- Independent Journalism From Today's Armenia
 February 21, 2003 

A Life in the Sun: Saryan exhibition in France will be the biggest for 17 years

The baking heat of the sun radiates in a uniquely Armenian way from pictures that line the walls of Martiros Saryan's house-museum. There is charm and excitement in these canvases, which bathe the viewer with optimism.

The director of Picasso's museum Jean Louie Andral experienced these emotions in 2001 when visiting a selection of Russian exhibits organized in Bordeaux, France. A few of Saryan's works were included in the collection. Andral recalls: "What flames come from this canvas, who is the creator?"

Astonished by the artist's sunny colors Jean Louie Andral immediately got in touch with the Martiros Saryan museum in Yerevan.

"We met last year and became acquainted. He saw all of Saryan's paintings and was shocked. At the end, we signed a contract for the organization of Saryan's exhibition at the Picasso museum in Antibes, in the south of France," says 67-year-old Shahen Khachatryan, director of the Saryan museum and himself an honored artist.

Posters for the "Country of the Flying Sun" exhibition, which will open on June 27, will be posted widely and Armenia will gain new recognition through Saryan. The exhibition will continue until October 5.

Khachatryan says: "We aim to exhibit the young Saryan - how he developed, the way he chose to reveal his bright individuality by means of his works."

Sixty six of the 80 works to be taken to France are paintings and 14 are graphics. The Saryan Museum is providing 40 of the exhibits, with 12 paintings being contributed by the National Gallery in Yerevan. Six canvases will come from the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow and three from the Russian Museum in Saint Petersburg. Single paintings are also being sent from London and Paris.

"The collected works will wholly represent the master's character. In particular, his early works will be exhibited, which form the height of Saryan's art," notes Khachatryan.

The master's works can be divided into three periods. The first from 1903-1909 was called by Saryan "Dreams and Fairy Tales." The second one until 1920 was dominated by his emotional reaction to the 1915 Armenian Genocide. The final period until his death in 1972.

Khachatryan says Saryan entered the world fine arts' movement with his early works. "He aimed not only to return to the traditions of national painting, but he also brought the national art to European parameters."

The exhibition in France will be the biggest single collection of Saryan's work abroad since 1986, when a display was organized in Germany, and before that in 1980 at the Pompidou Center in Paris. Works from his pre- and post revolution periods, including many of his works from the Soviet time, were mainly exhibited.

Khachatryan notes that Saryan's paintings reflecting Soviet ideology were mainly sent for exhibitions abroad. It was restricted to exhibit many his free-spirited works.

"In 1962 when I was working in the National Gallery I included one of Saryan's canvases in the exhibition. The management got a heart attack. They told me: 'Take it off.' I was crying because of this cruel restriction," Khachatryan says.

Saryan himself was patient, but the road of his life was rather harsh. He underwent the upheavals of genocide, war, Stalin's repression, criticism, and threats. The museum director recalls: "The Government was saying 'we will starve him with the ruble'. But the master was optimistic and his art never reflected harsh reality."

There were two painters hidden in the personality of Martiros Saryan tied to each other till the last days of his life. One was a soaring eagle and the other an artist standing on his native soil and dreaming for the spring in his homeland. This is how Shahen Khachatryan characterizes Saryan. He has worked in the museum since the day of its foundation in 1967 by at the request of the great master. Director says he has been dreaming to organize such an exhibition for 35 years.

"We couldn't do such a thing by our own resources to make Armenia better known to the world. I am happy that the genuine and true Saryan is finally being exhibited during my lifetime. Without this occasion, the work of my life would remain only on the narrow national level," says Khachatryan with pride.

The French partners will cover all of the exhibition costs. The paintings will be insured for $18-20 million and $150-200,000 will be spent on promotional material including exhibition catalogs, posters, and TV and radio broadcasts.

Gevorg Gyarakyan, a prominent Armenian painter, says: "Armenia has several titans worthy of being exhibited abroad: Martiros Saryan is one of them. There is so much color and light in his paintings that it amazes at all times."

The visual language of Saryan is gorgeous. It reveals the warm light that characterizes Orient through the secrets of his constructions.

"Saryan is the Fauvist of the Orient, the expressionist of the Orient. Every visitor coming to the exhibition will immediately compare the master to painters familiar to him," says Khachatryan.

Among French painters, he considers Matisse to be close to Saryan, but says Matisse separated the cream from the milk while Saryan left them both mixed in. The master made light the determinant. Whenever light is strong, color is strong as well.

Saryan's paintings are bright fairy-tales where everything is perfect lines, colors, tones, structure. He added the inner world of his emotions to his professionalism.


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  Photos of the week
  Photo of the week: Talk Time
Click on the photo above to enlarge

Photo of the week: Talk Time
Click on the photo above to enlarge

Hope and Assurance

It has been a season of many emotions, Decision 2003. Doves of peace were offered and officers to enforce that peace were stationed around the Central Elections Commission.



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