SOUTHERN TEMPERAMENT AND NORTHERN FIRMNESS – THIS IS HOW RAFAEL ARUTYUNYAN’S EXHIBITION CAN BE SUMMED UP
“DELOVAYA ESTONIA,” (newspaper supplement), August 5th, 2002
Written by Elena Kostina
The photo: Rafael Arutyunyan, his granddaughter and son/producer Areg Arutyunyan.
In Tallinn’s “Old Town Studio” theatre at Sakala Street 3, an exhibition of drawings and paintings of the Estonian painter and sculptor Rafael Arutyunyan has been opened, containing over 230 of his works created within the last five years. Every work is interesting. The majority of them are profound and, as the organiser of the exhibition, Areg Arutyunyan, says, they make you think.
Rafael Arutyunyan developed as an original artist here, in Estonia. In 1964, he graduated from the Estonian State Institute of Fine Arts and obtained the vocation of sculptor. Many of his works have received the highest appraisals from his colleagues and critics, the general public and foreign art connoisseurs. Despite having received numerous tempting offers, he deliberately refrains from selling his works to private owners.
All his adult life Arutyunyan has been struggling for the right to be himself, a personality in art, for creating art for the soul and not for money. His thesis work – a project for a figured monument dedicated to the victims of the Jewish ghetto in the city of Odessa – at that time caused serious arguments between the members of the examination commission. Many of the sculptor’s ideas remained unimplemented. There was no room for them then due to their contradictions with the existing official standards of the socially realistic monumental art.
In Rafael Arutyunyan’s life, the extraordinary and the unconventional has always dominated over the mundane and the trivial. Art expert A. Sidorov uses the following words to describe him: “The complicated and multi-coloured art world of Arutyunyan, where everything is in motion and changing, is full of inner strength. This world is capable of undergoing metamorphoses through paradoxical connections, avoiding stale and monosemantic forms, strict genre restrictions. His important epochal yet also tragic theme is expressed in the comparatively small works: “Hard years,” “The sun above the ghetto,” “Warning. Chernobyl.”
In the multi-coloured palette of Arutyunyan’s art even the habitual connections between this or that colour of the major or the minor gamma can be altered. For example, black can denote strong will and life affirmation, and polychromatic, pretty colouring can cause a feeling of anxiety in the spectator, create an atmosphere of nervousness.
Especially noteworthy is Arutyunyan’s gift of achieving persuasive artistic results when working with various materials and artificial substitutes. “He has the ability to produce from any ersatz a new, untypical of the given type of stone, wood or metal aesthetic quality, visual effects unknown in nature, erasing the borders between expensive and auxiliary materials.
It is difficult for an artist to create works that are meant as mere decorations and not as media for shaking up the world of the man in the street, his feeling of stability and satisfaction.
The master, having for a long time been in irreconcilable opposition to the official culture, finds it difficult today to discover his place in the market-driven economy and commercial demand that has substituted ideological demand. Still, Arutyunyan is attracted to images that are directed at “the town and the world,” positively populistic, actively influencing a wide audience.