Info Shymkent - Aidos Esmagambetov - Working on Abay sculpture

Kazakhstan’s Monsieur Tussauds: Aidos Esmagambetov

Makeup artist Aidos Esmagambetov is creating hyper-realist silicon sculptures of famous Kazakh people. Info Shymkent phoned with him.

Hyper-realistic sculptures are very famous for Madame Tussauds exhibitions. But in 2010 the artist Aidos Esmagambetov from the village Ashutasty near Arkalyk in Northern Kazakhstan introduced this fine art to Central Asia by creating very detailed sculptures of the famous Kazakh leader Abylaikhan and first president of Kazakhstan Nazarbayev. Info Shymkent made a phone call to Aidos Esmagambetov to learn more about his life and work.

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

Aidos: Hello, the weather in Nur-Sultan is warm and everything is fine.

Info Shymkent - Another skill of Aidos Esmagambetov: Painting
Aidos Esmagambetov loves to paint already as child and is stilling doing it.
(Image: A. Esmagambetov)

Info Shymkent: Aidos, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and where were you born? And how did you come to the world of sculpturing? Was sculpturing your childhood dream? Who inspired you to make make-up, greasepaint and sculpturing?

Aidos: As child I loved painting. And my parents also painted. They are artists, too. I was born in a huge Kazakh family: I have three sisters and two brothers. All family members have the skills of painting and doing great artwork. My family is singing, dancing and painting. Literally art runs through our veins.

I was born in Arkalyk, Kostanay region of Kazakhstan. I studied at Ybyrai Altynsarin Arkalyk State Pedagogical Institute the profession Fine Art Drawing and finished my studies with success. After university I took part in international competitions of sculpturing, painting and etc. I also got a lot of awards and certificates in this competitions. And I am very proud that my name was included into the list of our Nation’s project 100 New Names (Kazakh: Zhana Esim) and I had the opportunity to met Nursultan Nazarbayev – the first president of Kazakhstan in this event. My latest popular project was the creation of a hyper-realistic sculpture of our national poet Abay Qunanbaiuly during the celebration year for the anniversary of his 175th birthday. For this work I received the honorary medal 175th Birthday of Abay from Kazakhstan’s Ministry of Sport & Culture.

Info Shymkent: Where are you living at the moment: In Nur-Sultan or in Arkalyk?

Aidos: Nur-sultan. I’m currently at my home. My working place in the city. I working in the Kazakhstan Central Concert Hall.

Info Shymkent: Can you tell us more about your sculpturing. It is a uncommon and seldom art in Kazakhstan and even in Central Asia to create hyper-realistic sculptures with silicone. You told us before that you studied arts and painting. But how you came to doc sculpturing with silicone?

Aidos: I am a make-up artist at the Kazakhstan Central Concert Hall. Before I worked at the Kazakhstan Military History Museum in Nur-Sultan. I was the Head of the Restauration section of the Museum. It was a very interesting work and I worked with interesting people and then I decided to move my work to a theater and started my work there. And at the theater I became a make-up artist. And my daily work was making artificial beards, eyebrows. And my job was to turn young actors into old people by making make-up for them. And it is very easy to change with color the face of the actors. But you know – when you looking closer – the theatrical makeup is not so realistic, it is just makeup for theater actors. But I wanted to create more realistic make-ups. I’ve got my opportunity in the movie industry: Sometimes I’ve got the offer to work for them to make special more realistic makeups with silicone. Especially for historical movies I could make very much silicone masks with scars, wild and aggressive faces. This work helped me to learn Step-by-Step to make more authentically make-ups.

Info Shymkent - Aidos Esmagambetov - Working on Nazarbayev's sculpture
Eidos is working on Nursultan Nazarbayev’s hyper-realistic sculpture.
(Image: Aidos Esmagambetov)

Info Shymkent: You created very much sculptures of famous peoples. You’ve already mentioned that you made Abay’s sculpture, but also sculptures of the first president of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev and the former US president Barack Obama. And they are looking beautiful and very, very realistic. How much time you needed to make a hyper-realistic sculpture? And how much hair you used? Can you tell us more about the process to create a hyper-realistic sculpture with silicone?

Aidos: I didn’t counted how much hairs I used but it was very much. *Smiled*. For the sculptures I use special hair. I ordered the silicone and hair from the United States and other foreign countries. In Kazakhstan it is close to impossible to find the material for my sculptures – so I have to order the material from abroad – and have to wait for the shipment. But most of the time needs the sculpturing process. So one sculpture can take from four months to even more than one year.

Info Shymkent - Aidos Esmagambetov - Revealing Abay Sculpture
Revealing the Abay sculpture during the Year of 175th Birthday of Kazakhstan’s National Poet. (Image: A. Esmagambetov)

Let’s take the hyper-realistic sculpture from Abay as example: I worked four months on the sculpture to finish it. But before I started to create the sculpture, I researched for half a year about facts and pictures of Abay. I searched and checked every of his pictures. The photo with Abay together with his two sons is the most famous and the best picture of him. The other sources are just paintings and are not so realistic. So I searched for more realistic material. And it was actually not so easy to make the sculpture of Abay because of the lack of reference material. I had only pictures from the front of Kazakhstan’s national poet – but not from the side and the back. And I had only black and white photos. But I wanted that Abay looks alive – realistic and colorful.

I introduced the creation of Hyper-realistic sculptures to Kazakhstan in 2010. I wanted to show that also Kazakhs can do such kind of beautiful art.

Info Shymkent: You told that you needed four months to create the Abay sculpture and you searched hard to find reference materials for Abay. But which additional challenges you had to finish this project?

Aidos: The challenges were also to order the expensive materials. I’m ordering the silicone for my sculptures from a famous American brand. Another challenge is to find the correct clothes for my hyper-realistic sculptures. I’m working together with tailors who making the suits for them. I give to tailors the sizes of the sculpture and they are trying to make the perfect clothes for them.

Info Shymkent: Where are you displaying your artwork?

Aidos: The sculptures are displayed at my work – in the Kazakhstan Central Concert Hall. We also revealed for the first time Abay’s sculpture at this place.

Info Shymkent - Aidos Esmagambetov - Nazarbayev Sculpture on display
Aidos Esmagambetov’s silicone sculpture of Nursultan Nazarbayev on display.
(Image: A. Esmagambetov)

Info Shymkent: And as I understand all your sculptures are presented their?

Aidos: Yes, all my sculptures are displayed there.

Info Shymkent: Do you have plans to open your own exhibition? We have so many famous people in Kazakhstan, for example Opera Singers: K. Baiseitova, R. Baglanova, B. Tulegenova, what about Kazakh movie industry: Sh. Aimanov, S. Khodzhikov. They are waiting to get a hyper-realistic sculpture. It’s not necessary to call your museum a Kazakh Madame Tussauds – but what about Aidos Akimgali’s exhibition?

Aidos: It would be great that it is becoming true if such place is opening in Kazakhstan. When foreign tourists coming to Kazakhstan you are not just showing a black and white picture of Abay for example. You can tell them that also a hyper-realistic sculpture of him exists. And it would be great to create a collection of even more famous Kazakh people. We actually planning to open a exhibition like Madame Tussauds in Kazakhstan. But it ia a secret when and where we will open it.

Info Shymkent - Aidos Esmagambetov - Preparing Nazarbayev Sculpture
Aidos Esmagambetov is working on his hyper-realistic silicone sculpture of First President of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev.
(Image: A. Esmagambetov)

Info Shymkent: Here is another interesting question. How is the reaction of your audience and how is the difference between foreign and the local audience which watching your sculptures?

Aidos: Yes, there are differences between foreign and Kazakh audience. But it doesn’t mean that Kazakh’s not appreciating art. When you look closer Kazakhstan is deeply connected with art. And art is continuing our whole life. The ring on our fingers or the clothes we are wearing is also a kind of art. And like the paintings or the sculpturing is another art. Everything is deep connected. We are trying our best to show this new kind of arts – like my hyper-realistic sculptures – to the public.

Info Shymkent - Aidos Esmagambetov meeting with "real" Nazarbayev
Aidos Esmagambetov had the opportunity to met also the “real” Nazarbayev.
(Image: A. Esmagambetov)

Info Shymkent: You made very much sculptures of popular people. Which people you could met in real life?

Aidos: I’ve met with Nursultan Nazarbayev. But it’s a pity I couldn’t met Barack Obama or Donald Trump, yet. I didn’t made a sculpture of Donald Trump – but a silicone mask of his face.

I made a exhibition in the US embassy in Nur-Sultan in 2016. At this exhibition I could display my hyper-realistic sculpture of Barack Obama. The atmosphere during the exhibition was very nice. The people who working at this embassy were kind. They liked my work very much and the feedback was very positive.

Info Shymkent - Aidos Esmagambetov with his Obama sculpture at US embassy
Aidos Esmagambetov with his Barack Obama sculpture at US embassy in Nursultan.
(A. Esmagambetov)

Info Shymkent: We talked about your childhood, your work, your sculptures. Lets talk about the current pandemic. Does the Covid-19 pandemic make any impact on your work?

Aidos: The pandemic didn’t effected me. Nothing changed in my life. *Big smile*. The governments around the world telling “Stay at home” and “Take distance”. The person of art like me and who’s making sculptures in a room in the background is already isolated. *Laughing* I had a lot of work to do at home and to work on my sculptures. I had no problem with the pandemic.

Info Shymkent: What are you doing beside sculpturing? Do you have another hobby?

Aidos: I have much equipment for making videos and photos. And I love to make photography. I like to make photos of the city and of the places I have been abroad. I like to edit my photos and sharing them on Instagram. I like the daily life in the city.

Info Shymkent: What are your plans for the future?

Aidos: I want to improve my skills. And I like to work more on my hyper-realistic sculptures. I want to have my own students to teach them my work. I would like to have a place like Madame Tussauds in Kazakhstan. I would like to open a museum.

Info Shymkent: Aidos, we hope your dreams and plans turn fast into reality. We wish you ongoing success and creativity for the future. And of course, we can’t wait to visit your own exhibition with your wonderful and hyper-realistic sculptures. Thank you very much for this interview. We enjoyed it very much. Stay healthy and see you soon!

Aidos: Thank you very much, too.

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