I was grown in Soviet Kazakhstan, in Almaty. In the time when every national culture was unified, I was lucky to be raised by my mother-ethnomusicologist. In spite of everything around me was in Russian and to speak Kazakh language was a kind of shame my mom instilled in me love and interest to Kazakh culture.

In the end of 1980s I joined the alternative underground art group Green Triangle where I deeply impregnated of the punk ideas. Nevertheless, I graduated architectural academy. So these all trends together become a fundament of my artistic development.

I am practicing the art language referring to archaic Kazakh culture where art gesture is a kind of sacral ritual connecting the reality to other worlds.

In the beginning of my artistic carrier I truly believed in magic of painting experimenting with different techniques – water color, wax-engraving, acrylic on canvas. After 2004 I turned to contemporary art and started using archive photo documents of Kazakh past from XIX and XX centuries and started Kazakh Chronicle series. I was trying to express the real face of Kazakhstan, to find a balance neither complimentary nor derogatory. From this time, I started working with interaction photography and painting. It helps me to discover the idea of how can the layers of reality and imagination, past and modernity uncover postcolonial paradigms and reconcile with own identity.

Since 2014 I started working with plastic bags. But now using reproducible and not decomposing material I discover new meanings. I accept the aesthetics of waste as a part of human existence therefore I’m ready to build people and landscapes as a structure within it. I want my images to be recognizable even though I work with technically colored plastic chaos waste (not using traditional artistic paints), which means that the human and the human culture appears as reproductive factory subject. Multiple layers of meanings, cultures, visual images, plastic bags help me to find the way to my ‘Kazakhness’ and finally to myself.

Currently I’m working with the project Residual Memory. I reopen the historical traumas addressing the few surviving photo documents and searching images from them for portraying with plastic bags. I try to pass them through myself. This themes – Jeltoksan (Kazakh youth riots, 1986), Asharshylyk (Stalin colonial genocide, 1932-1933) are still very painful for Kazakh people and anyway I think its very important to raise it to realize ourselves. This new experience takes me to a new level of art activism.


self portrait in 10 years old
Abay Family