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 September 12, 2003 

A Life on Canvas: Tigran Tokmajyan's 80 years of family and national pride

The father's love of art is passed on to the daughter, but in very different styles.

For the past two weeks, a visit to the Union of Armenian Painters has been a visit to Armenia itself. There the work of 80-year old artist Tigran Tokmajyan paints the country's history in the bright colors of nature. There, too, on 81 canvases is the history of a national artist.

"My art is the history of my nation, the nature of my homeland, which are reflected in my paintings, I'm grateful to my nation and I must serve with my art as much as I can," the artist says.

The kind-faced painter creates his life in wavy motions of a brush standing in front of an easel. He fixes his deep look at the rocky and thorny mountains of his homeland, where he derives his strength, his life, and his creativeness.

His eyes are deep and serene and the color of ocean. And in those eyes is reflected his lyrical portraits, and living images that find life under his brush.

And there is a warmth in the work, as in his smile, that has been filling canvasses for nearly 80 years with childlike innocence and kindness, but with the wisdom of maturity.

Tokmajyan's art is a mixture of a world of emotion, of history, of reality, where easy brushstrokes express both the painter and his art's free flight; and where unique coloration makes Lake Sevan, numerous ancient Armenian churches and other images tangible and touchable.

Picasso's famous question "Where is the Drama?" is not a question for Tokmajyan, it is his essence. Dramatic perception of his nation, of history is not an external fad for him; it is rather a component of his blood. Dramatic accents are noticeable almost in all of his works. One can feel shrewd looks of powerful Armenian kings or smell scent of incredible flowers and hear a voice of nature from the depth of charming landscapes.

The artist is not limited by genre or scale, finding expression in huge frescos, in landscape, in historical documentation . . .

But Tigran Tokmajyan's creative life has also been fulfilled by the art of his daughter, Arpi, whose work is absolutely different in style, in technique, in genre. But both are joined by the creation of an art, where we find a soul, where we find ourselves.

The daughter was bright in mathematics and it seemed she would thrive in that science.

"But she chose this way of mine," the proud father says, "and I am happy for it. In an artist's family there is an apprehension so that their children won't continue the hard way but for me it was really happiness when we together went to the sketches."

On her road of discovery of the miracle of the art the daughter has crossed a thorny road from mid-century classics, impressionists into vanguard art and to video installations.

"I tried many styles in my early creative life," Arpi says. "Early, I just drew as I was taught by my teachers at the aesthetic center. But gradually I felt another need for expressing my new ideas."

The eternal problems of parent and child differences has had little place, however for the artist father and daughter.

"My father is a calm and peaceful person but at the same time he is very strict," says 32-year old Arpi. "I cannot even imagine how could I argue with him, however, at the same time he in his turn never judged or rejected things I do."

For Tigran Tokmajyan it is very natural that he and his daughter are so different.

The face that has seen 80 years of art.

"We are fruit of quiet different times," he says. "Most of my life passed through Soviet dictatorship, and for me it was a main goal to show and venerate my national values. Now Arpi is interested in more global problems.

"We accept and see the world from different viewpoints, but we have very important affinity - to create an art which will make people to be kind, generous, to love each other, and to protect all that God has given them."

To realize those purposes, Apri helped found "Cobalt", an organization of women painters in Armenia, in 1994. Through that organization, other female artists have found a place of expression for a variety of arts - many drastically unlike the work Arpi's traditionalist father.

"I think that art is an instrument, which if you use it correctly will destroy the evil of the world," the daughter says.

Her work, she says, reflects ideology she'd like to see apparent in real life.

Her father's work, however, is real life. As real as an Armenian plain or its history of sacred events or the simple beauty of its nature. And it is the love of family and of nation that shines in the aged eyes of the benevolent father who was first an artist.



According to Agnes
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