Aida Mahmudova, celebrated contemporary artist and founder of YARAT Contemporary Art Centre in Baku, works across various media and themes as inspired by her home, Azerbaijan. Based in Baku and London, Aida studied fine art at Central Saint Martins in London, UK and founded Yarat in 2011 as a not-for-profit artist-centered organization to help support local talent and promote art in Azerbaijan and abroad.
Since that time, Yarat has worked with the most recognizable names in contemporary art in Azerbaijan, providing programs, sponsoring exhibitions, and supporting studio space for Azerbaijani artists, both established and emerging, to encourage the growth of an Azerbaijani artistic discourse. Significantly, Yarat sponsored the diverse and compelling survey exhibition ‘Love Me, Love Me Not, at the 55th International Art Biennale in Venice in 2013, which presented work by young Azerbaijani contemporary artists along with artists from the Caucasus, Iran, Turkey and Russia. Included in the exhibition, Aida’s artwork ‘RECYCLED’ (2012-2013) was inspired by the metal window grates of old Baku, representing nostalgia for the built aesthetic of the city as it slowly fades into memory with the passage of time, a recurring theme in her artistic practice.
Aida is also an accomplished artist in her own right, having shown work worldwide in cities such as Dubai, London and Vienna, and in significant exhibitions and galleries, including the ‘Fly To Baku’ exhibition of Azerbaijani artists that was shown in London, Paris, Berlin, Moscow, Rome (2012–2013), and her solo exhibitions at the Leila Heller Gallery in New York, USA, the Barbarian Art Gallery in Zurich, and the Museum of Modern Art in Baku. Aida’s artistic style is characterized by her experimentation with materiality through installation, sculpture, and painting. Her work shows the hand of the artist through its use of layering, whether it be paint, concrete, or metal, creating multidimensional visual fields within the works. The works have a tactile depth that conceptually relates to her fascination with memory and place – her artwork is an exploration of how images that are held in memory mutate and soften with time, and how identity is remade through the filter of nostalgia. This theme was evident in her April 2018 solo exhibition ‘Landscaped’ held at the Azerbaijan Culture Center in Vienna, Austria.
The paintings showed what appeared to be abstracted landscapes through blurred colors and soft edges, the layered paint on the canvas suggesting the topography of both the land but also of memories etched into the landscape of a person’s consciousness. In her recent 2018 solo show ‘Non-imagined Perspectives’ at Yarat Contemporary Art Space in Baku, she expanded this exploration to new dimensions through the use of the entire first floor to exhibit new site-specific sculptures and painted work inspired by the regions of Azerbaijan. Using an alternately muted and saturated palette of paint, resin and concrete, she presented raw and earthy stratified columns that seemed to represent the interior of the earth itself, its stories embedded within the physical deposits of time. Alternately, additional sculptural blocks of layered materials suggested cross sections of Azerbaijan’s landscapes as viewed from above, each layer representing the depth of experiences held within the land.
By representing the landscape from a distance, the artworks invited closer inspection, with the perspective changing based on the visual frame and personal experiences of the viewer as an added layer of interpretation. In this way, her works are about Azerbaijan, but also about the universal longing for home and a shared sense of place that is tangible, real and infinite. This sentiment is echoed in her drive to keep pushing Yarat forward, supporting exhibitions in various regions of Azerbaijan to make art accessible to everyone and inspire the next generation of Azerbaijani artists. Recently, Yarat sponsored ‘Once Again That Garden Be’, a traveling exhibition in the region of Gazakh, showing new work by emerging Azerbaijani artists alongside famous Italian contemporary artist Michelangelo Pistoletto, helping to nurture the love of art throughout the country. It is this inclusiveness that has helped to bring such prominence to the Azerbaijani art scene both locally and globally. By using her talent as an artist to help build the contemporary art culture of Baku, Aida is one of the most influential and dynamic artists and patrons of Azerbaijani contemporary art.