“MOLODEZH ESTONII” (newspaper), July 12th, 1997
In the old building of the Sakala Cultural Centre there is an exhibition of the works of the Tallinn sculptor Rafael Arutyunyan, dedicated to his approaching 60th jubilee.
Rafael Arutyunyan is deeply convinced that the world did not begin with a word, but with a jest, a movement. That is why the sculptor is not a very talkative person. And why should he be talkative, having lived for years as a hermit, conducting most of his conversations with slabs of marble and granite or large pieces of wood, that contain a delicate oblong woman’s head or an elephant’s head with large tusks hidden within.
The wider audience knows Arutyunyan as a portrait painter. He really has made many portraits. Yet he has also created genre sketches and plot compositions permeated with sad irony. But people mostly know him as a portraitist because there was a time when a jury selected works to be displayed at spring and autumn exhibitions, and those exhibitions were made up of what that jury deemed necessary – opinions of artists were not taken into consideration. But, Arutyunyan was dismayed, if they invite him to participate in an exhibition, then they should let the artist himself choose what to display. The public saw little of his works.
But every cloud has a silver lining. At this jubilee exhibition in the Sakala Centre the spectator can, as it were, for the first time discover this master. One can argue and disagree with him, perhaps even reproach him for being too categorical, but now at last we can see him for what he is. A little sad and sorrowful because the only thing he could oppose violence and immorality with in his works was his nonacceptance of evil.
I look at his works, which span several decades, and cannot help feeling unabated pain because of the events that his images portray: the earthquake in Armenia, the Karabakh conflict, the war in Afghanistan, the recent war in Chechnya. Now I better understand the sculptor’s words: he lets every pain pass through his heart. Believe me, this is the most difficult thing to do. Here is another of his latest works: “Our veterans.” This composition tells us of the sad lot of old people in a country that cannot support themselves in the way they deserve. The figure of “Street cleaner Potapuch.”.. But I should not deviate completely into everyday problems of life now.
When the whole of an artist’s creative work is gathered at one exhibition, one can see how time changes the author of these works himself. One notices that surface illustrations give way to depth and wisdom. The human being, ponders Arutyunyan, lives, changes, thinks all the time, reaches conclusions, searches for an answer to the ultimate question: what is the truth? Does it exist?
Wisdom must be the path towards clarity and lucidity of movements and thoughts, of what one considers most dear in life. That is why it is not surprising that there are at the exhibition many portraits of people who are close to the artist: his wife, son, granddaughter. His granddaughter must be the one who is able to get anything she wants from him, and her grandfather must be joyfully presenting her with all sorts of things. It is different with his son. One is reminded of a law of dialectics – the struggle and unity of opposites. His son is a man of business, seemingly unmoved by lyrical influences. But it was he who helped his father with opening this exhibition in one of the largest halls of the Estonian capital, and before this he had contributed to the publication of a catalogue of his father’s works.
I was going to speak about the exhibition, but ended up talking about people with their controversies and attachments. No wonder – art has always been merely the tip of the iceberg. And in its unknown depths and spaces there boils the longing to share one’s innermost thoughts, to find the truth…
Written by Vitaly Andreev