Works by Sakhi Romanov, a national artist, hold a special place in the arts of Kazakhstan. First of all, this is related to a multilateralism of the talented author in different artistic fields, from easel painting and graphics to design sketches of decorations and costumes for films of Kazakhfilm Studio.
His first work was a series of illustrations for a Kazakh folk tale titled 'The Forty Tall Tale'. It was his senior thesis that had attracted attention. In 1955 these sheets of graphics have presented by the delicate and wise artist with own views and perceptions. The illustrations for the tale basically epitomized a life as it really was, warts and all. The directness of the character, just a boy, and his adventures are not only raised spirits and mood, but it's also were revealing facts of life through the fairy tale characters. Perhaps, plots of the fairy tale become so close and understandable to the public because of specific worldviews of the artist. Images from his childhood seemed coming to life right in front of the eyes. A personal childhood experience living in Sakhi Romanov's home aul in South Kazakhstan has been implemented in his work: an antagonist's characteristic, a khan, is very ironic; the other characters of artist's tales are convincing and real.
Sakhi was not even 8 years, when he, a starving and tried, but autonomous child, began kindergarten of Olshanka in Saraktashsky District, Orenburg Region. He picked up his own name because that name, Sakhi, means ‘a winner’ in Kazakh and ‘generous, kind’ in Arabic. Later in life, he was taken to a boarding school, the Artisan School and a painting studio in Orenburg.
On the outbreak of World War II, Sakhi Romanov was sent as a worker to a weapons factory evacuated from Kharkiv, and later to Kuibyshev to work in a machine tool builder factory. Such artists as Vasily Yefanov and Georgi Savitsky worked there, taught in a studio of local Palace of Culture. In a period from 1944 to 1947 Sakhi Romanov studied in Moscow Art Middle School. From 1947 to 1948 he studied in Ilya Repin Institute in Leningrad, Boris Fogel was his painting teacher, Max Birstein was his teacher in drawing. After brief stints at publishing houses of Alma Ata, Sakhi continued his studies in period from 1950 to 1955 started from the second year of arts department in All-Russian State Institute of Cinematography (VGIK).
In VGIK he studied under Fyodor Bogorodsky, Grigory Shegal, Yuri Pimenov, Joseph Spinel, the famous artists. After graduating Sakhi Romanov started working for Kazakhfilm Studio. He participated in films such as 'We Live Here', 'A Gift with Wings', 'The Way of Life', 'Road of Life', 'Prints Disappear Over the Horizon', 'Chasing in the steppe', 'A Beardless Liar', 'The Wings of Song', 'The Foot of Nayzatas', 'Qulager', etc. as a production designer. His works show the filmmaking trends of period when facts of life and reliability were the basis; they have a perspective of characters' states showed up in the colors, highlighting and framing of the shots. Travel with a film crew around the Republic exactly helped Sakhi Romanov collect material to create easel painting works.
Sakhi Romanov's art works characterized by national uniqueness of Kazakhstani art. It is reflected in the picture that connects images of everyday scenes with landscape paintings. The way of life of peoples is revealed in conjunction the riches of the land. Lyrical tones in reflection of the world's beauty create poetic sentiment disclosed daily life aspects. The artist weaves work on films and easel paintings creating. He learns natures and particular life features of his peoples. It enriches his sketches by real observing, we can see a habit to clearly define a composition of shots; it imbues easel paintings works with emotional tints. In a 'find himself' period Sakhi came up with a picture made using the maximum amount of lines and touches to show the inner nature of phenomena.
An emotional force in Sakhi Romanov’s works increases by constant work on the nature form exploration. Originally, a work with etudes contributed to the completion of characters and stage composition; subsequently, etudes became a unique direction in an artist's creative activity. For Sakhi, the nature form ‘visibly transmits a smell of native land'.
A sense of belonging to the motherland and its beauty showed by the artist in new subjects. His artworks were filling with more new colors, spirits and characters whether where these works are created, in another county or during his touring of Kazakhstan. In 1968, a tour to Hungary made Sakhi find the completely different landscape art features. A little later, accompanying the Armenian artists in Karkara jaylaw, Sakhi Romanov presented the wealth of colouring of native places in a new way. Over time, attitudes and tones were changed in his works. He stopped looking for tranquillity and harmony characterised his earlier works, later his works were influenced by the decorative colorfulness.
In 1968, Sakhi went to Bayanaul for 'The Foot of Nayzatas' filming. That work jointly with Shaken Aimanov was one of the most significant in his career. Shaken Aimanov, as a director, made a big deal of showing a more complete story faithfully; this desire was strongly supported by Sakhi Romanov. A storyline of the script was based on a comparison of generations outlining the continuance of the traditions and historical folk life features. It was showed through the national pastimes and wedding ceremony scenes. Sakhi has abandoned the sets, putting the importance of natural landscapes suitable for emotional expressions. He made design sketches as the vivid color spots with blurred edges conveying an optimistic mood.
Another sub-plot tied to the engineer-geologist's life, a main character, allowed to show mountain landscapes. During breaks between filming scenes an excellent portrait of Shaken Aimanov was painted by Sakhi Romanov. Aimanov's facial features commensurate with mountain range as carved out of rock.
'The Foot of Nayzatas' filmed in 1969, at Toraigyr Lake in Bayanaul, was Shaken Aimanov's last acting work. The role of Beisembai was played by him.
And it was here that Sakhi Romanov's style was appeared and metamorphosis of ways to materials transfer was taking place. This production has unleashed the creative energy, which has been demonstrated in incredible studies. These materials were later used for the paintings of 1970. While an outline and silhouette in calm colors have received more attention, others, such as 'active' colors became the main focus. In studies, a wide range of emotions and reflections comes through the colors. The basis of composition is the distinctive elements of nature in Kazakhstan: treeless or forested steppes and mountain ranges in the horizon. Colors are different: mountains can be violet, red, orange, blue or nearly white. With a yellow-orange, blue-gray or golden brown-colored land, by contrast. A paint is thick and bright; contrast and multicolored confident brush strokes, bold impasto. The brush strokes are essential elements: a little rough and straight, but always clear, vigorous and expressive. Sunlight allows the artist to comprehend new emotions in the content. It becomes a spirit, breathe new life. The most modest landscapes have provided an epic grandness and sensation of eternity. The nature states are lifted up to the monumental image making studies the complete decorative artworks.
Interpretation of the Folk Art in Sakhi Romanov's artworks is a result of contact with a nature of his mother land. The steppe landscapes are shown as a background of narrative paintings; this creates a relationship between man and nature through the light and color space, through the touches of color, shadowing and air flows.
The particular images often get larger becoming the specific types. The artist is not interested in ordinary everyday hard work-induced people with faces darkened of the sun and sand, warts and all, in a total fusion of man and nature. For Sakhi Romanov, a portrait means the transmitting of personality. Usually these people are spiritually close to him. They are creative, motivated, and significant. Even the portraits of his wife and daughter, Tursuna and Jairana, as well as the other female portraits, were executed in the manner of facture and color unity as same as nature, whether lake, steppe or mountains. They are presented as multicolored image with brightness of the sun and immersed in the beauty of nature.
The legacy of Sakhi Romanov's life makes it possible to get an idea of the artist and his perspectives. The basic rule in Arts for Sakhi was a transmission of the lofty humanitarian ideals of realistic arts, a lucid brain and mind's the significance of the victory over the forces of evil. The Arts could not be cut off from conditions in the country. This is how the artist looked at things: he found beauty of his motherland, a process of innovation, labor victory and the lives of the people. He loved his homeland for what it is, the land full of sunlight and bright colors of mountains, a blueness of rivers and lakes, green grass in steppes and the palette with a wide range of colors. The artist's creative identity comes from his heart and soul. His work is inextricably bound up with the sense of belonging to the motherland, a generosity and the joy of life.
In 1981, Sakhi Romanov was rewarded with The Order of the Badge of Honour and the title of People's Artist of the Republic of Kazakhstan.
Art Critic, Member of the Union of Artists of Republic of Kazakhstan,
ICOM ASPAC Expert in Mainstreaming Cultural Heritage in Asian Countries.