Arshak Sarkissian gently challenges the viewer to make up their own mind about what they are seeing when looking at his highly detailed and often very colourful new artworks.
The Armenian artist’s fourth exhibition at Nicosia’s Opus 39 Gallery, entitled ‘The week of madness’ is on until October 11.
The show is made up of beautifully executed ink drawings, exquisitely colourful paintings and a sculpture you expect to climb down off its pedestal and walk around the gallery any second.
Speaking to The Cyprus Weekly, Sarkissian revealed one of the reasons he often omits titling his work is because he does not want to influence the viewer in deciding how each painting, drawing or sculpture makes them feel.
“Someone may look at this collection and say, ‘Oh, it’s a carnival,’ but it isn’t although it may make that person think of a carnival,” instead, the artist said, each work is about the emotions and feelings the characters it depicts emote.
The exhibition’s title was inspired by the care people in past decades took in preparing for an outing or special event, even at their own home, the artist said: “It was not about dressing up to show off but about feeling comfortable with how they were dressed.”
Sarkissian added: “My work is about the idea of someone, their personality, the atmosphere they create. It is not about what they are doing but what they make you feel.”
He gave the example of seeing a couple walking hand in hand: “When you look at them, you don’t think about what their names are. You conceive the concept of two people holding hands.”
Sarkissian notes the images he creates are from modern life but “from another reality, from my reality”.
The artist also pays the same amount of attention to every pen or brush stroke in his works, believing every element is of equal value.
“In historical paintings you may see very different levels of importance were given to the face of a king, for example, and to his dog,” Sarkissian said, noting: ‘I am more of a documental artist. Beautiful and ugly are the same to me. Every image—man, woman, child, pair of shoes, gets the same attention.”
The artist also finds it natural to switch between elements: “If you are swimming your body gives you what you need to do that particular thing. It is the same with the mediums I work in. You have a particular idea in mind and the medium guides you.”
His sculptures more often than not begin as characters in his paintings and drawings—sometimes making several appearances.
“I can draw or paint a character for years and then it comes to a point when I think, yes, it is time to sculpt this guy.”
While travelling constraints mean the larger scale pieces than those currently on show at Opus 39 could not be brought to Cyprus, Sarkissian is nonetheless confident they are a more than adequate representation of his work.
The sole sculpture is particularly representative of his current endeavours, he said, adding an exhibition in his native Armenia, where his studio is also located, would be different.
The artist enjoys coming to Cyprus both because his first solo exhibition was here, at Opus 39, over 10 years ago, and because of the atmosphere which, he said, stays the same in spite of other changes.
Sarkissian also did his post graduate studies at Cyprus College of Art with Stass Paraskos and was saddened by his death earlier this year.
“I was in Armenia when it happened. I knew from his son that Stass was not feeling well and I was aware of his age but, although this is life, I was sad.”
Sarkissian added, however that Paraskos, like all artists would live on in his legacy.
“He was a great painter and many people met him over the many years he was at Lemba. He was a remarkable man.
“His life, his painting, his personality, his voice, the way he spoke,” Sarkissian said of Paraskos, adding: “Artists are lucky because they never die, they live on through their work.”
Sarkissian’s future plans include exhibiting in both New York and Armenia in the coming year. Coming to Cyprus after an exhibition in Andorra, he noted how different shows in different countries can be.
“It is always very interesting to see how people connect with your work. I have always found that bit fascinating and always will.”
Sarkissian was born in Gyumri, Armenia in 1981. After completing his education at the National Aesthetic Centre of Art in Armenia, he came to Cyprus working with Paraskos.
Sarkissian has had solo shows at the Albemarle Gallery in London, Gavriel Gallery in Bremen, in Paris and New York. Among his works is the interior design of passenger terminals in Zvartnots Armenia International Airport.
He has participated in numerous art projects such as the Art Omi International Artist residency, in New York and “Stand Up For Your Rights” Design and Illustration Team Residence program in Buntingford, UK and the Andirran National Commission for UNESCO international art camp 2014. He works and lives in Yerevan, Armenia.
Visit www.arshaksarkissian.com for more on the artist and his work.
A catalogue featuring Sarkissian’s new work is also available to purchase from Moufflon Bookshop in Nicosia (22665155).
Opus 39 Gallery is situated at 21, Kimonos St., Nicosia, opposite the Education Ministry.
It is open Mondays from 5-8pm, Tuesday-Friday from 10.30am-12.30pm and 5-8pm and on Saturdays from 10.30am-12.30pm.
Call 22424983 or visit the gallery’s official Facebook page.