You are a Lebanese painter and sculptor representing the Armenian Republic at the 57th international biennial in Venice. Can you tell us about the exhibition… I am a Lebanese citizen but also a citizen of Armenia and Belgium. I am very honored to have been selected this year to represent the Armenian Pavilion at the 57th Biennale in Venice. It will be a great challenge to create the right exhibition. This year’s theme is spirituality – the interaction between life and art, the importance of education, culture and more specifically art, and the significance it bears in today’s world. My exhibition will address the transmission and transcendence of knowledge and heritage through books, writings and calligraphy, among others.
«Fiamma Inestinguibile» is the title of the exhibition. What does it mean and where did you draw the theme? My curator Bruno Corà is Italian. Upon lengthy discussions as to how to title an exhibition of such magnitude, we fell on this one, as it imposed its sparkle and resonated with the theme.
«The flame» is the flame of my blowtorch as well as most of my burning instruments. «Inextinguishable» because I am constantly creating and I only stop to restart. The flame also refers to my passion for art for the past 30 years, and the past seven years using fire, flame and smoke. My passion is always alive and burning. It’s the inextinguishable flame and determination of the people of the country I represent, Armenia but no doubt also that of the Lebanese and Belgian people. Being multi-national, I belong to people who have suffered terrible circumstances: genocide, civil wars, world wars, and have survived all this by adapting and integrating in the positive world. Therefore the inextinguishable flame of the resilient life-loving people to whom I belong.
How would you define your art? My art is indefinable. It has to do with my questioning and research about how to paint today and how to integrate the second and the third dimension in my work.
My art is eclectic and personal. My experiments lead to discovery, and that leads to another experiment that leads to another discovery. Such is what I call the evolution of the artist. I’m in search of my own style and language by always trying to renew myself.I think I am bringing something new to the art scene today being one of the few artists to use fire, smoke and flame.
What characterizes your works and what kind of materials and techniques do you use in your paintings? For seven years my work has been defined by flame, fire and smoke. I use various instruments, different sizes of blowtorches, burning powder, gel, liquids, soldering, welding, melting instruments, and more. I apply these techniques on paper, canvas, wood, books, plastic, amongst others… increasingly interacting with pigments and color.
Can you tell us about your sculptures? Most of my sculptures are either in wood or burnt books. I began by experimenting on trunks of wood 20 years ago using a chainsaw, an instrument that’s not so adaptable as it is used for cutting down trees, not to sculpt with. Wood is hard and difficult to work with and allows no return when mistakes are made unlike clay. On the other hand I also burn books because I want to give them a new life span.
You were born in a family of jewelers, you have worked with precious stones and diamonds. Why did you choose painting and sculpture? Jewelry is an art in itself. I have enjoyed the craft since the very beginning until I began making my own art 30 years ago. I decided to start painting because I wanted to have a passion that goes beyond commercial performance and business logic. Therefore, I went to the academy. It was a safe haven, a place for meditation, where I discovered the history of art in its entity and experimented every step that lead me where I am today.I consider myself to be an autodidact because my mind is bubbling with ideas that I desire to bring to life.
You also did two majors in economy and sociology… How did your background help you in your career? I have been curious since my youth.I loved learning and reading books. Studying economy has contributed to my understanding of the business world while sociology has fulfilled me on human level, both making me a more sensitive human.
In 2006, you created a center for creativity at Villa Empain in Brussels. What was the target? Our vision was to transform the Boghossian Foundation at Villa Empain into a dynamic center of dialogue between East and West. Since 1992, the Foundation, established by my father Robert, my brother Albert and myself, has been undertaking humanitarian work in Armenia, Syria, and Lebanon. Belgium was our chosen headquarters for the family’s foundation as we grew up there and they have been a welcoming land and kind to us.
Where do you exhibit whether individually or in collective exhibitions? What does this participation in Venice Biennial add to your achievements? I have often exhibited in Brussels for the past 12 years, both individually and in collective exhibitions, twice solo at the Beirut Exhibition Centre in 2012 and 2015, “Vers La Lumiere” at The Young Eun Museum of Contemporary Art in South Korea, “Traces Sensibles” at Musee d’Ixelles in Brussels recently, and in Italy.
The Biennale is the place where every artist’s dream is to be, the centre of the art world. It is a big challenge and immense responsibility to represent the National Pavilion of the Republic of Armenia and an incredible sign of recognition. When I learned that I was selected for an event of such magnitude, I have worked tirelessly around the clock to present my works to the art critics and the public in Venice.
What are your future projects? The Biennale di Venezia will tell of future projects…A proposal for a solo exhibition at Art Dubai 2017 with Ayyam Gallery is next. My hope is that I can continue living my passion for art and one day exhibit in major spaces of the world.