18 November 2014, 15:43
120568 |

Preserving a Shifting City with Watercolor

Steadily, the face of Yerevan changes as new buildings and structures rise up in place of the old.

On one hand, the constant alteration is a charming aspect of living in Armenia’s capital—we’re often caught off guard by how the city may differ tomorrow from how it is today. On the other hand, it’s also a source of discontent amongst locals, as many lament that their beloved city is losing its familiar form. The air is often thick with a certain nostalgia for the straightforward and commanding aesthetic that defined the Soviet era.

Amidst the debates over Yerevan’s imminent change, however, there lies the work of Peto Poghosyan, who has attempted to capture the tension of transition—new buildings and all—through the graceful strokes of his paintbrush.

Born and raised in Gyumri, Armenia, Poghosyan stumbled upon his talent at an early age. Growing up, he would paint portraits of his grandmother and had a passion for experimenting with a variety of mediums, including sculpture. He came into his own as an artist upon his introduction to the art of watercolor when he realized how effectively it allowed him to portray his vision of Yerevan.

This is one example of how Poghosyan is able to portray Yerevan’s more romantic views side by side it’s more realistic ones. Mount Ararat lingers majestically in the background, as the traffic and advertisements that characterize the cities everyday are depicted in the foreground. This is one example of how Poghosyan is able to portray Yerevan’s more romantic views side by side it’s more realistic ones. Mount Ararat lingers majestically in the background, as the traffic and advertisements that characterize the cities everyday are depicted in the foreground.

Now, thanks to years of practice, he has evolved into one of the masters of this medium. His body of work is largely comprised of cityscapes. Utilizing soft and muted tones, Poghosyan has developed a skillful manner of expressing light and color, giving his work a unique and gentle quality.

In this picture, Poghosyan demonstrates his mastery of the water-color as an artistic medium through his representation of Poplavok [one of Yerevan's oldest cafés] on a sunny, summer day. In this picture, Poghosyan demonstrates his mastery of the water-color as an artistic medium through his representation of Poplavok [one of Yerevan's oldest cafés] on a sunny, summer day.

Capturing and expressing the rhythmic pulse of Yerevan, explains Poghosyan, is his ultimate aim. Time and space in a city, and the way in which people are affected by their environment, are what interest the artist most. Curiously, people themselves are little more than an afterthought in his artwork. Poghosyan’s explanation for this is simple. Because Yerevan is a reflection of its inhabitants, there is no need to emphasize them specifically.

Despite what you might initially think, the woman occupying the large right-hand portion of this painting does not portray an occupant of Yerevan. She is, in fact, Poghosyan’s water-color representation of a model from a clothing advertisement that adorns the city street in the winter time.Despite what you might initially think, the woman occupying the large right-hand portion of this painting does not portray an occupant of Yerevan. She is, in fact, Poghosyan’s water-color representation of a model from a clothing advertisement that adorns the city street in the winter time.

Yerevan is not the only city that has captured the artist’s attention. Poghosyan has traveled quite a bit and captured many a metropolis in his paintings. Paris, he says, is “easy to paint.” Its architecture and style are already set up to look like a picture; all he has to do is put the image on paper. Yerevan and Gyumri, on the other hand, are not so picturesque in their aesthetic. According to Poghosyan, an artist has to put in the effort and find beauty in what is often a disheveled, unkempt scene.

The scene Poghosyan has selected here depicts the disheveled and unkempt quality, but this time, in Gyumri's landscape. On the left-hand side, Poghosyan has carefully painted the details of the giant banners advertising new buildings.The scene Poghosyan has selected here depicts the disheveled and unkempt quality, but this time, in Gyumri's landscape. On the left-hand side, Poghosyan has carefully painted the details of the giant banners advertising new buildings.

For Poghosyan, every city has its own spirit and feeling and that is what he tries to convey. When describing the essence of his hometown, Gyumri, he notes that the city is “grey, solid and melancholy.” Meanwhile, he describes Yerevan as “embodying great warmth—a city of sun and heat. But also incredibly complex, complicated, and filled with the residue of dirt, dust and sorrow."

Here, Poghosyan captures what seem to be buildings seen from a window sill. Dust and rubble are all too common in Yerevan. This realistic rendering perfectly captures the city’s residue that settles just about everywhere. This painting was exhibited at the National Watercolor Society's 94th Annual International Exhibition in 2014. Here, Poghosyan captures what seem to be buildings seen from a window sill. Dust and rubble are all too common in Yerevan. This realistic rendering perfectly captures the city’s residue that settles just about everywhere. This painting was exhibited at the National Watercolor Society's 94th Annual International Exhibition in 2014.

The willingness to accept and represent all aspects of its subject is perhaps what makes Poghosyan’s art so intriguing. It’s not about romanticizing a city, or hiding its flaws. Poghosyan attempts to capture the whole of the scene without judgment or excessive commentary.

The glossy, sleek shine of fancy cars are a motif on Yerevan’s streets. In this picture, Poghosyan’s captures this aspect of city life like a photograph, including all its intricacies through the water-color medium, even something as benign as the reflection of a cellular phone store. The glossy, sleek shine of fancy cars are a motif on Yerevan’s streets. In this picture, Poghosyan captures this aspect of city life like a photograph, including all its intricacies through the water-color medium, even something as benign as the reflection of a cellular phone store.

Considering the rate at which Yerevan is changing, there may come a time when Poghosyan’s creations are in fact documentation of a lost cityscape. If you ask the artist, he’ll admit that the purpose of his art is not necessarily to preserve the city. However, that is undoubtedly an added effect—one, that all Yerevan locals can appreciate.

 

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