Exhibition of Armenian art in Beirut

A man with cloven hoofs in place of feet and a clay pot on his head sips liquor from a martini glass while riding on the back of a giant fish with legs. A smart black dress and shoes are inhabited by a single human hand, but no torso, head or limbs. These are just two of the surreal sights that await visitors to the Beirut jewelry souks this month. The Yerevan-based Aramé Art Gallery is holding its fourth consecutive exhibition of Armenian art in the two-story gallery that faces onto the main square. Entitled “Beauty in the Palm,” the exhibition is showcasing close to 100 paintings, drawings and sculptures by 23 artists, the Daily Star reports.

Michael Vayejian, the gallery’s Middle East representative, spoke to The Daily Star about the gallery’s aims, explaining that they select the best and brightest of Armenia’s 2000 registered professional artists, representing them at home and at numerous exhibitions overseas.

The gallery launched a branch in Gemmayzeh in 2011, which is open by appointment, but Vayejian explained that the annual Beirut show is an important event.

“According to our experience Lebanese people appreciate art,” he said. “If the events were not successful we wouldn’t have done them for four consecutive years. Also Beirut is a place that opens new horizons for the Arab countries. We know that the situation in Lebanon is not that good but at the opening there was more than 300 people.”

Though focused on paintings, the show is remarkably broad in scope, including abstract, figurative, surrealist, hyperrealist and impressionist work by well-established artists, as well as up-and-coming youngsters. The intention was to showcase as wide a variety of styles and approaches as possible, Vayejian explained.

The overwhelming impression is one of vivid color – many of the artists work with rich jewel tones, which transform the gallery into a seasonal haven of warm, festive hues.

This year the gallery is showing artists whose work proved popular at previous editions, as well as a selection of new names. Among these is Daron Mouradian, whose surreal oil-on-canvas works capture dreamlike scenes, like the man riding the fish.

Mouradian’s skill with a brush means his bizarre visions take on an unusual life and depth. In “The Hero,” he captures a man with a large nose, curled moustache and pointed goatee. His long dark hair streams out behind him as he sits astride an old-fashioned rocking horse whose rockers rest on a coiled beast, somewhere between a serpent and a dragon.

Other noteworthy artists on show this year include Jean Carzou (born Garnik Zouloumian in Aleppo in 1907), who took part in more than a hundred exhibitions worldwide before his death in 2000. In “Beauty in the Palm,” visitors can feast their eyes on several works of lithography, in which the artist pairs sketchy black landscapes with warm washes of blue, orange and yellow.

Jean Jansem (born Hovhannes Semerjian in Turkey in 1920) passed away last year. He is represented in this show by a series of lithographs and drawings on paper, capturing reclining women clad in frilly dresses that evoke the petals of a daffodil.

A more somber note is struck by Ruben Grigorian, whose black-and-white hyperrealist works, among them the empty dress and shoes, capture eerie scenes in such painstaking detail that they appear to leap off the canvas.

“Beauty in the Palm” continues at the Beirut Jewelry Souks until Dec. 30.

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