Bishkek in the Eyes of Artists

Published: March 31, 2015

The following project was initiated and published by Enot, a Russian-language online publication about local culture, business, food, shops, events, and people in Bishkek that has been popular with SRAS students studying there. Translation was performed by Sophia Rehm, a SRAS Home and Abroad Scholar studying in Bishkek.

In the spirit of experimentation, Enot approached young artists – both professional and amateur – with a request to portray Bishkek the way they see the city, and to do it in three days. The challenge stipulated that the drawings could be completed in any style and using any materials, as long as they were done by hand. The participants presented five completely different, sometimes surprising, works of art, and told Enot a little about themselves and their individual visions of Bishkek.

Zhumgalbek Beyshebaev
Age 32, Stage Designer

I decided to depict the city in the future, and I was inspired from the beginning by a video of an abandoned anthill that was filled with molten metal to produce a cast. I was very impressed with the result, and afterwards I thought: Aren’t we sort of like ants ourselves, to some extent, laboring and working together? That was the basis for the specifics of the drawing, the interconnected houses. And then I was out walking, a little drunk, in the Jal Microdistrict, and I wondered: Why do all the houses look alike? I started to fantasize about how it would look if the houses were dancing, and merging with the sky, trees, and mountains… I perceive the world around me as movement and patterns, so I portrayed the microdistrict in this tipsy, dancing way. It probably wouldn’t be easy to actually live in one of those houses though.

Aliya Shagieva
Age 18, Student

I have been living in St. Petersburg for almost a year, since I am studying here, but my image of Bishkek and my desire to draw it haven’t left me. I did this drawing in ink, leaving the figures featureless and the silhouettes imprecise, preserving an illusory quality. With its little streets and houses the city has always inspired a combination of confidence and slight melancholy in me. But I also find it very interesting to visit the livelier places in the city – Osh Bazaar, for instance, which is depicted in the drawing. The atmosphere there is vivid; life runs by and then freezes sometimes in the face of a pensive old saleswoman. The bazaar is a repository of many different fates, where small, carefree joys coexist with deep melancholy.

Darya Dolgopolova
Age 22, Artist

I have been painting for a long time, since I was in elementary school, and now I mostly do illustration, prints, and sometimes logos – which is probably why this drawing is in that genre. The green, our “Big Ben,” the square, marshrutkas, trolleybuses, and microdistricts – these are the first things to come to mind when I think about Bishkek. This is how I see them, green and warm. There’s a reason, after all, that Bishkek is called the greenest city in Central Asia. There are marshrutkas in the drawing because they are part of our everyday lives. Maybe some people take taxis, but I use the good old marshrutkas, and trolleybus No 17. It goes to right to my house and to all the places I like to visit regularly.

Marina Solomko
Age 31, Marketing Specialist

My Bishkek is the warmest city. I say that not because it’s southern or has extreme temperatures or hot summer sun. I say it just because it’s mine. My native city is dear to me, cozy, warm, and sometimes very beautiful. This city loves me. Maybe, like a man, the city loves me a little less than I love it, but that’s not unusual. And my relationship with Bishkek is the longest and strongest in my life. The city gives me gifts: sun, people, shade, time, places. In return, I love it. As far as my drawing, as I was working on it I was thinking about several places in Bishkek at once; one should be recognizable.

Dennis Kapkanets
Age 25, Interface Designer

I see the city very objectively, both in general and personally, as the simple movement of a finger zooming in and out as necessary. So it would be silly for me to portray a particular place or set of objects. They are perceived completely differently depending on mood or conditions. This is a screenshot of Google Maps – an island of stability, with the same weather any time of the year, and gray blocks, blocks, blocks for everything in the city. You could arrange for whole exhibitions based on views of sites and the green-stained suburban areas. Each person could point out a spot and talk about what he or she did in that place, and with whom.

About the author

Sophia Rehm

Sophia Rehm graduated from the University of Chicago in 2012 with a BA in Russian Language and Literature. She studied Russian as a Second Language in St. Petersburg in 2010 and is currently in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan as SRAS's Home and Abroad Scholar. At the time she wrote for this site, she hoped to pursue graduate studies in Slavic Languages and Literatures, as well as literary translation.

Program attended: Home and Abroad Scholar

View all posts by: Sophia Rehm