Smalti, porcelain and ceramic pottery shards, concrete, steel armature
While studying at art school, the artist Eduard Kazarian interned at the sculptural workshop of Kazakhstan's Ministry of Roads, where he helped design some of the distinctive bus stop shelters found on rural roads in Kazakhstan. Having gained sufficient experience, and entering his fifth and final year at the institute, he was offered an order for a large project just as he was supposed to start a thesis project, and as the degree was in monumental sculpture, he was given approval to use the ordered mosaic as his thesis project. .
The mosaic was to go in a cafe called Oksan, run by a friend of Kazarian’s who was also ethnically Armenian. As the cafe was located next to Lake Sairan, then a major recreation area, Kazarian chose a marine theme, with fish, squid and jellyfish squirming in the playful, primitive style that he would become known for. At the top of the mosaic is the artist's signature, written in the Armenian alphabet, incorporating the Armenian cultural identity that is an important part of Kazarian's work.
Smalta and ceramics for the mosaic were provided by the ministry's workshop. Most of the tesserae are in fact broken dishes, recycled from the Kapshagai and Alma-Ata ceramic factories. These dishes would be extensively used in bus stops as well.
One day Kazarian heard that the cafe on Sairan would be remodeled, and offered to buy back his mosaic. The businessman Nurlan Smagulov, a frequent patron, agreed to help buy back the mosaic. Then, around New Year's Day, the owner rang an announced that the welder had dismantled everything from the wall and tossed the panels in a heap. Kazarian was able to rescue most of the work, take it back to his studio, and make some repairs while waiting for the weather to warm up for its reinstallation.
The mosaic would ultimately be installed in the parking lot of the Alma-Ata Art Center, a gallery space that was the joint effort of Kazarian and Smagulov. The gallery struggled because of its location along a highway far from the city center, and the property was given over to a Toyota Dealership owned by Smagulov’s Astana Motors. Now, the work is hard to notice, hidden behind rows of new cars. Kazarian admits that he would love to move it again to somewhere new, where it could be better appreciated, just as long as the new location would fit in with the mosaic’s marine theme.
Former Alma-Ata Art Center at Toyota Center Almaty
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