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Armenia and Lebanon, hand in hand


September 12, 2012 12:08 AM

By Chirine Lahoud

BEIRUT: Burj Hammoud’s Hamazkayin Lucy Tutunjian Art Gallery was founded in 2009 as a platform for Armenian and Lebanese art and cultural production. Since then the space has exhibited works by many artists from both communities.

HLTAG has chosen Wadi Abu Jmeel’s Villa Zein as the venue for its latest collective exhibition, “Lipanan” (“Lebanon” in Armenian), featuring paintings and sculptures by such artists as Raffi Tokatlian, Hrair, Charles Khoury, Arthur K. and Mireille Goguikian, to name but a few.

Here onlookers will find a large selection of work, ranging from abstraction to surrealism.

Based on their titles, “Charles Aznavour” and “Pavarotti,” two mixed media-on-canvas works by Haroutiun K. Nicolian (aka Arthur K.), are tributes to the Armenian-born French vocalist and the Italian tenor.

Both works bear respectful renderings of each performer. Viewers will also find bits that don’t bear much relation to either Aznavour or Pavarotti.

The upper part of the collage-like “Charles Aznavour” (100x65 cm) is a still from Peter Webber’s film “Girl with Pearl Earring” (inspired by Vermeer’s painting). To one side of it is a fragment of a woman’s photo. To the other is the phrase “Human Rights,” written in Latin capitals against a parchment-shaded background.

Immediately below a photo of Aznavour in concert, a shard of red-tinted sheet music bears an unknown tune. Alongside is a photo of a stallion, in blue.

“Pavarotti” includes a photo of a black man with large white stripes painted on his chest. Nearby is a shred of a document apparently dealing with Armenian history. The link between these images and Pavarotti is vague.

An interesting palette accentuates the decorative value of Arthur K.’s work. From red, to blue, black and gold, these works are attractive to the eye. Although dark hues are omnipresent, the artist’s works radiate light.

“Awakening” – a bronze sculpture by Raffi Tokatlian – is astonishing both for its dimensions (190x55x242 cm) and its symbolism.

The apparently female figure is blindfolded. Her body is formed from bronze strips, resembling folds of clothing. Most interesting is the contrast between the light – almost ethereal – aspect these strips lend the body and the bronze head’s weight.

Arev Petrosyan’s mixed-media work “Emotions” (140x92cm) finds gold and silver leaves painted on organic glass. This work includes several red and black blotches, which seem to emerge from the ground. These could be representations of roses or poppies, with odd-looking mouths.

Jacqueline Ohanian’s “Messengers of Peace” (mixed-media, 105x105cm) is also highly symbolic. The work combines warm hues – oranges, yellows and hints of red – with white.

The white bits are evidently doves (peace) or perhaps a single dove in movement. Above the dove motif are depictions of two (or more) peoples’ heads. One figure gazes down, as if following the bird’s movement.

There is no obviously programmatic meaning to be ascribed to Ohanian’s depiction of peace and its messengers. The artist’s design intention appears decorative.

Hamazkayin Lucy Tutunjian Art Gallery’s “Lipanan” is up at Wadi Abu Jmeel’s Villa Zein until Sept. 16. For more information, please call 01-241-262.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on September 12, 2012, on page 16.