Nostalgia of a Future Past. The Utopian World of Orkhan Isayev
November 24th, 2022

By Ivan Quaroni

Retrofuturism is the name of a literary and artistic trend that expresses a nostalgic feeling toward past futures and that, in particular, draws inspiration from the optimistic visions elaborated between the Second Postwar period and the 1980s. Visions to which both the two fairs organized in 1939 and 1964 by General Motors under the title Futurama, which presented innovative ideas for shaping the life and society of the world to come, and the futuristic city project called EPCOT (Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow), elaborated in 1960 by none other than Walt Disney, but never realized due to his untimely death, were not unrelated. 

In fiction, as in the visual arts, the retro-futuristic style emerges as the expression of dissatisfaction with the present and its possible developments and, therefore, as the sign of a consequent escape to less catastrophic worlds. Above all, the images elaborated in the 1960s and 1970s are those that, more than others, have been able to project - through illustrations, comic strips, cartoons, and films - the idea of a future full of potential, imagined as a time in which the dream of a free, democratic, technologically advanced society launched toward the conquest of space and the colonization of new worlds is finally realized. A vision that departs considerably from the dystopian predictions of certain Science Fiction and especially Cyberpunk, which have accustomed us to the concept of desolate universes ravaged by climate devastation, prostrated by corruption and social imbalance, ruled by pure profit, and shaped by an unscrupulous and amoral use of technology in every field of human endeavor.

In Orkhan Isayev's art, Retrofuturism and Cyberpunk come together to construct a visual imaginary poised between nostalgia and inevitable dystopian drift. A world that, at least initially, is conceived as a kind of golden age, the so-called Great Utopia, a time of social order and decorum, in which the urban structure of cities is the result of the combination of the preservation of ancient monuments and the development of advanced technology, just as someone who lived between the Roaring Twenties and the 1940s would have imagined it. As the artist himself says, "I was interested in Futurism from an early age, but I also always liked 20th-century nostalgia because it was very intense, and I was always looking for ways to show it together." 

Dominating the skyline of Orkhan Isayev's cities is, in fact, the Deco style that influenced painting, architecture, decorative arts, and fashion from the mid-1920s to the 1940s.

Just a glance at the Utopia series on Foundation and the [Victory Aeromobiles](https://superrare. com/isayev_art)[ series on SuperRare](https://superrare. com/isayev_art) is enough to realize that in his futuristic metropolises, monumental vestiges of the past such as the Colosseum or the Eiffel Tower, the Sydney Opera House or the CN Tower in Toronto, the Statue of Liberty or the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, are surrounded by a mass of hyper-technological buildings, whose gleaming steel surfaces recall precisely the moldings and forms of American modernist architecture, the same one that peeps out in the smoky cityscapes of Blade Runner. The only difference is that Orkhan Isayev's cities seem to be the expression of a seemingly happy and pacified society, the optimistic and ecological version of a positive science fiction that not even the candor of Star Wars had been able to embody. Instead, the link with the dystopian imagery of Blade Runner is represented by the figure of Syd Mead, the legendary concept artist of Ridley Scott's film, whom Orkhan counts among his primary sources of inspiration, along with Moebius, the French cartoonist who reinvented the sci-fi comics of the 1970s and 1980s. 

Orkhan Isayev's works are characterized by clean drawing, reminiscent of the ligne clair (clear line) modes of French and Belgian comics. His images are also recognizable by the uniform and elegantly flat color palette, in which the bright red, blue, and yellow tones stand out. His is a visual grammar that retrieves some elements from the past, inserting them, however, into a personal and nostalgic variant of the Sci-Fi genre between the 1960s and 1980s that could not have existed in those decades. Nostalgia is, in fact, the main trait of many contemporary productions, a sign of the demolition of the future wrought by today's society that leaves an open wound in the new generations, to which artists respond with a backward flight to an era that still expressed blind faith in the future.

In addition to being a creator of worlds, capable of imagining the future of world capitals in the hypothetical era of Great Utopia - from Rome to Berlin, from Shanghai to New York, and as far as Baku - Orkhan Isayev also proves to be a skilled weaver of stories and inventor of characters who could very well become the protagonists of a graphic novel or an animated series. His passion for storytelling, welded to his unmistakable graphic grammar, emerges especially in *Valkyria Project: The Chronicles, *a cycle of illustrations that features all the characters in a story set in Valkyria, just after the era of Great Utopia, at a time when things seem to have taken a different turn. 

It is precisely in this series of work that the influence of Cyberpunk, with its dystopian overtones, is most visible, perfectly embodied as much by the Guardians, the heroes guardians of order, as by their criminal antagonists of the Infernal Family, as well as by the members of the Great Council who rule Valkyria. Between armored equipment and technologically and cognitively augmented bodies, Orkhan's characters move through a dimension where biotech experimentation triumphs, where men and machines, flesh and circuits merge into the bodies of militarily enhanced cyborgs. 

This series, which includes not only side characters (Miscellaneous) but also "portraits" of robotic Machines and special armaments (Aeronauts), is also joined by glimpses of the urban landscape, city corners, and neighborhoods of Valkyria City, as in the case of the work Sector Alpha: Northern Block No. 256, in which we find the limpid outlines of the buildings of Great Utopia. In short, there is no shortage of ingredients for constructing an actual script that may, sooner or later, turn into a screenplay.

VICTORY Aeromobile - Artemis Classic Y5
VICTORY Aeromobile - Artemis Classic Y5

For the Poseidon DAO Deploy Collection, Orkhan Isayev created the work titled "VICTORY Aeromobile - Artemis Classic Y5", a perfect mix of science fiction and nostalgia, a vision of a futuristic city in which art and technology coexist: on the one hand, the aerodynamic lines of a luxury automobile with a "disc-stabilized flight path"; on the other, the sharp volumetry of the Myron's Discobolus, a classical symbol of beauty and anatomical perfection. As the artist explains, "In my work, I try to show a world in which the advanced technology of the future and the legacy of past generations are in perfect harmony." 

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