Four Prophets by Bakhyt Bapishev - 1991 - 100 x 100 cm State Museum of Arts of the Republic of Kazakhstan Four Prophets by Bakhyt Bapishev - 1991 - 100 x 100 cm State Museum of Arts of the Republic of Kazakhstan

Four Prophets

oil on canvas • 100 x 100 cm
  • Bakhyt Bapishev - 1958 - 2019 Bakhyt Bapishev 1991
The painting Four Prophets by Kazakh artist Bakhyt Bapishev depicts three stone sculptures with human eyes. The high horizon line is typical for Oriental art; the sky is shimmering with azure and blue colors. Dark shades of brown and black dominate in the depiction of the stones, while a special technique of painting light shades of beige with a palette-knife gives the painting a bronze glow. 
The anthropomorphic image of the stone is a balbal (a steppe stone statue of nomadic ancient Turkic and Kipchak peoples, which were installed on graves). With the advent of Islam, images of humans and animals were banned, so a balbal from the 11th century is rare. According to the beliefs, balbals embodied a dead ancestor, who looked after and protected their living relatives.  In Kazakhstan they were given magic importance; they were offered to blandish spirits.
Art critics interpret Bapishev's works as a vision of the need for cultural succession, the continuation of spiritual traditions of the nation. By giving the stones a human look, the artist identifies man and nature, which are characteristic of the natural philosophy of Tengrism, a worldview with the central figure of Tengri (a central Asian Deity of Sky in the early Middle Ages). Followers of Tengrism worship natural and cosmic power, they believe in unity of nature and human and spirits of nature, such as spirits of mountains, rivers, trees, planets, and ancestors.
The author poses a riddle through the title of this painting, we see only three statues or prophets. Who or what is the fourth? And if you think deeper, maybe the fourth one is a viewer, or perhaps the sky, or a whole pile of stones beneath.
- Zhameli Khairli
P.S. Balbals remind us a bit of other mysterious stone figures although much bigger, these of the Easter island. Read about the monolithic Moai statues here!