and later graduated with a degree in Philosophy and Humanities from Novosibirsk State University in 1995. He then studied monumental painting at Novosibirsk Fine Arts and Architectural Academy and drawing at the Fine Arts Academy in Saint Petersburg, Russia.
Sheludyakov’s paintings clearly reflect his Russian sensibilities lightly dusted with French influences – a charming combination which reinforces the enigmatic nature of his work and clearly distinguishes him from other contemporary artists. Over the years, the prolific painter has capitalized on a vast artistic repertoire and solid work ethic. His work is deeply personal, reflecting profound intellectual and artistic growth.
The artist’s signature work reflects a very specific iconography and complex visual lexicon, with extensive references to his native Russia. He has masterfully implemented particular subjects, images, and applied techniques which faithfully appear as leitmotif. The nu féminin (female nudes), seaside and urban landscapes, nautical themes, music, animals and a profusion of cobalt blue throughout are primary examples.
With half of his international clientele preferring the nu féminin, Sheludyakov’s work is constantly evolving and reflects a deep appreciation of the female form. This fact intrigued me, and I was interested in the specific demographics of those who purchase his nu féminin. External variables such as age, nationality, and profession vary widely – from students to investment bankers. Sensitive to feminine beauty, Russians tend to be the most frequent buyers, followed by Germans, French, and Americans, who often purchase his most expensive works.
Subject, style, color palette, and technique afford a clear, visible translation of human emotion and themes. The vast spectrum may range from pure, gentle and harmonious to somber, expressive, and frenetic. With a large percentage of his work explicitly devoted to the creation of the nu féminin, I was curious as to origins of this admiration. His response was both philosophical and poetic. The artist believes very few things rival the ethereal beauty of this particular genre. He is careful to define beauty within the realm of abstract or conceptual theories. By respecting the boundaries between intangibility and physicality during the creative process, Sheludyakov is able to explore the origins of beauty, grace, femininity, elegance, harmony, and sensuality without restraint. The question remains as to how Sheludyakov chooses his models. Selection of nude models is surprisingly uncomplicated — acquaintances, friends, or family members, for example. It is simply a matter of identifying specific traits unique to each individual, and then accurately translating those traits into a cohesive image.
Sheludyakov only has one exception: professional models. Through experience, their body has become a logical, physical tool which remains distinctly detached from their authentic self. This ultimately limits emotional emancipation and decreases the possibility of unveiling the true, feminine essence. Although this degree of professionalism is highly admirable, the artist prefers the innocence of amateur models. Sheludyakov is known to be a prolific painter, so I asked about the duration of the entire process. He stated that creative processes vary from beginning to end. For example, the technical aspects of creating a nu féminin are somewhat similar to that of painting landscapes or producing images from the imagination.
However, the existential journey inherent to the production of a nu féminin is unrivalled due to lasting emotional bonds between subject and painter; painter and canvas. Commissioning live models facilitates the creative process by guiding line, form, and volume. It is important to remain vigilant so as to avoid producing flat, naturalistic work. Thus, understanding the difference between the physicality of form and a more profound, metaphysical side is essential.
The same holds true for landscapes. The immediate perception of colors, interpretation, and subsequent translation of experiences is more powerful during the plein-air painting process. Sheludyakov attempts to expedite the entire process in order to retain a certain freshness and spontaneity. For acrylic works, three to four days is sufficient. However, oil paintings require more finesse, averaging approximately ten days.
Once the paintings are finished, Sheludyakov lovingly releases them to the public with an open heart. When asked to define an exceptional painting, in general, the artist confidently stated that a true chef-d’oeuvre is the antithesis of indifference because it evokes admiration and encourages reflection. This type of work reaches deep emotional depths of the spectator and ultimately has the power to inspire others.
I recently obtained my third Master of Arts degree in Global Communications from the American University of Paris, and I have conducted extensive doctoral research about the effects of globalization on the Opéra national de Paris, so I was curious as to how the current international climate has personally affected Sheludyakov. It is evident that the globalized economy has transformed the art market, artists, and artistic production.
The notion of evolution is a salient topic which artists cannot ignore. Remaining in an isolated sphere is no longer a viable option or lucrative alternative. Sheludyakov is clearly aware of this paradigm shift in contemporary society and adopts a philosophical approach. Since creativity does not exist in a vacuum, artistic evolution is directly linked to inevitable transformation, active exploration, and ultimate change defined within the context of relevant sociocultural parameters – even if this approach may sometimes lead to an impasse.
Unfortunately, the sale of Sheludyakov paintings has suffered due to globalization and the inevitable democratization of the art market. Throughout the 1990’s until the early 2000’s, there was a strong appreciation for Russian contemporary artists. Since then, interest in Russian art has decreased significantly. In addition, the internet is saturated with artists of every genre, rendering it difficult to clearly differentiate one’s brand. Fortunately, Sheludyakov has maintained a close circle of faithful collectors and gallerists over the years. This is partially due to a resistance to short-term trends, increased online visibility that has been carefully nurtured, and complete confidence in the creative process.