ASTANA, Kazakhstan — A Kazakh artist is aiming to smash the record for the country's largest painting with a gigantic Soviet-style canvas depicting its long-serving leader surrounded by white doves and a rainbow.
The painting, which measures 32 square metres (344 square feet), shows Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, 72, beaming in a bright-blue suit at the opening of a university in the capital Astana in the best traditions of socialist realist painting.
Artist Amanat Nazarkul told AFP he hoped to bag a record with the painting that took nine months to complete. It could be the largest in the country or even in the ex-Soviet bloc, he said.
"I'm currently looking for experts so that I can possibly register my picture as the biggest in the (former Soviet bloc the) CIS or in Kazakhstan," he said.
Titled "Astana -- The City of Youth and Knowledge", the painting was commissioned by the founder of a private university in the city, Maksut Narikbayev, who recently quit politics.
It recalls the great Soviet realist canvases of the USSR where artists happily painted Soviet leaders opening factories and universities while surrounded by fawning allies.
"I can't say that it was easy work," said artist Nazarkul, 53, who specialises in paintings depicting traditional steppe scenes.
"After all it is a monumental canvas: the portrait likeness and the expression were important: there were a lot of questions," he said.
The painting's commissioner, the rector of the private Kazakh Humanitarian and Legal University this year stepped down as leader of mildly oppositional Adilet, or Justice, party after it lost its only seat in parliamentary polls.
The president has seen the painting in a photograph, the artist said, citing the commissioner. "They say he liked it."
Nazarbayev, who won more than 95 percent in disputed polls last year, has led energy-rich Kazakhstan since its independence in 1991, gaining it a reputation for stability but cracking down on his political opponents.
The strongman leader has a taste for grandiose legacy projects, scattering his new capital city with giant structures including the world's tallest tent, which houses a shopping and leisure centre.
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