What will artists, novelist, playwrights and film-makers make of the current coronavirus crisis? Will there be a huge new body of work focused either on the deep dark depression of the crisis or on the joy and new world as we come out of it, ready for the next such contagion is around 20 years time.
Just occasionally, in this world of a multitude of artistic media and themes, you find works which are personal, emotional and draw your breath. The obvious 20th century example is Picasso’s ‘Guerenica’ which is all the more moving if you have visited the town itself as I did last year. The cloud of the ruthless senseless bombing with the death of many innocent lives in 1937 still hangs over the town, with some 1645 deaths and 889 wounded, which places into context the deaths from coronavirus which are now 10 times that across the world.
Ashraf Murad is one of those unknown but inspirational figures of the art world, which you can understand as you look into the dark depressing depths of his paintings which are a commentary about life under the Soviet regime. Living through changing times in Azerbaijan, some dark and some light, he himself suffered from the authorities for his work in a mad world where death was always hanging over you. You can sense this in his work from this period though, with a more modern regime, is work at long last became recognised.
Alongside his work at Gazelli Art House, is that of Farhad Khalilov, born 20 years after Murad, with his bold expansive geometric landscapes that strike a note of drama as visitors walk past the gallery in Dover Street and see the work glowing out towards them.
Why was this powerful work in ‘The New Verge’ on show in London, which indeed we were privileged to see? Gazelli Art House was originally founded in Baku by Mila Askarava in 2003, with the London gallery opening in 2012 and to date has kept the two cultures relatively separate. Given the modern interconnected world, it is good to have lifted the curtain a little on the art, and the circumstances under which artists have had to live and work, in Azerbaijan.