It is not just Armenian art which is off the radar. Armenia itself has somewhat sunk internationally in the past 50 years, with only occasional news about tensions with Turkey and the possibility of huge amounts of oil gushing out of the country making the occasional headline. So it comes as something of a surprise that one of this month’s most exciting exhibitions is by a collection of Armenian artists.
The five artists have been bought to Bahrain by Beirut gallery owner Zara Mazmanian whose Esquisse Gallery in Lebanon is starting to make waves around the Middle East and beyond (there are rumours that she will set up her second commercial gallery in Bahrain). Stark in their differences, and yet unified by the fact that all the artists are producing fantastic work, this is some of the best international artwork Bahrain has seen in a long time, and should not be missed.
Gabo’s art reflects a world of fantasy and magic and tells a compendium of fairytales that are left to the imagination for interpretation. One of his most famous pieces is entitled “Ha-ha, hee-hee!” which embodies his optimistic views of the world and his humour. Gabo’s work can be described as ‘Fantastic realism’ or ‘Fantasy art’, which is derived from both Surrealism and Abstract art movements.
Mazmanian is one of Armenia’s most well known figurative sculptors working mostly with bronze and marble. The meaning of sculpture is ‘volume in dimension and dimension in volume.’ Mazmanian’s spatial sculptures which are abstract yet contain realism are exactly that. They have intellectual inertia by showing human ambition, cultivation, awakening and evolution. He views his sculptures as souls, with their own forms, dimensions and logic.
Vahram has been classified by international critics as ‘among the most outstanding of representatives of the post-modern movement’. His internationally acclaimed paintings are seen as visual masterpieces. The director of Arteclassica in Buenos Aires has described Vahram as an artist that moves between magic realism and the absurd, depicting a strange world full of irony and nostalgia, while he has been described as a contemporary master in a post-Soviet world.
Teni’s works can be characterised by existential surrealism. All her work is deep rooted in psychological concepts and is intended to remain ‘infinite’. Her paintings represent who she is and are her mode of self-expression. In her paintings she uses symbolism to represent what is intrinsic rather than extrinsic. They echo Karl Jung’s viewpoint in that symbols unify transparent images of consciousness with hidden and unexplainable meanings (which are behind them), and lead us to the unconscious depth of the human psychology. Teni’s work is featured in collections across the globe, predominantly in Armenia and
A New York art critic captured the essence of Vahan’s work: ‘Each painting is a record of an intense existential encounter between his body and his materials. Vahan’s palette, either raucously colourful or restricted and subdued, heightens the sense of the artists’ willingness to confront life in a full-frontal battle.’ With such a ‘game-on’ style recommendation, how could you possibly resist a look?
Armenia: A Journey Through Art will run from April 7-17 at the Bahrain Art Centre (next to the Bahrain National Museum). For further information visit www.esquissegallery.com.