Info Shymkent - Kazakh Artist Alua Tebenova in her art exhibition

Alua Tebenova: Light is the source of inspiration

We had a talk with Artist Alua Tebenova – an author of the masterpieces of Kazakh Fine Art that impress the Romanian and Kazakh audience.

Alua Tebenova a Kazakh artist, who is painting in different styles like: abstract style, painterly, acrylic painting, pulling and scrapping style, ornamental painting and many other painting styles. But the main thing what is playing the main role in Alua’s art life is the Turko-Mongolic style. Alua has three group and seven solo-exhibitions in Romania, in the capital Bucharest and in Cluj-Napoca. And more than 20 group-exhibitions in Kazakhstan. Alua was born in Karaganda, Kazakhstan. Her journey to the world of Art has began at one of the art school of Karaganda. Alua is currently doing her PhD thesis in Visual Arts in Romania. Info Shymkent had a huge opportunity to make an interview with her.

Info Shymkent: Hello Alua, how are you? Where are you now?

Alua: Greetings! I am doing well. Currently I’m in Romania, Cluj-Napoca city.

Info Shymkent: How is your Quarantine Day? How is Covid-19 affecting you and your work?

Alua: Well, it affected many things around. I can not say that my work somehow changed. I paint and create artwork the same way I did before. I had a lot of time to rethink and generate new projects, new themes and try new techniques.

Info Shymkent: Alua, can you tell us about yourself. Where you were born?

Alua: I was born in Kazakhstan, in the city of Karaganda, in a family of teachers and doctors. I have finished general high school and in parallel was going to art school. In that special artistic environment I felt myself. After I graduated from school, I went to study at Karaganda State University at the Faculty of Fine Arts. Along with drawing and painting classes, we dedicated our time to pedagogy, psychology and similar disciplines because the purpose of my department was to prepare us as future teachers of Fine Arts. It was not what I really wanted, so I continued my studies in Romania at the University of Art and Design, where I’ve finished my Master’s degree
and I’m currently doing a PhD in Visual Arts.

Info Shymkent - Kazakh Artist Alua Tebenova standing next to one of her painting
Alua Tebenova next to her artwork «Oramal» – a traditional Central Asia headdress. (Image: A. Tebenova)

Info Shymkent: Alua, your paintings are beautiful. Can you tell us your first step into the world of Art – Why you decided to be an Artist? Was it your childhood dream?

Alua: Thank you so much! I really appreciate that. As I mentioned before, when I was a child I went to art school in my hometown. That was my very first step into the art world. We have learned about materials, genres, history of arts and acquired a basic sense of beauty. I’ve studied there
for five years until graduation. After that, I felt that something is missing in my daily life. I could not imagine doing something else except drawing and painting. I can not say that it was my dream. I just followed my instincts and it led me to a world full of colors, creativity and interesting people.

Info Shymkent: Your paintings are connected with Kazakh culture. You are painting Kazakh National Accessories and Tradition of the Kazakh people. Can you tell us more about your paintings? About your painting style and everything about your work, please.

Alua: Yes. Most of my works are dedicated to the nomadic culture of Central Asia. I don’t focus exclusively on Kazakh culture because our culture derived from a more ancient and authentic «turko-mongolic» culture of Central Asian nomads. I like to discover things that are not written in the school books. I like mystery, beliefs, superstitions, Turkic mythology and semantics, symbolism, clothing, food and habits. I make parallels between cultural subgroups and try to get to know the mentality and lifestyle of society in the past. It helps to understand who we are now and to what extent what defines us culturally can be considered as part of “the Kazakh culture”.
Its visual representation can be interpreted as a simplified manifestation through painting of the culture to which I am irrevocably linked and the memory of traditions and its specific values.

Info Shymkent - Beautiful piece of Art by Alua Tebenova showing the life in the Kazak steppe
Painting «Auilda» (English: In the Village) (Image: Alua Tebenova)

While doing my Master’s degree in Romania, I found out many alternatives to the classical approach of painting and it helped me express myself fluently. The main instruments of my work is mixed media (oil, acrylic, spray paint, sometimes pastel chalks). I combine many aspects of different styles such as realism, abstract expressionism, figurativism and symbolism. I do my best to create something special and to reach the point where my style will be recognized.

Info Shymkent: And you are making an Art Exhibition in Romania. How is the reaction of the Romanian people about your paintings. Especially how was the reaction when they have seen this beautiful Kazakh style or Turko-Mongolic Style? Are you making an exhibition also in other European countries?

Alua: Yes, so far I had three group and seven solo-exhibitions in Romania, in the capital Bucharest and in Cluj-Napoca. And more than 20 group-exhibitions in Kazakhstan.

Romanian people are different from Central Asians, but at the same time they differ from the Westerners too. I believe that they took the best of two worlds, a fact enabled by the geography of the country and by their way of thinking. They’ve been through communism just as we did, and this left a trace in their collective mentality. The new generation is the one that visibly changes things around. The youth is more open minded, free, disciplined, brave, even creative.

So, going back to my exhibitions, I can say that the reaction I get is divided. One side is acquainted with my culture due to its knowledge of history (Turkic tribes, Mongol invasion, etc.) and appreciates the topic of certain paintings. The other side appreciates the visual representation and technicality of my works – such as the colors that I use, the style, approach etc. In both ways I can say that it has the effect of non-familiarity. It is unusual. During my exhibitions I enjoy mingling with the guests and talking about culture of my land, sharing what I wanted to express. In a way, this encourages me to create more.

Info Shymkent - Three pieces of art by Kazakh artist Alua Tebenova in a art exhibition in Romania
Art exhibition with beautiful paintings of Alua Tebenova. (Image: A. Tebenova)

Info Shymkent: Could you open your own Art Gallery in Kazakhstan? And the next question is- Is there any difference between Kazakh and Foreign audience? For example their view and thoughts about Art/Painting.

Alua: Technically – yes. Given the space and the resources, this could be done. However I believe that we are slowly transiting to a trend of consuming art in different ways. On one hand, the online presence of artists is higher that ever, especially in social media – a fact that brings renown to gifted artists in Kazakhstan. Our country is “hooked” on Instagram and Tik-Tok, which is also a good environment to popularize art.
On the other hand, the traditional art galleries like state-run museums are declining in popularity and relevance. Naturally, the big museums and famous art galleries will continue to maintain influence given their name and usefulness, but, when referring to exhibiting art in physical space,
the hybridization of our art with the Western influences can be witnessed: art is more prevalent in regular society through our decorative choises and preferences. Hipster culture brought art in our cafes, in our parks, in the streets, in the universities etc.

The difference in audience is not terribly abrupt. Both Romanian, as well as Kazakh youth, have appreciation for the arts, a thing particularly visible in those fond of big city life. The main difference is in numbers, as Kazakhstan may require another generation of urban dwellers to experience an increase in independent artistic activities. The older art-consuming folk tend to be the same – cultured, well-versed in their knowledge of art, but somehow nostalgic of the past.

Info Shymkent - Paintings of Kazakh artist Alua Tebenova in a art exhibition in Romania
Alua Tebenova’s artwork with Turk-Mongolic themes (Image: A. Tebenova)

Info Shymkent: You are painting, making post cards and making design for the T-Shirts. Do you have another skill that we don’t know about? What about hobbies? What are you doing in your free time?

Alua: Amateur photography, trying my luck with creating videos so as to promote my art and, occasionally, carving in wood. However, once I feel that I must take a break from work, I enjoy road trips.

Info Shymkent: I think every person of Art was inspired by somebody or something at the beginning of their own path. Do you have your favorite Artist that inspired you?

Alua: In spite of the fact that I am constantly exposed to other people’s art, much of which I appreciate and admire, I cannot say that I took inspiration from an artist in particular. What directs the way in which I paint is the technique which I have honed over time. My experience in Romania required a distancing from more conventional methods of painting and a closer approach to experimentation. Certain technical processes worked for me in surprising ways, and I quickly adopted them into my style of working. So, odd as it may sound, I wasn’t inspired by a person, but rather by chance and fortuity.

Info Shymkent: Where or How do you get an inspiration? For example many persons of Art: Artists, Musicians, Actors and many other people are always searching the inspiration/muse. Do you visit special places like: nature, museum or meeting with the people?

Alua: I’d say nature and natural phenomena. Light is a source of inspiration given its peculiarity. I often find myself admiring the random “spectacles” of natural or artificial light – the way sunlight colors clouds during sunset, the way a fire spreads light on the ground at night, the way streetlights create forms on the wall through the curtains.

Info Shymkent: How does artist have to be in your opinion? The Artist – who is it in your opinion?

Alua: An ideal artist is incredibly skilled, cultured, has knowledge of a wide array of topics (both related and not related to art), and has a spark of madness that is reflected in his philosophy of life and sense of humour. However, no artist can be regarded as ideal during his/her lifetime. A modern artist is, above all, determined. Many people are talented, but ever get to refine their talent which, in time, will wither. A talented person becomes an artist once it decides to dedicate a big part of itself to refining the skill that allows artistic expression.

Info Shymkent - Kazakh steppe warriors on a painting of Alua Tebenova from Kazakhstan
Painting «The Leader» by Alua Tebenova (Image: A. Tebenova)

Info Shymkent: What plans do you have for 2021 and for the future?

Alua: I plan on finishing the PhD thesis and to defend it towards the end of the summer. I will continue to promote my art and to create new artwork. My big hope is that this pandemic will find its end in 2021, so that things can go back to normal and that life can resume outside of the house, outside of masks and restrictions.

Info Shymkent: Thank you very much for this wonderful and detailed interview about your work, Alua. It was very interesting for us and we hope our readers will like it, too. We wish you good luck and inspiration to finish your PhD thesis and to create more beautiful paintings about the Nomadic culture of Central Asia. We hope that we can visit one of your exhibitions in the near future.

You can learn more about Artist Alua Tebenova on these websites: