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Wood Carving

In Uzbekistan wood carving is executed on a wide range of objects - from massive beams for ceilings to tiny children's amulets. The development of this art in the past was linked up with ornamenting constructions and local architectural details, where the overlap post-and-beam system already presupposed using wooden materials on a large scale. In the traditional architecture of the XIX and XX centuries, as the originals illustrate, at times carved wood was the sole element used for decorative purposes; ornamented were: doors, shutters, gates, beams for ceilings, and pillars used in terraces -aivan and shiipan.

Holding a prominent place in decor, carved wood was also widely used in making articles of everyday practice: rests for suitcases and on which blanks are laid together, small cupboards, caskets, pencil-boxes, smart low tables - khantakhta, national musical instruments, and many-sided decorative night-tables which were in great demand among the European inhabitants of Uzbekistan in the second half of the XIX century and turn of the XX century.

For all the resplendence and variety of patterns used in ornamental plane-carving in relief, three basic groups of compositional styles can be distinguished: bagdadi, islimi and pargori. Each group is defined by ornamental motifs, composition, methods of carving and the effect of the pattern in relief, which are peculiar to them.

The bagdadi style of carving is known for its comparatively simple geometrical con-figuration. Formally varieties of bagdadi style were widely used in decorating objects of everyday practice and adornments. Shown here are typical specimens of doors decorated in the bagdadi style by Samarkand and Bukhara masters.

Countless, and sometimes very complex, vegetal and vegetal-geometrical variations of subjects, which are widely applied in islimi-style classical ornamentation, known almost throughout the Middle and Near East since olden times - form the basis of islimi-style carving. This ornamentation has strict principles of decorative forms and composi-tions. It is made up of stalks rhythmically climbing up, strewn with buds, leaves and flowers, interlaced in fantastic medallions. The islimi-style ornaments is done in the method of plane-carving in relief with a chosen setting, and often with a richly-decorated relief and background. Pargori-style carving, which is based on a geometrical net made up of circles, squares and triangles, is a particular variety of fine carving against a setting.

Pieces of pargori-style carving are presented here by the works of Tashkent master-carver Suleiman Khodjayev, famous masters Khaidar Nadjmeddinov and his son Kadyrjan Khaidarov of Kokand. This carver is a master of his trade and is able to use all the methods of carving, including that of set-carving, and often combining pargori style with islimi.

Despite his old age usta Kadyrjan still does a lot of fruitful work. In 1976 he, and a group of his learners, carved panels for the new circus in Tashkent.

Wood of the finest varieties of trees are used for wood carving in Uzbekistan: walnut, plane, karagach (a kind of elm) juniper, mulberry, poplar, and apricot-trees. Beech, oak and pine brought into Uzbekistan from without, are also made good use of today.
One of the basic principles of Uzbek popular masters of art is to reveal and preserve the beauty of the wood. Densely-carved patterns, varying the surface of the wood in relief, do not impair its natural beauty, but bring to light the features of the texture and colours. An Uzbek carver more often just carefully clears the surface and applies a light toning and pellucid lacquer when he carves various objects for decoration, which sustain the delicate lacing of the carved pattern and make it more expressive. Wood carving in Karakalpakia was connected with decorating yurts - light tents of nomadic tribes. Objects of carving were: doors, small cupboards, trays, utensils, musical instruments, harness, and implements of labour. Karakalpak wood carving is ornamental with a prevalence of geometrical, vegetal and zoomorphic motifs often of archaic nature.

In the past Karakalpak wood-carvers widely used a superposed, geometrically-engraved bone and peculiar inlaid work, done with red cloth. This was effectively combined with plane-carving in relief, the wood being painted dark brown and black.

Naturally wood carving today is not so popular a decor as in past centuries. All the ame it remains an animated and progressing form of national art. The famous Khiva ind Kokand old-time school of carvers, and the varied works of the Tashkent masters etain their artistic value. Carving and painting on wood are still in current usage in Carakalpakia. Carvers keep on making musical instruments and numerous utensils. Modern wood-sculpture, which is fast developing in Karakalpakia today, is also connected with popular tradition of wood carving.
Uzbek Folk Art Supporters Community, Information Portal, 2002-2013.
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