“MOLODEZH ESTONII” (newspaper), August 3rd, 2002
Works of the artist reproduced in this article in order of appearance:
- Abraham’s sacrifice.
- The wheel of life.
- Adam and Eve.
- God’s candle.
This exhibition will be open for the general public on Monday. Right now the canvases are being arranged on the walls and stands – the exhibition of sculptor Rafael Arutyunyan’s paintings and drawings will be open in two auditoriums of the “Old Town Studio” theatre at Sakala Street 3.
A most rare occasion – a sculptor exhibits his paintings and drawings. His hands are no longer able to hew granite and marble, but can hold the pencil and the paintbrush, and this new way of expressing his thoughts about the fate of the world turned out to be so interesting for him that as his jubilee is approaching (the exhibition is to commemorate his turning 65), he has decided to talk to the spectator not by showing his old, familiar and valued works, but by presenting a different creative self.
Not just exhibiting his new works, but confessing to the spectator.
The only thing that matters to him is that people do not get him wrong. Everything is subjected to this goal – the plot, the colours, the lines, the explanatory note below or right inside the picture, just like in the traditional Russian popular art (“the lubok”). So that the spectator would not have to ponder over variants of symbol deciphering, but would instead precisely and at once reach the essence of the artist’s idea behind this or that work. Naïvety and wisdom, fineness and frankness, mastery and platitude – everything is intertwined in his works which he – a sculptor – generously decorates with three-dimensional objects, turning canvases into collages. He cannot stay within a prescribed framework, either only painting or only drawing.
One canvas portrays the Creator – biblical, philosophical motifs permeate his new art – who is a worker, creating the world with his plane and metre ruler. Another work depicts the supreme being as holding two mirrors – one is a simple mirror: look into it, God’s creature; the other dark and empty, reflecting the void. But both are mirrors from a female’s powder-boxes, vanity of vanities, and the heavenly denizen’s eyes are of different hue, oh heavy are our sins…
He rejoices at colours as a child presented with a palette. Study this exhibition carefully – you will certainly find something here that is close to your heart. For example, a painting of an enormous elephant’s foot, raised above the ground where a small sea-shell glistens, the foot seemingly being unable to come down and crush it. This symbol means much in itself, but note also the shadow of the elephant’s foot, falling in the shape of a tiny heart on the sea-shell… Just remembering this picture makes me glad…
– Rafael, is it intimidating for a renowned sculptor to make his debut in another art genre?
– It is. But I have always wanted to do something real. I have wanted to live so as to be real. Art for me is not an illusionary beauty, but the quest for the truth. That is why the material I use is not very important – a slab of granite or a paintbrush – as long as I achieve the main goal: self-expression. How successful I have been in this – it is not for me to say.
– Are you constrained by any framework?
– I am constrained by life, not by art. Are you not constrained?
– I have a theatre, exits in all directions of the stage. You have it too – theatrical masks, bright, carnival-like but tragic eyes, even though just made from buttons… So we rush about…
– So we search for one another to avoid tight spots, the helplessness, the loneliness…
– Searching for God?
– Remember, Vladimir Spivakov was once asked: is art life? He replied: art is above life. I cannot subscribe to this – only God is above life. And above art.
– We are talking on the eve of the opening of your exhibition. What would you like to tell your spectators, inviting them to visit the exhibition? What, in your opinion, can they get from this exhibition?
– I want to tell them – come and judge. An artist is not merely revealing his soul, he is creating his works for people. And for me judgment of spectators is the most important kind of judgment. I would like people to comprehend my works – each has a meaning, albeit an abstract one. What will they get from visiting the exhibition? I would like them to think along with me about life. If this happens, I will be happy…
– You wrote on your portrait “I am in the fire in front of you, and my face is marred with soot…”
– Is a man not in the fire when he is confessing?..
By Eteri Kekelidze