From Substance to Silver

Works by Leyla D. Rzayeva

October 18, 2019 - November 8, 2019


Opening Reception: Friday, October 18, 2019 (5 – 7pm)

Artist Statement

I am interested in images that are spacious not spaced out, sharp not intellectually fixated. Most artistic work relies on being “in on the joke” which in itself is not problematic. Except this attitude takes out the rug from under our feet, it takes our energy and runs us dry. It constructs experience out of borrowed avant-garde ideas and tries to mirror freedom and spontaneity. In instances when perception is heightened in terms of awareness, we can recognize the activity of giving shape to what we see. Imagine a lemon and you will instantly recognize its taste, and human experience is more substantive than lemons. And so to give substance to something like a painting requires a great deal of honesty.  In this body of work I continue translating iconography of Central and West Asia, specifically regions of Azerbaijan, Samarkand and the Caucasus. Oil paintings on canvas and linen use carefully positioned areas of bright color and figurative outline to talk about feeling, symbol, and living ritual. Representations of dancers, musicians, stylized plants and animals are set against the pigmented background of the canvas.   The paintings study cultural symbols and methods by which phenomena can be put into visual form. I define painting as a guide and an enabler of larger movements in the interior of the person. Referencing specific geographical locations, pointed archways and linear frescoes of early Persian artists, I invite us to recognize the painting’s character as representative of my traditions and as a contemporary translation of those visual symbols.


Azerbaijani and Russian American artist Leyla Rzayeva (b. Moscow ’86) has shown her work in Washington D.C., Baltimore MD, Rehoboth Beach, DE, and Joshua Tree CA, including George Mason University and the inaugural 2016 Contemporary Museum Artist Retreat. Rzayeva received BFA in Painting and Printmaking from Maryland Institute College of Art (’08) and holds a Professional Printer Certificate from Tamarind Institute, University of New Mexico (’09), a nonprofit center for fine art lithography dedicated to reviving the art of contemporary printmaking. Her work has been collected by her alma mater and private individuals around the country.  From 2015-2018 Rzayeva established and operated Clubhouse Lithography Workshop in Baltimore, Maryland. Clubhouse collaborated with over 20 local artists offering access to tools, space and printmaking craftsmanship to create original limited edition prints. Rzayeva currently lives in Alameda, California with her husband and son.



Image: Geometry, oil on canvas, by Leyla D. Rzayeva