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Ararat Sarkissian’s Old Armenian Tales Enter The Venice Biennale Saga
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Ararat Sarkissian’s Old Armenian Tales Enter The Venice Biennale Saga

Picture of A. J. Samuels
Updated: 27 December 2015
The Tale of David the Lad and Khandut the Lass animates the Armenia Pavilion on the Venetian Island of San Lazzaro degli Armeni, where artist Ararat Sarkissian set up his epic workshop. Inviting wandering art aficionados to tell the tale, he lays out a series of materials for them to recreate his narratives in whatever way they wish on takeaway ceramic boards.

Entirely occupied by the monastery and headquarters of the Mechitarist Church, a vital artery of the Armenian Catholic faith, the Island of San Lazzaro degli Armeni transforms into an artistic thoroughfare during the Biennale season. Host of the Armenia Pavilion, this is where The Tale of David the Lad and Khandut the Lass unfolds. Established Armenian painter Ararat Sarkissian has claimed he finds heavenly peace in creation, and understandably then, he makes unsuspicious passers by part of his creative experience.

A painter who occasionally turns his hand to video, printing and (as in this case) interactive performance, Sarkissian has devised a playful, yet profound epic adventure for the Venice Biennale. On a series of tables, laid in a circle at the centre of the exhibition hall and equipped with different materials, guests to the pavilion are invited to recreate the tale with their own hands-on ceramic boards. Reciting the process via two monitors while working on it himself, the artist generously shares the process, opening new mythical and creative worlds to the eager passers by. Upon completion, the impromptu artists get to carry the boards with them, transforming the tale on a superficial level into an epically inventive Venetian souvenir and, consequently, into a creative vessel conceived to reanimate the Armenian heritage across the world.

In his highly abstract, expressionist paintings, Sarkissian (b. 1956) creates unusual pointillistic forms and sloppy splashes of colour on a grey canvas. Oblivion, in any case, is a major concern. Faded myths of an ancient culture make a strong comeback through modern forms — the Armenian Empire, the historic religious battles between Armenians and Turks, heroic white horses and their cowering prey. For his alphabet series Archetypes, he recorded on video the mouths of different subjects pronouncing letters of a new alphabet, thus conveying the individual reinvention of language, its flexibility and persistence as a vital carrier of civilisation. In the artist’s mind, the work on the canvas is only completed in one form. It subsequently continues its journey through the eyes of the viewer and the reflection it provokes.

Please note that the opening hours for the public on the Island of San Lazzaro are 14:30-17:30 pm.

Armenia team

Artist: Ararat Sarkissian.

Commissioner: Ministry of Culture.

Curator: Arman Grogoryan.

Venue: Island of San Lazzaro degli Armeni.

By Danai Molocha