5 Armenian artists to know now

Art Radar handpicks five exciting Armenian artists you should know.

With the Armenian Pavilion winning the Golden Lion at the 56th Venice Biennale, and Armenia’s artists exhibiting internationally, we add the country’s artists to our radar.

Image courtesy the Mekhitarist Monastery of the Island of San Lazzaro, Venice.

The Islan of San Lazzaro, site of “Armenity”, the Armenia Pavilion at the 56th Venice Biennale, 2015. Image courtesy the Mekhitarist Monastery of the Island of San Lazzaro, Venice.

Armenia is an ancient country in the Caucasus region and was the first in the world to adopt Christianity as its official religion. It is therefore not entirely surprising that Armenian art has religious roots, such as its famous illuminated manuscripts (fifth-fourteenth centuries), medieval decorated cross-stones called khachkar and beautiful buildings such as the Cathedral of the Holy Cross on Lake Van (tenth century), the walls of which are adorned with biblical themes. While some modern artists have been influenced by modern techniques from other countries, others are heavily influenced by traditions.

Art Radar introduces you to five Armenian artists who are making a mark on the international stage.

Hrair Sarkissian, 'Unexposed', 2012, archival inkjet print, 137.5 x 110 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Kalfayan Galleries, Athens-Thessaloniki.

Hrair Sarkissian, ‘Unexposed’, 2012, archival inkjet print, 137.5 x 110 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Kalfayan Galleries, Athens-Thessaloniki.

1. Hrair Sarkissian

Hrair Sarkissian trained in Syria, France and Holland. He is presenting photos from his series “Unexposed” at the ongoing 56th Venice Biennale, where different facets of issues such as migration, persecution and displacement are deeply explored. The series focuses on Armenians who are based in Turkey, on the sidelines of society due to their conversion to Christianity, but also not fully accepted in Armenia.

The main themes in Sarkissian’s work are memory and identity, which are represented in photographs of urban settings. The photographer attempts to evaluate historical, religious and social narratives both on a collective and individual level. Sarkissian opens up a view into his own and his family’s experiences, linking the seen and unseen stories of the present and the past.

Hripsime Margaryan, ‘’Impression’’ series, 2012, mixed media on paper, 30 x 40 cm. Image courtesy the artist.

Hripsime Margaryan, ‘’Impression’’ series, 2012, mixed media on paper, 30 x 40 cm. Image courtesy the artist.

2. Hripsime Margaryan

This Yerevan-born artist exhibits most of her work at the Valmar Art Gallery in Armenia. Margaryan was first introduced to art through her parents, who took her to see many art exhibitions. Her father, Valmer, who also exhibits at the Valmar Art Gallery, has always advised and supported her.

Margaryan has exhibited in Armenia at over 42 galleries. In her art, she creates a dynamic and emotional world which reflects her worries, moods and feelings. Her pieces are highly abstract. Inspired by music and nature, she creates lighthearted compositions by combining lines and colours. Her aim is to show the viewer a coherent series of images, where every painting is a window into a beautiful, kind and positive world. She draws on her own genuine nature and her inner world when creating both abstract and realistic pieces. Her favourite painters are Gustav Klimt (“the most emotional painter she knows”), Renoir (“the gentle painter”), Picasso (“the brave painter”) and Dali (“the smartest painter”).

Arthur Sharafyan, 'Closed Doors', 2015, oil on canvas, 120 x 100 cm. Image courtesy the artist.

Arthur Sharafyan, “Closed Doors” series, 2015, oil on canvas, 120 x 100 cm. Image courtesy Gala Art Gallery and the artist.

3. Arthur Sharafyan

Sharafyan has been influenced by El Greco, having always felt Greco’s style in himself in terms of expressive and aesthetic principles. Sharafyan’s individual style includes both contemporary and traditional Armenian elements. Throughout his career, he has tried out various techniques such as collage, canvas, acrylic paints, pastels and oils. He is represented by Armenia’s Gala Art Gallery.

Sharafyan teaches painting at the Yerevan State Fine Art College, in addition to being an artist. He feels that he is helping to promote a civil democratic society by teaching his students not only how to paint, but also how to become free thinkers. In Sharafyan’s view, it is an artist’s job to comment on society and to make people think about the world they live in. He attempted to do so by creating images depicting the tragedy of the Armenian people during the Armenian Genocide.

In honour of the 100th Centennial of the Armenian Genocide, the artist created a series entitled “Closed Doors” to symbolise the personal tragedy of people who had to leave their own houses, their homeland and their personal story, which started beyond those doors but ended up nowhere.

Moko Khachatryan, 'Trees before sleep', 2015, 75 x 140 cm. Image courtesy the artist.

Moko Khachatryan, ‘Trees before sleep’, 2015, oil on canvas, 75 x 140 cm. Image courtesy Gala Art Gallery and the artist.

4. Moko Khachatryan

Moko Khachatryan is most influenced by nature, which, she feels, has a lot of depth and energy. She used to create her works with acrylic paint but has recently moved to oils, as she felt that the former is unable to depict the energy of nature in its full vibrancy. Her ideal project would be to start on a canvas that never ends: she tells Art Radar that this would be her favourite piece.

Khachatryan uses art to depict the tragedy of being: fear, hope, pain, loneliness and self-protective illusions. The light from which life began is the main feature in her creations. Her father was a famous painter as well, whose life has been a positive example and inspiration for the artist. Khachatryan is represented by Gala Art Gallery.

Armenak Karapetjan, 'The Musicians, Pomegranate and Mount Ararat', 2015, oil on canvas. Image courtesy the artist and Hamlet Mejloumian.

Armenak Karapetjan, ‘The Musicians, Pomegranate and Mount Ararat’, 2015, oil on canvas. Image courtesy the artist and Hamlet Mejloumian.

5. Armenak Karapetjan

Karapetjan has exhibited in the Czech Republic, Russia, Germany and Belgium. The main theme of his paintings is the relationship between family members – the experience of people as children and parents. His images are gentle in colour and shape, elegantly describing the love between family members as the life force at the centre of every person’s life.

His work The Musicians, Pomegranate and Mount Ararat was part of a special project dedicated to the 100th Centennial of the Armenian Genocide, for which fifteen modern Armenian artists were chosen to create oil paintings from moments of Hamlet Mejoumian’s life in the nineteen months before 24 April 2015 – the date of the 100th Centennial.

Elizabeth Kaplunov

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Related Topics: Armenian artists, painting, photography, works on paper, artist profiles, lists

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