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Niyaz Najafov: Francis Bacon's successor?

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His works are raw, crude and sophisticated at the same. Very much along Francis Bacon's line of style. However, as soon as he grabs your attention, one discovers a departure from the old master and Bacon becomes his starting point. The Azeri artist Niyaz Najafov is presenting a new series of paintings at the Gazelli Art House in Dover Street, London and the show is titled: Dancing on Bones.

Telephones (anticipation) by Niyaz Najafov

The clues being given to interpret the narrative can be misleading. The painting above could be seen as someone being forced to make a phone call, perhaps being tortured, but as Clemmie Vaughan, the gallery's officer, explains: "it's about waiting for a call anxiously by the telephone". That it is when Niyaz departs from Bacon and makes his own mark. He shows that human emotions can be portrayed on a positive light. He has the ability to transform scenes of everyday existence into monumental depictions of underlying emotion. The viewer is confronted by a spectrum of sentiments, a palette of their variety in origins and in consequences. The viewer is dragged into witnessing quotidian activities which receive a special treatment. They are elevated to heroic scenes of an epic film. It transforms our daily lives full of routine into a series of achievements which go unnoticed and unrecorded except by the sharp gaze of Najafov. He holds no barrels in depicting mankind at their best and their worst. Strong colours: reds, pinks, yellows, all interchange in a frenzy of activities with the human being always at the centre of it. Dancing on Bones' exhibition evolves into an archive, a library and cornucopia of emotions. There is no judgment and all gain equal importance and exposure.

Najafov is an integral part of a generation of artists who have found renewed support on the burgeoning Azeri art scene. In the ever-expanding world of contemporary art, one of the newest frontiers is Azerbaijan where the collapse of the Soviet Union has not only given the country growing clout in international politics, but also a rich new cultural life, the effects of which have been seen internationally. In 2007 Azerbaijan participated at the Venice Biennale for the first time and at the following edition Najafov's work was selected for Azerbaijan's pavilion. In January 2012 he also participated in an exhibition of Azerbaijani art entitled Fly to Baku which was held at Philips de Pury in London.

Niyaz Najafov originally trained as a soldier as well as coaching hand-to-hand combat, and it was only in 2004 that he began to experiment with oil paints. Inspired by other self-taught artists such as Paul Gauguin and Francis Bacon, it was only five years before the artist came to represent his country at the Azerbaijan Pavilion at the 53rd Venice Biennale. Najafov has also exhibited in Paris, Moscow, Berlin and Geneva and his works are held in both national and international collections.