Born in the Chinese year of the Dragon, Aziya is a 35 year old artist who embarked on a transformative journey from Kazakhstan to Prague. She has a big smile and a loud laugh that fills every room she enters. Her art too has a vibrant presence. In her words, it is a “testament to the power of art in conveying kindness, love, and peace, while fostering cultural dialogue.” Currently she lives and paints in Prague.
You’ve travelled the world, but how did you get from Kazakhstan to Prague? Is it a part of your story?
Certainly, it's a significant chapter in my life story. I used to be quite the homebody, uncomfortable with the idea of leaving my home for even a few days. So, you can imagine the leap it was to move to Prague, to a different continent altogether. Big difference to my normal routine. However, my desire to explore the world and discover new places has always been strong, perhaps influenced by Kazakh nomadic culture. I initially came to Prague to attend a Czech language school and later pursued my bachelor's degree here. I selected it because of it's central location, breathtaking architecture, my interest in Czech literature, and the sense of safety it offered.
I chose Prague mainly for its quality of life, safety, architecture, and culture. It was somewhat dear to my soul.
I remember I was sitting on the plane to Prague thinking please don’t cry. Other students who were coming with me to study language school were crying around me. I was terrified I thought I will not make it , I was scared I will give up and come back home in three days. My parents paid for Language school and it was non refundable, the thought that I would let them down was killing me. I was going so far, to a different continent , 12 hour flight , and no one was there waiting for me in Prague…
Czech literature. What did you read? Always a fun question for foreigners.
Since childhood I was influenced by my grandfathers love for Prague, Czech literature and music. I think it’s because he has been to Prague with his personal exhibition in 1980 and he was praising Prague. That’s why even before coming here, I read Kundera and Kafka and was dreaming to see the city of towers. (Aziya's grandfather is the National Artist Jumabai Umetov.)
I enjoy all of Kundera's works; selecting a favorite depends on my mood. Today, it would be 'Laughable Loves,' with its insightful ironic exploration of human relationships and existential themes. In the case of Kafka, 'Letters to Felicia' I like to open the book at any page and read the letter imagining it was written to me.
When did you know you wanted to be an artist?
I've been drawn to the arts since an early age. I grew up in my grandfather's studio and have been painting with watercolors for as long as I can remember. Art has been a part of my DNA, and I've been driven by it since a young age. I always knew I wanted to be an artist, and coming from a family of artists, it felt like a natural calling to me.
A lot of artists, especially contemporary ones, develop a stencil for their work, that evolves slightly, but they really stay standing. Your work is not that way. You wouldn’t be able to stay still, would you?
I wish I could do that. I am not against it and perhaps one day I will develop a stencil too. However Currently I am at the point of life when I am constantly driven by growth and development. This forces me to experiment, to stay curious, and move forward.
Passion for fashion - does that come with the artist territory?
I'm not really into fashion, but I prefer to follow my own aesthetic sense. For me, it's all about quality and the message you're trying to convey. Yes, I believe it stems from my artistic side.
You are as quirky in your art as you are in real life. Where does that come from? Were you like that as a child?
Yes, I've always been that way. I think it stems from the way I was raised. My parents fostered all sorts of creative development, even though it was unintentional on their part. It's like the kind of classes kids take nowadays, but I had that experience at home with my large family.
What inspires you?
Kindness, compassion, and love. In this chaotic world, it's easy to succumb to anger and hatred, but to choose love and kindness is a true virtue. It's an enduring source of inspiration for me.
You’ve recently moved out of the center, closer to the nature. Is that something you’ve wanted to do for a long time?
Yes, it was a lifelong dream of mine. Even when I lived in the city center, I used to escape to the forest in my daily meditations. Now, I get to experience real forest bathing, and it's truly incredible.
We live in a digital, almost virtual age. Do you think it’s helping art and artists?
Yes, it is helping artists connect directly with their audience. Art from around the world has become accessible through new media. Virtual exhibitions are a recent development, and the trend of buying art online is increasing yearly, surpassing physical art purchases. But in the free, democratic society of the worldwide web, artists face significant competition. Nevertheless, I still see more advantages in the new world we live in and believe it is the best time to be an artist.
What are your thoughts on NFTs?
I believe in NFTs as tradable assets. I think people don't know enough about them. For example, digital art as a form of visual art deserves to have its own place and value, but it's not the only form of NFTs. A few times, I've issued certificates for my work as NFTs. Just imagine when you buy a painting from an artist, you receive a paper certificate confirming the authenticity of the work. However, you can lose this paper or it can get damaged. On the other hand, you can also have a digital certificate that will document authenticity and your ownership, which will never get lost. This is when NFT becomes useful. I believe technology can be helpful when you know how to use it.
Do you have a dream right now? Something you want.
I believe that art possesses a healing power. Many people have told me that my work tends to heal and remind them of the brighter side of the world. My dream is to assist as many individuals as possible in reconnecting with themselves, finding healing, gaining encouragement, and rediscovering the positive aspects of the world through my artworks.
Give us a book recommendation.
One of the recent books I read is The art of noticing by rob walker. I would recommend it. It talks about importance of what you pay attention to, and encourages to have more enriched mindful life.
A movie to watch.
Call me by your name.
A place to visit.
Lake Kaindy in Kazakhstan. Here, you'll find trees that grow upside down. Back in 1911, an earthquake caused a natural dam to form, and over time, rainwater filled it up. As the dam filled, the trees damaged by the earthquake began to vanish beneath the rising water.
You can follow Aziya on Instagram here.