Azerbaijani artist Elena Hagverdiyeva has exhibited widely in the Caucasus, as well as France and Austria. We meet her at her studio in Baku
“As soon as people discover you’re an artist their voices soften, their eyes light up and their attitude changes,” says Elena Hagverdiyeva. “Everyone is pleased to meet you. I think that’s because they recall the happiness from their childhood.”
“A turning point for me was when I tried a new technique of painting on wood, inspired by a centuries-old technique that was first used for painting icons. It involved applying a special primer, layer by layer, and the panel surface was covered and brought to a smooth, mirror-like finish. In my case, everything was simpler. I selected old door panels from commodes and cupboards, and lightly restored them while preserving their spirit and patina. I then painted my pictures on them.
“I think it’s interesting to see an artist’s work in their studio, where the pictures are in a closed environment; they say a lot about the artist. My first studio was in Baku, where ‘Long Live Painting!’ was written on an outside wall. You descended a dusty staircase to the basement to reach the studio. It was a real labyrinth. The walls and floors disappeared under layers of the strangest things: old trumpets and trombones, hacksaws and carpenter’s planes, dried dragonflies, gilded clogs… There were also small baskets filled with scraps of folded papers that contained strangers’ wishes.
“I have plans to finish a book, dedicated to the memory of my late husband, [the artist] Udjal Hagverdiyev. The artist is still alive while his art lives, and art lives while it is preserved.”
Photography by Fakhriyya Mammadova
This story appeared in the Autumn 2013 issue of Baku magazine.