Society • 15 November, 2017

A Kazakh spray painter in New York

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Spray painting is a painting technique where a device sprays a coating through the air onto a surface. At the sight of the drawing, driven by such technique, it feels as if the drops of space have merged into the paper. Fantastic, surreal landscapes have become popular over the past few years. Askhat Akylbaev is one of those who earns in the streets of New York with this kind of art. He told us about his life in the big city.

Askhat was born in East Kazakhstan. He spent his childhood at Aktogay station, which was built in 1929.

"When my parents moved to Almaty, I stayed in a village with my grandparents. When I talk about my childhood, I immediately recall our big house, which used to be a kindergarten before my grandfather privatized it. Trains were always passing through the village. I saw many tourists from Russia and China. After playing football, I always ran to the station to talk with the passengers," says Askhat.

After primary school, Askhat went to Almaty to live with his parents. He graduated from Ahmet Baitursynuly school №139. Then he entered the Mukhamedzhan Tynyshbayev Kazakh Academy of Transport and Communications, where he received a specialization in transport engineering and technology. Askhat visited New York by the student exchange program. This city, where life is in full swing, fascinated him and pulled like a magnet.

“From the beginning, I wanted to go to university. There were some difficulties with the documents, and I could not do it. Then I rented an apartment in Brooklyn, which is in the west of Long Island. I got a job as a cashier at a store near the house. The store closed in spring. I had to look for another job. I walked all the streets of Manhattan, handing out my resume. It was hard to get a job without knowing English,” Askhat says.

Passing along the street Askhat saw a pandemonium next to a stranger who painted. Thus, he became acquainted with the technique of spray paint.

“An Argentinean man Carlos drew a picture in just 5 minutes. Watching him, I asked him to teach me. Apparently, he was afraid of competition, and did not want to teach,” Askhat said.

A month later, Askhat took his tools and came to the street where Madame Tussaud museum is located. “Previously I was drawing time by time, even though it was not professional painting. Surfing the Internet, I learned the technique of spray painting. I was then 23 years old,” recalls Askhat.

Residents of this area were categorically against his work at that place. According to Askhat, he searched for a suitable place for a long time. Finally, he settled down on the first avenue next to McDonald's.

It is amazing how such a picture can appear for a moment. This drawing technique requires speed. The average price of the paintings is about 20-30 dollars. Askhat sells 30-40 paintings a day. The inquiry is especially boiling in the spring and autumn when there are many tourists.

According to Askhat, it is important to make the show in order to attract passers-by. “The Europeans and Americans value the art and always supports if they find the painting worthy. It only strengthens my self-confidence,”Askhat said.

Askhat has been living in New York for the last 6 years. He says that it was difficult to adapt. Those who liked his work, make him different offers. For example, recently a girl named Rebek, who deals with real estate, asked him to draw a big picture for the walls of rented houses. According to Askhat, in order to overcome all difficulties a person needs moral and psychological preparation.

“There is a lot of freedom in America. Quite a different picture, compared with Kazakhstan. Every day on the subway, I see residents from different countries. Once I counted them and found out that there were people from 30 countries,” says Askhat.

We saw freedom from the words of Askhat. Freedom is to live without the superiority of another, to do what you love, to think freely and be free. One thing is clear. Askhat will not be Van Gogh, but we want to end the article with the words of the great artist: “It's difficult to know oneself, but it's not easy to paint oneself either.”

Aya Omirtai,

Egemen Kazakhstan


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