Art and Photography Editor Hanabi Blackmoor explains why you should check out the Armenian art exhibition in town.
Capture Collective recently exhibited contemporary Armenian photography and design at The Dundas Street Gallery in Edinburgh in collaboration with The University of St Andrews and The University of Edinburgh’s Armenian societies.
Armenia has an incredibly ancient and rich cultural heritage deeply entrenched in its peoples due to it being a unitary nation-state. Although Armenia was once part of the Byzantine Empire (its art would later influence the likes of Gustav Klimt), its most impressive artistic contribution historically lies in its figurative relief carvings on the outside of Christian churches which were undiscovered in the Byzantine time.
The Armenians beautifully created their own version of Eastern European Christian art with the usage of unique iconography, visible in many of their monasteries.
More recently, Armenia was named “Country of the Year” by The Economist in 2018. This, astonishingly, was under thirty years from gaining independence from the Soviet Union as a war-zone, with a destroyed economy from a trade blockade unilaterally imposed by Turkey and Azerbaijan. The people’s voice through the latest ‘Velvet’ revolution drastically changed the socio-political situation of the country and showcased the public vigour for political action and expression. Thus, Capture Collective’s latest exhibition asks – has the ‘Armenian Dream’ come true?
The exhibition, available for your perusal at the St Andrews Arts Building until the 22nd of April, features the artists Avetis Avetisyan, Zack Demirtshyan, Khandoot Paruyryan, and Aghvan Asoyan. The selection of artists were determined through a competition organised by the Armenian societies and Capture Collective members.
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Avetisyan presents his photos as stories from the city of Yerevan, focusing on ordinary people and their tumultuous experiences in the administrative, cultural, and industrial centre of the country. Each photograph is a story, hence the lack of a name for each piece as he wants the conversation to come from the picture itself.
Demirtshyan prints and illustrates and is also based in Yerevan. A prolific artist with pieces exhibited in the National Gallery of Armenia and Central House of Artists, Moscow, he has also illustrated books including George Orwell’s Animal Farm.
Paruyryan is a photographer who expresses her own feelings, while ensuring that there is freshness and energy still left within her stills. Similarly, Asoyan finds beauty in what seems banal and grey – this optimism and energy is pervasive within contemporary Armenian art and it is this quality that best illustrates the ‘Armenian Dream’.
The exhibition is on until the 22nd of April in the Arts Building of The University of St Andrews. I highly recommend you open up your mind to this rare chance of seeing these Armenian artists’ expression of love for their home country.