Contemporary artist Rashad Babayev’s diverse aesthetic career includes painting, installation, sculpture and film. Originally from Khachmaz, Azerbaijan and based in Baku, Rashad first studied law before beginning his artistic practice in 2000. He was quickly recognized for his talent and complex conceptual vision, which resulted in his first solo exhibition held in 2004 and then his participation in various exhibitions in Azerbaijan as well as abroad. His work has been included in some of the most seminal shows of contemporary Azerbaijani artists of note, such as the 2012-2013 ‘Fly to Baku’ exhibition that toured Moscow, Rome, Vienna, Berlin, Paris and Baku, and the acclaimed ‘Love Me, Love Me Not’ group exhibition at the 55th Venice Biennale in 2013 and Baku in 2014. Additionally, his artwork has been shown in Georgia, Korea, and Kazakhstan.
Widely respected for his painting, his style is abstract and emotive and his compositions combine deliberate and defined brush strokes with a bold, saturated color palette inspired by the Azerbaijani tradition of miniature painting. Many of his pieces reference philosophical concepts and are embedded with deep symbolism, reflected through their fragmented imagery. His work features minimalist figuration, such as his dramatic painting St. Sebastian (2009), where the protagonist is depicted with vigorous strokes of black and white. In his more abstract work, he uses color to create narrative shapes on canvas to express his conceptual vision, a stylistic choice that also extends into his installation and sculptural work. In 2012, he mounted the large installation Antonini in Baku for the 012 Baku Public Art Festival that used photography and collage to explore acclaimed Italian director Michelangelo Antonioni’s 1972 visit to Baku when the director was scouting for a film that was never realized. Rashad created a mural along a Baku street to map the cognitive traces of this event, as he explored the director’s vision and ultimate frustration in his inability to fulfill his vision. For his contribution to the 55th Venice Biennale ‘Love Me, Love Me Not’ exhibition, Rashad created the installation The Tree of Wishes (2013), a sculptural tree hung with colorful strips of cloth, some of solid color and some with nostalgic patterns, tied to its branches – a rendering of a traditional mystic folk practice of tying cloth strips to a sacred tree to represent prayers or wishes sent to the spiritual realm. Esoteric and spiritual themes continue to inspire his creativity in other media. In 2014, the Museum of Modern Art in Baku presented his solo exhibition ‘Island,’ which showed works that were non-figurative representations of Zen mystic concepts, ruminating on the nature and experience of time and eternity. His work was also part of the 2015 Yarat Contemporary Art Space opening in Baku and the group exhibition. His artwork is popular with collectors and is featured in various museum and private collections in Azerbaijan, Russia, Turkey and Iran.
In recent years, his growing interest in film has resulted in a number of film scripts and short films. While he officially debuted his work in 2018, in 2013 he wrote and directed his first short film, ‘The Passenger’ which deals with a chance meeting between two very different individuals. In 2018, his short film ’61 Grams’, exploring facets of daily life through the journey of a tin can passed from person to person, was included in the Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival in France. He has also written, directed and produced the short film ‘Lost’ and the animated short ‘Chao’, both of which were released in 2018. His films engage with similar themes as his visual art, as he uses the medium to delve into people’s interior lives. As he develops his practice as a filmmaker, he continues to expand his empathetic and compelling insight into the human experience.