Saule Suleimenova, Aul at Spring, 2017. Plastic bags, polycarbonate, 105 x 210 cm

Andakulova Gallery presents Saule Suleimenova’s works in Plastic, The Last Hero of The Great Steppe – The Art of Saule Suleimenova exhibition, running until the 9th of October. Selections takes you on a tour through the exhibition.

Saule Suleimenova is a visual artist who works with edge-of-the-art techniques and media, including recycled plastic, cellophane and polycarbonate. In a recent daring departure, she has been working with collages on plastic bags and creating cellophane painting. Her artwork is made of plastic bags glued on to polycarbonate sheets.

Saule Suleimenova, Plastic, The Last Hero of The Great Steppe, installation view
Saule Suleimenova, Plastic, The Last Hero of The Great Steppe, installation view

Plastic gradually became a quintessential expression of Suleimenova’s life and art experience. The material she uses comes from people from different countries, with different backgrounds and life stories. So, when she uses plastic, she recycles not only material artefacts, but also different social and cultural attitudes.
Her work is a mixture of the past and the present, of painting and photography, of steppe and urbanisation. It is a fusion of archetypes, where it is confusing as to what is artificial and what is real.

Saule Suleimenova, The first day, View from my window, 2019. Plastic bags, polyethylene, 70 x 56 cm
Saule Suleimenova, The first day, View from my window, 2019. Plastic bags, polyethylene, 70 x 56 cm. Courtesy of Andakulova Gallery

Pieces of colourful plastic bags are glued with melted silicon glue, on a cover of polycarbonate or plastic bags on polyethylene. Some of the bags are branded with names from boutiques, retail shops, supermarkets, or are just garbage bags.

Saule Suleimenova, Ala Dala. Zhetisu, 2016. Plastic bags on polycarbonate Diptych, each 150 x 214 cm. Courtesy of Andakulova Gallery
Saule Suleimenova, Ala Dala. Zhetisu, 2016. Plastic bags on polycarbonate Diptych, each 150 x 214 cm. Courtesy of Andakulova Gallery

Suleimenova’s new medium could definitely be food for thought for those who thought polycarbonate and cellophane are items used only in the manufacture of compact discs, DVDs, mobile phones, eyeglasses, or in food packing.

Saule Suleimenova, Aul at Spring, 2017. Plastic bags, polycarbonate, 105 x 210 cm. Courtesy of Andakulova Gallery
Saule Suleimenova, Aul at Spring, 2017. Plastic bags, polycarbonate, 105 x 210 cm. Courtesy of Andakulova Gallery

The artist tries to reconnect and reconcile traditional Kazakh culture and the aesthetics of revolt through modernist artistic devices. Her art language refers to archaic Kazakh culture, with every gesture a kind of sacral ritual, connecting Kazakh reality to other worlds. Through the poetics of everyday, she finds the pathos of eternity.

Saule Suleimenova, Üsh Kelin/Three Brides, 2021. Plastic bags on polyethylene, 140 x 150 cm. Courtesy of Andakulova Gallery
Saule Suleimenova, Üsh Kelin/Three Brides, 2021. Plastic bags on polyethylene, 140 x 150 cm. Courtesy of Andakulova Gallery

Her work has had a strong social impact in Kazakhstan and she takes part in educational, ecological and other social events. For example, she has involved people to bring her plastic bags.

Saule Suleimenova, Mariam-apa. From the series Residual Memory, 2020. Plastic bags on polyethylene, 135 x 150 cm. Courtesy of Andakulova Gallery.
Saule Suleimenova, Mariam-apa. From the series Residual Memory, 2020. Plastic bags on polyethylene, 135 x 150 cm. Courtesy of Andakulova Gallery.

Plastic pollutes and stays in the ground for decades and hardly dissolves. Thousands of tons of not dissolved trash lie in a huge territory of the Kazakh steppe.

Saule Suleimenova, Everyday Aul, 2017. Plastic bags, polycarbonate, 150 x 210 cm. Courtesy of Andakulova Gallery
Saule Suleimenova, Everyday Aul, 2017. Plastic bags, polycarbonate, 150 x 210 cm. Courtesy of Andakulova Gallery

Suleimenova started working with plastic bags in 2014. By using this reproducible and not decomposing material, she says she discovers new meanings.This also signals to people that the idyllic Kazakh pastoral scenes are now actually filled with waste, and it is time to clean up. The art deals directly with public, in site-specific environments. The plastic makes the people an inseparable part of the art making process.

Saule Suleimenova, Kelin 2, 2019. Plastic bags, polycarbonate, 152X 210 cm. Installation view. Courtesy of Andakulova Gallery
Saule Suleimenova, Kelin 2, 2019. Plastic bags, polycarbonate, 152X 210 cm. Installation view. Courtesy of Andakulova Gallery

Kelin was a 2015 project, partly collective, which involved gathering plastic bags. “People (were asked to) bring me the bags, so I could turn them to a material for creating artwork,” Suleimenova says.It was hung over the pedestrian street in Almaty. The artwork indicated continuous research into time, history and its place in contemporary practices. The practice took further steps from her studio or plein air paintings, as it dealt directly with the public in a site-specific environment.

Saule Suleimenova, Somewhere in the Great Steppe, 2017. Plastic bags, polycarbonate, 152 x 210 cm.Courtesy of Andakulova Gallery
Saule Suleimenova, Somewhere in the Great Steppe, 2017. Plastic bags, polycarbonate, 152 x 210 cm.Courtesy of Andakulova Gallery

Somewhere In The Great Steppe (2017, SIGS) included a series of artworks made of plastic bags, created non-traditionally, without paint or material such as canvas, brush, bronze “or anything institutional,” as Suleimenova puts it. They were exclusively plastic, with the bags collected by the public, assisted by AlaDalaArt (art of the colorful steppe). The programme was begun in 2016.

Saule Suleimenova, One Steppe Forward, 2019. Plastic bags on polyethylene. Triptych: each 132 x 185 cm. Courtesy of Andakulova Gallery
Saule Suleimenova, One Steppe Forward, 2019. Plastic bags on polyethylene. Triptych: each 132 x 185 cm. Courtesy of Andakulova Gallery

One Steppe Forward (2019) stems from Suleimenova’s experience of Qazaq Koktemi, which was a series of peaceful protests by Kazakh civil society, in 2019. During this time of social upheaval, thousands of Kazakhstanis protested against a fraudulent presidential election and the unlawful renaming of their capital city, accompanied by other troubling political events. The work reflects the dynamics of Kazakh protest: its faces, bodies and colours.

Credit of the video – Suinbike Video and music by Alexey Shindin


This information is extracted from the press release.

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