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.
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.
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.
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”).
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.
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.
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.
- 10 pavilions to see at the 56th Venice Biennale – May 2015 – Art Radar selects 10 national highlights from the Venice Biennale 2015
- 7 notable installations at the Sharjah Biennial 2015 – May 2015 – Art Radar highlights 7 notable installations at Sharjah Biennial 12, created by artists from Asia, Africa and the Middle East
- 4 Iraqi photographers to know – April 2015 – Art Radar profiles 4 Iraqi photographers that portray life in a country plagued by political instability
- Armory Focus 2015: Art from the Middle East, North Africa and the Mediterranean – in pictures – February 2015 – the curated Armory Focus 2015 brings together art from the Middle East, North Africa and the Mediterranean at this year’s Armory Show
- 100 years of Armenian genocide: Venice Biennale 2015 – February 2015 – international artists from the Armenian diaspora will mark the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide in “Armenity”
Subscribe to Art Radar for more on art from Armenia