Oil has always been both the main economic wealth of Azerbaijan and a source of inspiration for creative people. Songs, poems, lyrics, novels, paintings, and odes have been dedicated to oilmen, and films and documentaries have been made about them.
Since the 19th century, when Baku became the first city in the world to experience an oil boom, Azerbaijani art has been closely associated with oil. Poets and writers such as Mirza Alekper Sabir, Abdullah Shaig, Suleyman Sani Akhundov, and Mir Jalal Pashayev dedicated their works to the auspicious subject of oil. The very first movie shown in Baku in 1898 was called "Fire at the Bibi-Heybat Oil Well." The first Azerbaijani full-length feature film, made in 1915 by Boris Svetlov, one of the most important early Baku directors, was called "In the Kingdom of Oil and Millions" and was financed by the oil "barons." It told the story of a poor man who became rich through oil and then tragically lost everything.
The famous Azerbaijani composer Gara Garaev wrote the musical soundtrack for the 1958 documentary "The Story of the Caspian Oil Workers." Many prominent Soviet Azerbaijani artists went to the Oil Rocks, the world's first offshore oil platform in the Caspian Sea, and painted the daily life of oil workers. Several artists reflected in their works the brave Azerbaijani oil workers, scenes of the Caspian Sea with oil derricks, and various compositions.
"Baku is the romance of oil labor. The city is associated with oil and oil production: It has always fascinated me. Baku is a city of labor; it lives from this labor; it smells and is saturated with it. And it is impossible to paint ... the Caspian Sea in any other way. By the way, oilmen themselves grow the flowers, and not just roses, in their gardens on our ash-laden, fire-prone land," recalls the world-famous artist Tair Salakhov.
Sattar Bahlulzade's painting is a hymn to Azerbaijan: he creates a polyphonic image of his native land, just like the ancient architecture, carpet art, mugham, and poetry. His pictures of the world reflect not only the stylized, artistically generalized image of the Azerbaijani land but also a surprisingly harmonious fusion of the ancient cultural tradition created by the Azerbaijani people. His works depicting the Caspian Sea and oil platforms occupy a special place in his art ("Caspian Beauty," "Evening over the Caspian Sea", etc.). He spent days at sea together with oil workers on boats, platforms, rigs, and derricks.
There are also such original paintings as "Girls Prefer Oilmen" by Irina Eldarova. The author presented paintings and installations inspired by the films of the 1960s and the immortal image of Marilyn Monroe. She even produced work from her series on the building of the Baku Art and Production Factory.
Oil has also "seeped" into the country's contemporary art. The artist Tora Agabaeva presented the exhibition "Oil and Dreams" in London in 2011. She portrayed the impact of oil in ironic ways, such as drawing a nude figure wearing a helmet in the background of an oil refinery. In conceptual artist Orkhan Huseynov's video "Drinking Oil," two men in bright orange overalls drink oil as if it were tea. The painting Splash shows a raised fist reaching for oil. Sabina Shikhlinskaya, Asmer Abdullayeva, and Museyib Amirov are also among the contemporary artists who paint oil. For more than 20 years, Sabina Shikhlinskaya has been using oil in various genres of her creative work. One of her most famous works is the monumental panel "The Oil Epic", which consists of several successive parts and shows the dynamics of the development of Azerbaijan's oil industry.
And Sabir Chopuroglu has dedicated and created an amazing technique as he paints with oil and does it exclusively with his fingers. The oil itself is not suitable for painting. It dries badly and the picture tends to "fall apart." So he mixes its concentrate with art varnish, using acrylic, tempera, and oil paints. "For centuries, oil has been the main wealth of Absheron, but I never thought that this would become my destiny in life. I am grateful to God that my art is widely recognized. I will continue to experiment because oil is the paint of the 21st century," says the artist.