A drawing… A line, meeting Araks Sahakyan
Seeming to have come out of an Aladdin film, a tale of a thousand and one nights, this flying carpet with its shimmering colours invites us to escape. However, around this work, an assembly of loose sheets: 121 unfolded papers forming a carpet and which are stored, wisely, in a box. This spectacular work is signed by Araks Sahakyan, a student at theEcole Nationale Supérieure d’Arts de Paris Cergy and has just been awarded the BIC® Prize for the ENSAPC. The BIC® Prize for Contemporary Creation for the ENSAPC aims to encourage the creation of new artistic forms by highlighting emerging artists, all students at the ENSAPC. After Thibault Grougi (2016) and Jisoo Yoo (2017), Araks Sahakyan won this award which promotes his young career.
Marlene Pegliasco Araks Sahakyan, do you introduce yourself in a few words?
Araks Sahakyan: “For a long time, I went to bed early. Sometimes, as soon as my candle went out, my eyes would close so quickly that I didn’t have time to say to myself, “I’m falling asleep. “[…] It’s very hard to introduce yourself in a few words. Artist? Immigrant? Translator? Working part-time? “As many languages you know, as many people you are. “said William Saroyan. I speak several languages.
M.P.: You mainly do video. Why this installation around the drawing? What does it mean?
Araks Sahakyan: I have an attraction for installation, to work with my works in space, either with video, drawing or sculpture, etc. In fact, I am an artist without technique, or in other words, an artist who uses techniques to act, but not to identify with a concrete one. I am not a painter, sculptor or video artist, I am what the project requires. In any case, Paper Carpet also has a relationship with digital imaging. It is a digital collage composed of 8 Armenian rugs (including the very characteristic “dragon rug”), with family photos, symbols and signs of our times and art history, such as the anonymous portrait of Roman Egypt or a Menina de Velázquez, a still life, grenades, two planes kissing, the Ararat Biblical Mountain, non-existent flags, as well as original sentences and slogans. These are 121 loose sheets, printed and hand-colored with BIC® pens and felt-tips. All the leaves are collected in a leather box with a gilding like a book. I made marbled papers with BIC® Indian ink and the gold BIC® ballpoint pen for the inside of the box. After the conception of the idea, the digital editing and the printing of the sheets, it was a long and linear work, almost like a meditation.
Conceptually, Paper Carpet is a work where micro-histories (stories and personal experiences) blend with macro-history (the great history of peoples) represented here by Armenian carpets. The carpet, which is often anonymous, is composed of motifs belonging to a popular culture, but also official and centenary (I think of the pomegranate or Mount Ararat as symbols of Armenia), which welcomes new variations proper to our times, proper to the mixture of cultures, displacement or consumerism.
M.P.: What is your relationship with drawing in your creation?
Araks Sahakyan: I do not draw in the classical sense of the word, drawing for me is a technique and not a means of expression understood as a necessity and an unavoidable principle for the exercise of my profession. For me, drawing is more than a means of expression, it is a technique to problematize; now, for example, I wonder about the limits of drawing, where it begins and ends, can we draw without drawing?
I also have a very strong relationship with writing and calligraphy, which is also drawing; video is a way of drawing, because through it we work with the same variables: composition, gesture, contrast, movement… The installation, however, is the space where everything converges.
M.P.: Tell us about the installation “It’s funny your body”
Araks Sahakyan: I did this installation during my stay in Central Saint Martins, after learning the silkscreen printing technique. I had long been interested in the parade of bodies in the media and also in the use of archival photos of wars or genocides in documentaries or reports. On the other hand, I wonder about a certain jouissance in the viewer, like a normalized pornographic space, and about the exploitation of the images of others sheltered from a supposed militant, denunciatory or subversive art. Can we summarize the story in one image? And in one sentence? The silkscreen printing technique makes it possible to produce the same image (drawing, photo…) in large quantities in a short time. Yes, it’s quite perverse.
The question of macro history and micro history is also there as in Paper Carpet. A macro story made up of short stories. The great global history built by personal stories. Who determines if something has happened in history and how? In a fragmented and isolated society, we must increasingly convince individuals (even if with great shame) of a historical fact and defend it before the courts. That’s the way it is. It’s complex.
Even translators are not neutral. And the responsibility for the deaths or the disappearance of the bodies resides in unknown hands. And then, yes, everything becomes dangerous, even the use of images, a sentence or a word. But silkscreen printing makes it possible to pervert, it is not a photocopy. As for the legitimacy of the use of archival images, the use of irony, mood, etc., with genocidal history and war, it is not for us artists to restrict ourselves, but for those who exercise atrocious power against others. For decades the Turkish state has been mocking the victims of the genocide against the Armenians. It may seem like I was tough on the treatment of people’s bodies, dignity and existence, but in It’s so funny your body” I acted as a translator. It is a cross between the archive and the slogan, between history and mass culture.
If you were a drawing: Rock drawings from Nerja (Malaga)
Your favorite technique: encaustic painting
The most unusual support: the air, the sea…
“Drawing is like…”: Fighting… and always losing… and fighting again.
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