With artworks spanning installation, video art and plexiglass graphics, Orkhan Huseynov has long been one of Azerbaijan’s most engaging contemporary artists. Preferring to focus on the conceptual interpretation of his artwork, he uses multimedia in compelling ways to meditate on human emotion, social issues, and Azerbaijani traditions and culture. Since his participation in the seminal ‘Wings of Time’ exhibition of young artists in the year 2000, his impact on the Baku contemporary art scene has been instrumental in gaining international recognition of the Azerbaijani art. Abroad, his work has been shown in places such as Turkey, Georgia, Serbia, Czechia, Russia, France, Germany, Denmark, Poland, Switzerland, the UAE and the UK. In addition to his many exhibitions, he was an artist in residence at the prestigious Delfina Foundation in London, UK in 2014, a program that hosts the most dynamic conceptual artists and curators working on a global scale. He is also a fixture of the ‘Dubai Contemporary’ exhibition at Art Dubai due to his artistic representation of everyday life in both universal and intimate ways.
Orkhan grew up surrounded by art – he is from a family of graphic artists and gained his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees at the Azerbaijan State Fine Art Academy in the Faculty of Ceramic Design and Art History and Theory, respectively – which greatly influenced his worldview and developed his aesthetic approach to iconic graphic imagery. As a contemporary artist, his love of graphic art is expressed through plexiglass – through its depth, he harnesses the three-dimensional quality of the material to communicate emotion. In plexiglass works such as his ‘Kufic Brick Games’ (2017), he created Tetris-like constructions to represent Kufic Arabic script, which to the modern eye looks like it is created from digital pixels, a conceit through which he blurs the past and present, insinuating that the contemporary is always rooted deep in cultural memory. His love of strong visual language is also translated into his video art, which showcases his graphic sensibility in a different way; using film, he is able to bring these images to life, providing a multi-faceted platform for his conceptual exploration. Installation completes his artistic practice, bringing his ideas full circle and creating immersive experiences that bring the audience into his world.
Orkhan has also exhibited his work widely in Azerbaijan and been involved in many of the most influential shows of the past fifteen years, the most recent being his own solo show entitled ‘Dear Beloved’ at Yarat Contemporary Art Centre in 2017. In this work, he was inspired by the spam emails that many people receive that paint fantastical scenarios of foreign princes and political intrigue that all end with the request for money, in return promising riches to the unwitting person who helps with the transaction. In his exhibition, he printed and bound these emails into books, elevating them from emails to novels and highlighting the writers’ creativity in drawing innocent people into the narrative. In this work he also highlighted the social aspect of the letters through a reading room installation where the audience was invited to read the letters at length, examining the emails as a snapshot of the global condition at the time in which they were written, prompted by conflict, economic depression, and lack of opportunity in many developing countries. It is this insight into humanity that makes Orkhan’s work so poignant and empathetic; he portrays the world around us but peels back the layers of insulation that we create for ourselves to expose the emotion and struggle that we keep hidden from view. Alongside the installation were two films, the storylines of which were inspired from the spam emails he received. In this work, he blurs the lines between reality and fiction, asking us to consider multiple realities and the nature of truth. In Orkhan’s work, truth is multidimensional and subjective; his conceptual lens is a tool to make sense of our world, a sentiment which he applies with humor, empathy, and humanity.