“MOLODEZH ESTONII – TV PARK” (TV guide newspaper supplement), August 18th, 2002
Works of the artist reproduced in this article in order of appearance:
- The fallen angel.
- Majestic and incomprehensible.
- Two mirrors.
- Granddaughter Diana.
“He who ceases searching, will cease living,” – says the remarkable Armenian artist Martiros Saryan. These words defined the whole creative progress of another Armenian artist – Rafael Arutyunyan, who has been living and working far away from his homeland, but was able to find his second homeland in a distant northern place called Estonia.
The northern fairy-tale became
A southern bride for me,
I took the sheen of her sky,
Painted the dawn with colours of magic.
So he wrote later when another gift was revealed in him – that of poetry. Not only in marble and granite would he create images of his contemporaries, but in moments of deep thought his soul would turn the constant need for expressing his feelings into inspired verses.
The sculptor’s profession which he came to Estonia to study at the State Institute of Fine Arts helped him to fathom the great mystery of beauty. He realised that art is a magical gift and it exists in order to constantly tell the human being – you are beautiful, and beautiful is the earth that is your cradle, and beautiful is your calling, the only calling that has a true clear meaning: to create. For forty years he has been creating a chronicle of his time, revealing layer after layer of granite slabs in order to perpetuate in our memory the bleeding mountain region of Karabakh and the soldiers that had been crippled by massacres in Afghanistan. Human inhumanity tormented him and he, being an honest and talented artist, courageously paid with labours of creativity for giving birth to striking memorable images. The noble passion that burns with heavenly fire in the heart of every true artist produced the bronze sculpture “Danko,” the man who had torn out his own heart so that it would bring light and hope to people.
I chose the depths of the forest for myself
And I have no regrets.
I walk through the darkness around the swamp
And force my way through the deadwood.
From his Armenian ancestors Rafael inherited industriousness, endurance, optimism. These very same qualities helped him to wield a hammer for seventeen years in the Rahumäe cemetery stonemason’s workshop, carving out on gravestones thousands of names of the deceased. This hard ordeal brought a deep conviction that relentless honest labour and constantly accumulated experience are as important as a talent given by nature.
A natural consequence of the astonishing integrity of his personality, the moral profundity and the power of will, was his turning to painting. When his hand could no longer make sculptures after several decades, he grasped the paintbrush. Wisdom does not forget the past and knows very well the price of every moment. But it looks into the future. That is why in his flat next to the balcony there is an easel, a gift from his son Areg, and Rafael paints every day.
In front of the canvas he recalls the colours of his native land, the bottomless blue of the mountain lakes, the sultry sky, the fantasy-like outlines of the mountains and the rocks that regard a passer-by like petrified giants. The endless changes of colours – most unexpected, unusual. All this pours out onto his canvases, burdened by heavy thoughts about the way people are going. At first the paintbrush was timid, lead only by the plot, but with each new painting it grew stronger, more passionate and, comprehending the alphabet of painting, it learned to speak a language of its own. But this language was not enough for Rafael Arutyunyan to express the emotions that are overflowing him.
And so he, like a regular avant-garde artist, incorporates into his art metallic bijouterie with removed precious stones in order to make his thought about lost values even more lucid, or lines with banknotes the body of the serpent-tempter who buys a young girl’s soul, or removes the mirror from a powder-box, covers it with a black spot and juxtaposes it with another powder-box with the mirror intact, held in the hands of the heavenly denizen from an old fresco, thus telling us of the two roads offered to the human being – bright and clean or sinful: it is up to us to choose one of the two!
This creative work of the last five years has resulted in an exhibition of Rafael Arutyunyan’s works in the building of the “Old Town Studio” theatre, coinciding with the artist’s 65thbirthday. More than two hundred works on self-assigned themes – a trusting dialogue between the artist and the spectator. What are his canvases about?
A self-portrait. Scanty colours do not prevent one from seeing what matters – the artist’s face with a clever fixed stare into his difficult thoughts. He is comforted by the joy of home warmth, the unbroken chain of the family ways, carried on by his son and his grandchildren, the growing branches of the ancient Arutyunyan family tree. He greets young people in love, entering adult life, with the cloudless sky studded with stars; paints a portrait of his wife, in her soft glance – calmness and silence, protecting him against the anxieties and fusses of everyday life; a portrait of his granddaughter at that unique moment when the delicate teenager is about to be lighted up by the charm of maidenhood.
A portrait of the artist’s mother, filled with her son’s gratitude and respect towards the woman who managed to preserve the family’s profound moral foundations.
He is possessed with the biblical ideas of righteousness of the eternal and of perishability of the momentary, the passing. The artist interprets the book of books in his own way, for him it is the source of the truth and inspiration, of good and beauty, the criterion of spiritual values.
The artist does not illustrate the Bible, but transforms its events and parables. The dramatic art of his biblical canvases is based not on the postulates of faith, but on the principles of purification from filth. The dynamics of compositional constructions, the acute plasticity of painted shapes, the pulsation of light in these works convey a complicated gamma of feelings caused by moral quests and thoughts of the artist about the sublime and the unchanging, about good and evil. The artist not only teaches, but at the same time confesses, calls for repentance.
The destructive tendencies in the human being can only be opposed by the spirit of love and mercy. There exists another, parallel road for the human being to find himself – profound culture with music being the main component of the human being’s ascent from an animal to a spiritual creature. The fine structures of musical matter are born, woven out of the void. From silence and emptiness – non-existence – music moulds the most delicate structures of the human soul. It is no accident that the rainbow of colours on Arutyunyan’s canvases is like musical notes. The singing organ is cramped within the borders of a picture on the wall – it demands space, air and silence so that every sound, like a piece of amber scattered by the artist, would echo in the soul of the spectator.
Nothing has such strong opportunities for feedback as creative work. Talent is generous – getting to know it enriches and provides new angles on events. Visit Rafael Arutyunyan’s exhibition and you will remember it for a long time, as well as these lines of his poem:
I wanted to give you joy
Of distant lands and mountain meadows,
And for me a wee bit of
The breath of southern winds.
Do not enter my domain by force,
I am not a prince but a mere shepherd,
I have neither palaces nor estates,
Only my heart and the spirit of the mountains.
Written by Galina Balashova, an art expert