Marina Stepanyan - art critic

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Keenly feeling the inexhaustible inscrutability of theroutine life Hrant Karahanyan was inevitably to become creative personality.We, the mere mortals, now and then rush past the reality with dissipatedattitude towards the ambient life which, if scrutinize, is more fairy andsubtle than the most exotic impression. As to Hrant, he was endowed by naturewith a perceptiveness to notice something unique and magical in ordinary lifeand that ability gave him the reason not to hesitate over his future choice.During his shool years he was interested in those subjects which helped him toreveal the secrets of visible and imaginary world. After school when Hrant gotto learn painting, he began to think over the interconnection of earthly,physically visible phenomenon with its inner essence. Life variety spelled himand, no doubt, he would never fall short of material for continuous work ofmind and heart. While a student, Hrant showed tendency in fixing extremely hisattention on the chosen subject and treated it according to various emotionalhuman perceptions. The basis of his treatment was centuries-old, alreadyestablished national traditions where the rational and emotional principlesharmoniously countervailed each other. And now, looking at his artworks, we seehow unalterable art principles of Armenian painting school were sublimated inhim, assuring us that they haven’t been disappearing within the ages butproving their tenacity and ability to multiply artist’s resource andpotentials. As soon as he noticed something interesting and essential for him,he needed to trust in it, plunge into it trying to understand and feel thenature’s irresistible spell. And the expectance of something exciting,essential, unknown, promising happy moments defined his creative work from thefirst to the last day of his life. His first works convinced at once those fond of paintingthat he was a unique personality. He rendered the thrill of life. His life wasfull of intensive work, not idealistic day-dreams. He wanted to wring out from thelife stream just a tad which he would be able to treat in such a way as to makehappy both himself and those who feel alike. After graduating from the institute, Hrant could have beenlured by vast expanses of freedom with some poetic excitement or challenginginnovations as it should happen to any young man with artistic taste. But hequickly, soberly and firmly circled the field of his aesthetic propensitieswithout thinking whether it was out of fashion or contemporary. He kept himselfaway from the contradictory searches which could have been forgiven consideringhis age and tense caused by extremely hard of those days’ moral state. Hisartistic tastes bent towards truth and naturalness. Without abrupt rush Hrantimmediately defined the objective reality as undoubtedly existing one,available to perception and demanding treatment from the artist. The cause ofhis choice is the complicity of the big world, spelling by its mysteries eachhaving its own numerous answers. The artists who served him as a source ofinspiration appealed him with the rich and deep coloring, fanatic devotion totheir cause and firmness in carrying out their ideals. He pronounced names ofAlexander Bazhbeuk-Melikyan, Raphael Shishmanyan, Vahram Gayphejyan, SedrakRashmajyan, Albert Parsamyan, Edward Artsrunyan with great regard. One of the artist’s first work presented at the exhibitionwas his self-portrait. Remembering that work I must mention the force andconfidence of its painting. In the oval of that face one can notice theartist’s effort to hold the thought which comes up through the features formedwith the help of complicated touch laying, very accurate touches, refined huesrendering the blend of sliding over the face shadows. Depicting his face, hewants to make it equivalent to its owner’s inner world. In one of his seriousinitial creative experience he came across with that which made the essence ofhis profession – to penetrate into the very inmost depth of feeling andthoughts. Style and plastic of the artist’s hand had been changingdepending on the human type, especially, while treating woman portrayals. Hedepicts them with tender care and solicitude, paints preventing his ownindividual ideal of female charm - fragile, kind, full of mystery. In hiswife’s portrait Hrant has chosen such a coloring combination which incites tothe sense of happiness and hope - as if there are not any problems in the worldor they are secondary and trifling. The same is depicted on the smooth youngface which harmonic nobleness of features expresses benevolence and natural attitudetowards surrounding people. Hrant Karakhanyan is considered one of those artists whonever descends lower his already chosen high bar. Appealing to the motives ofArmenian village, seemed to be conventional to our painting, he is able toreveal concealed from the eyes beauty which uncovers only to the true artists. Depicting the overt nature, the artist doesn’t merely fixall elements in the space but he dissolves them in the surroundings and inmotion. The objects are hiding in some mobile and vague air of twilight,semi-darkness. The painter keenly feels the drop of lighting. When a beam ofthe sun suddenly shines through the thick clouds there is such a treatment ofheavy light and shade on the ground that the light and shadow become tangible.Hrant enjoys painting prethunderstorm when thunder changes the lighting andalongside with it the whole scene is changed - everything gets dark around andsuddenly lightened. In the background of gloomy faraway mountain hillsides thewalls of the houses and churches, bridges and roads get dazzling light. Andwhen the violet, purple and dark green hues are applied to the shadows, thelightened objects seem to become the source of light, radiating dimluminescence. The furtive states of the nature seem to be released, theprayerful stupor spreads affecting the viewer like music. The uniqueness of each moment - the thing, that attractedHrant in his creative work. His ability to fix the fleeting feelings is felt inall his genres. When he paints still-lives with female figures either in cozydomestic interiors or studio, he chooses limited, small, cramped spaces, wherethe element of subtle intimate life is breathing with its secret signs.Perpetual subjects of still-lives such as fruits, flowers in the vase resoundwith the reflected and melted in the mirrors women’s portrayals spelling withtheir thrilling plasticity. Adverting to those still-lives and interiors youare imbued by the artist’s personal fascination, his heart generosity. He madeno secret of the fact that he was happy in his family life, loved the comfortcreated by his careful wife, appreciated his close friends, their cosy littlegathering at a good friendly supper. And what seemed to be trivial and insignificantwas treated by Hrant with surprisingly rich sensations. Style pluralism is inherent to Hrant Karakhanyan’s art. Theviewer should switch from one register to another. That is one of his strongestpeculiarities of his creative work. It proves a broad range of feelings andthoughts. The natural need in new impressions was not reduced to the huntingfor the exotic as itself. He was a man of quite trained intellect, civilizedsenses and erudition not only to apprehend the surface novelty of Spanish impressions.The acerbity and sharpness of Spanish life is only the external shell whichgave a new impulse and activated the work of his imagination. A new world methim, a world that was not strange to him but close. The confusion ofimpressions didn’t impede him. He singled out the essential even in such anestablished stereotype as Spanish dance treating it as a revolt of human soul,a chance to speak about death. The expressiveness of Spanish dance is unique.It is always contradicting with the inner determination for a tragedy.Dance is rather passionate to stand its force. It gives birth to the cycle ofworks which conquer not only by its being exotic but more -by its concealedinner polemics, gripping pathos. It serves the source for the artist to depictthe confusion of human soul. Lively, quick drawing loses the softness ofoutlines fixing the vortex-like shadows involving into the dynamic of itsmotion the surrounding air. As a result faces and figures turn into touches,blots and spots. And Hrant mastering the skills of painting art found thedevices to depict by coloring, forms, spots, lines, their rate, rhythm andpauses. The dance subject didn’t quit the artist’s imagination for along time. And his last works led to the change of style. The former soft,velvet and worm structure of his painting becomes thicker, plastic of touch –sharp, strokes of brush – stronger, abrupt, colors – aflame. The pressedmultiheaded, multihanded mass in a single gust of the dance embodies the happinessof life, the treatment of which was just the aim of Hrant Karakhanyan’semotional painting which we need always…..

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