Surprisingly, but Lekim Ibragimov had no prerequisites for beginning his creative activity and becoming world-famous. He was born in 1945 in a small village (Kichik Dehan village of the Uygur district of Almaty region in Kazakhstan) in the family of ordinary school teachers. There were no museums or art clubs in the area where he lived. However, his parents were investing their souls in fostering Lekim. His father was fond of reading and this hobby has defined the live of his son. In the books brought by his father, Lekim, being a boy, managed to discern his true vocation. His complicated path to become the artist has started when he began copying the book illustrations. It was followed by designing the wall newspapers during his school years school. And when, Lekim decides to stake it all. So, in 1962 he goes to Almaty trying to enter the art school. It was not surprising that he has failed the exam: I just was not prepared, explains Lekim.
These obstacles were temporary. ‘If a man is granted a talent, says Lekim – and if it is predestined, together with the talent he also gets necessary opportunities and conditions to apply this talent, circumstances promoting his growth and personal development, and possibilities to advance’. The family has created for Lekim such conditions, they did not request his return, but continued to provide him moral and financial support. Thus, Lekim stayed in Almaty where he was taking the lessons of painting. Two years later, he finally becomes a student of the Almaty Art School named after N.V Gogol. After graduation from the Art School in Almaty, he continues his education in Tashkent, having entered the Tashkent Institute of Theatre and Art (graphics department, 1971-1977). Later, Lekim goes in Moscow where he has an internship at the "Senej" House of Artists, which is followed by a period of studying in Baltic countries where he masters the graphics techniques.
It is not a coincidence that Uzbekistan has been chosen as a place for living and development of the career of the artist. Lekim has decided that it would be an ideal country for studying ancient art he was always interested in. The masterpieces of the ancient architecture, applied and decorative arts, traditions and customs that were preserved here and that represent a synthesis of many cultures by virtue of the Great Silk Road, used to be an irresistible temptation for Lekim. So, it is not by accident that later, looking at the paintings of Lekim Ibragimov, a viewer would inalterably recall oriental miniature painting and ancient frescos.
In Lekim’s live there have always been people, who were supporting the painter in all his initiatives: his wife, Mariam, also a painter and professional decorator, has managed to organize all the necessary conditions for creative activity of the future acknowledged maоtre of painting, assisting and helping him. Thus, it is not surprising that Lekim’s son, Gayrat, has also become a painter. However, he has chosen his own path (in the painting).
Lekim recalls his numerous friends and tutors with gratitude: Brigitte Stahnke – a well-known German art critic and historian, organizer of Lekim’s exhibitions in Germany; Irina Alexandrovna Antonova, Director of the Pushkin museum of Fine Arts, and many others. All of them used to guide Lekim through his career of the artist because he never stopped his searches. Neither does he stop it now. ‘I bear a heavy stone. Wasn’t I looking for an easy one’, this is how would Lekim describe his searches.
He has gained recognition rather quickly. Almost immediately after his graduation from the Tashkent art institute, in 1978, Lekim became a member of the Union of Artists of Uzbekistan and a little later – a member of the Union of Artists of the USSR. In 1989 he has taken part in his first international exhibition in Luxembourg. Lekim recalls this with the excitement in his voice: ‘For the first time in my life I was so far away from my home, for the first time in my life I was receiving such recognition’. This exhibition was followed by other ones – in France, Germany Austria, Japan, China, India, Bangladesh, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan… Nowadays he counts dozens of such exhibitions and vernisages. Each of them is a certain milestone in the career of the artist. Apart from that, there are also titles and awards! In1999 Lekim Ibragimov was awarded a title of the Academic of the Academy of Arts, and in 2001 he was awarded a title of the ‘People’s Artist of Uzbekistan’.
‘A dream of every painter is to be in the same category with such masters as Ilya Repin, Valentin Serov and Victor Vasnetsov’», was saying Lekim. This dream came true only in 2008 when he was admitted to the Russian Academy of Arts. ‘I could only dream to get recognition of such level. I was suddenly put in the same line with the leading masters of visual arts, examples and true men of genius’.
The works of Lekim Ibragimov can be found in many museums and galleries throughout the world, such as Ferenc Hopp Museum of East Asian Arts (Budapest, Hungary), State Museum of Oriental Art (Moscow, Russia), Novosibirsk State Art Museum (Novosibirsk, Russia), State Fine Arts Museum of Uzbekistan (Tashkent, Uzbekistan) and many others.
Perhaps, it’s worth thinking about the differences between the artist and the ordinary person. Is it only a talent? Or, maybe it is also such qualities as ability to admire, artistic sensitiveness and delicacy of perception? Hundreds of tourists, who have seen the fresco paintings in Turpan or Afrosiab, have forgotten about it already the next day, and only a true Painter is can stop sleeping and loose his appetite, feel excitement of his admiration and stand before the canvas with a brush in his hand for days, looking for something… And this is when the search ends and creation begins.
The project «Thousand angels and one painting» is also a milestone in Lekim’s career. This giant painting consisting of one thousand independent fragments is inspired by the ancient art. ‘Metamorphosis and not a mosaic’, insists the author. Not a thousand of pieces, senseless and dependent on each other, but unity in diversity and diversity in unity. Generally speaking, it is an alternative art, an alternative to the main line chosen by contemporary art as a model for development.
This game with the form and the content suggests the following definition – the ‘Workshop of potential painting’, by analogy with the ‘Workshop of potential literature’ (OULIPO – Ouvroir de la littйrature potentielle). The OULIPO School was established in France in 1960. Its followers considered that the literature can be mastered by means of purely mathematic methods. They were examining the potential of the language and were using the methods of transformation of the text, which has sometimes resulted to very unusual metamorphosis. Such approach has led to a range of literature experiments. One of the most striking examples is probably provided by the oeuvre of George Perec ‘Life: A user’s Manual’. The book is based on the history of life of the different residents of an apartment building. The house itself is in fact a Graeco-Latin square, where moving like a knight in a chess game from one apartment to another the author is developing his story.
Just like the followers of this school, Lekim is examining the frontiers, but the frontiers of painting. He looks for the New Harmony, adjusted grace and beauty. It is an artistic experiment, imposed by many years of experience and searches of his own way. The painter himself has described it in a very laconic, poetical and touching manner:
«Message-book was I looking for many years.
I was falling,
Once I woke up:
The book was inside me».