Baku-based Azerbaijani sculptor and installation artist Elvin Nabizade was born in Georgia, moving to Baku with his family in the 1990s, and eventually joining the sculpture faculty of the Azerbaijan State Academy of Fine Arts where he began to experiment with elements of Azerbaijani culture in his artworks. He is inspired by Azerbaijani heritage and identity; in his work he explores how these qualities are expressed by individual people as part of a collective whole. His recent exhibitions included variations on handmade Azerbaijani saz instruments, which are stringed instruments beloved by older Azerbaijanis but less popular in contemporary society, a phenomenon that Elvin hopes to influence and change through his artwork. He has participated in a number of exhibitions and projects, including the Comfortably Numb (2016 ARTIM, Baku), From Waste to Art (2016 and 2015, Gala, Azerbaijan), Origin (2014, Kichik GalArt, Baku, Azerbaijan), Semeni International Art Contest (2014, Heydar Aliyev Centre, Baku, Azerbaijan), Zavod exhibition (2013, Baku Air Conditioning Factory, Baku, Azerbaijan), and Invasion (2014, Azerbaijan State Art Museum, Baku, Azerbaijan). In 2018 he participated in ArtBasel Miami with an installation of 59 suspended instruments, a work that will be shown in February 2019 at the Zonamaco contemporary art fair in Mexico City, Mexico. A similar work also hangs in the Baku Media Center.
Elvin’s work gained international prominence when he was selected to create the artworks for the Azerbaijani Pavilion at the 57th International Art Biennale (2017) in Venice, Italy, one of the most prestigious art exhibitions in the world. The works, entitled Under One Sun (which was also the name of the Pavilion’s exhibition) and SPHERE both used Azerbaijani instruments to express the importance of the musical culture of Azerbaijani people. The main installation, Under One Sun, was made of a line of 50 saz creating an arc through the exhibition space that charted the transit of the sun throughout the day. The instrument is an important element of Azerbaijani intangible culture, as it was used by traveling artists called Ashiqs who journeyed across the Caucasus performing music, dance, poetry and storytelling. The art of the Ashiqs was inscribed by UNESCO, and is deeply connected to Azerbaijani identity and language. In Elvin’s other installation entitled Sphere, the hanging artwork was created from 79 instruments that represent the different cultural groups of Azerbaijan, including antique instruments that show the marks and modification of their player to enhance their sound and performance. The inclusion of these instruments illustrates how national narratives carry individual stories and how they come together to make sometime beautiful, complex and layered in meaning. After Venice, his conceptual work continued with an installation entitled Carbon at Nar Gallery in Baku, where pieces of charcoal wood were suspended from the ceiling of the gallery to create a hollow circle that appears to be drifting in the air like ash from a fire. Elegant and powerful in their composition, Elvin’s installations present objects in a contemplative way to highlight the beauty of their relationships to one another and the stories that they tell together.