A news story reports that President Nazarbayev, in the United States to attend the Nuclear Security Summit, presented President Obama with a painting entitled ‘Explosion’ by Kazakh painter Karipbek Kuyukov. That reminds me of another painting associated with President Nazarbayev.
There was an art exhibition in the 4th floor large lobby area of the Dostyk Hotel, just outside that upstairs bar that I sometimes frequented. I had gone to the bar not knowing about the exhibit.
The youngish lady artist was there touting her works and probably keeping watch over them.
As a matter of fact, I wasn’t looking to buy wall hangers at that point. This was in the winter of 1993-94 when the duration of my stay in Kazakhstan was very uncertain.
On seeing the unexpected display of canvases, I paused, just long enough for the artist to sidle up to me and entice me into an accompanied tour of her work. She clearly had some talent and so I indulged her on the circuit of the exhibition. Then we came to what she called ‘Winter’, a rather desolate looking painting, if I may say so, but then winter often is bleak, dreary, dark. (In fact, it’s name is ‘Gloomy Park’)
That is when she sprang her deal-clinching argument. She announced ‘Winter’ was the remaining picture of the four seasons and that “President Nazarbayev bought ‘Spring’, ‘Summer’, and ‘Autumn’.” Well, I guessed that he got the better part of the quartet but, to me, ‘Winter’ suddenly took on a new dimension. (No, I don’t ever expect that President Nazarbayev will plead with me to sell ‘Winter’ to him to complete his set.)
It’s nice to have a story behind a work of art. Maybe it’s better to have a story that explains the picture or says something about the artist but, well, a story that I bought the painting that President Nazarbayev didn’t was story enough for me. I bought the painting.
Post Script: The news report says that ‘Explosion’ also depicts a man reading a book that might be the Koran. I haven’t seen ‘Explosion’, but I do wonder if that man and the book is a subtle reference to Robert Oppenheimer, one of the fathers of the atomic bomb, and a statement he said, or thought, or that people later attributed to him. The statement concerns a scene in the Bhagavad-Gita, a Hindu scripture, in which Vishnu, seeking to persuade the Prince to do his duty, takes on his multi-armed form and says, “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.”
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Based on my long career as a lawyer and my time spent in Kazakhstan, I take on projects in a wide range of industries, certainly in oil & gas, banking & finance, and minerals. But such a statement insufficiently acknowledges the many spheres in which I have had experience – commercial trading, manufacturing in several areas, transport, directorships of companies listed on the London Stock Excange, shipping, and many more.
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