23 April 2015, 13:17
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The Demonic Detailing of Zack Demirtshyan

"Black Hole of Humanity” is what Zack Demirtshyan has named his painting that took a full four months to complete. Besides the central theme of the Armenian Genocide, depicted in the details of the artwork are numerous instances of pogroms and genocide that tragically mark all of human history.

For Zack Demirtshyan the theme of genocide was so delicate, that for a long time the artist continually put off approaching the topic through his art. However, as the centennial of the Armenian Genocide approached, he decided to take the idea on after all. For more than two months, Demirtshyan studied texts and other material concerning the genocide, yet was still unable to form a clear vision for what his work should be. As it often happens, inspiration struck at random. One day, while Demirtshyan was listening to Pink Floyd’s “Shine On You Crazy Diamond”, he picked up on the phrase, "like black holes in the sky". As the song progressed, Demirtshyan mulled over the concept of an astronomical black hole and soon a parallel between a black hole and genocide formed in his mind.

From the very beginning Zack wanted to envision genocide in all its cruelty; just like a black hole, massacre sucks everything into itself and destroys all that surrounds it. The artist confessed, that at times the work posed such a difficult psychological challenge, that he often felt the desire to stop where he was and not continue.

After four months of hard work however, Demirtshyan got a piece of art in which the saying, “the devil is in the details" is realized in a very literal sense. If one looks at “Black Hole of Humanity” from a distance, the painting appears quite beautiful and harmonious to the eyes. Yet it is necessary to also look at the image from up close - delve deep into the details - and once you’ve done so, the numerous hidden meanings of the work come forth in their horrid entirety.

In the center of the metaphorical black hole there are five Turkish gendarmes killing Armenian children. This haunting depiction is the recreation of a real story, witnessed by Sam Kadorian, who recounted it to World Magazine in 2009. According to Zack, the systematic killing of Armenians during the genocide was more than mere execution of a state order. Rather, Turkish soldiers experienced a certain perverted pleasure from their cruelty, and the massacre that they carried out.

The painting has an oval or circular form that symbolizes the cycle of human cruelty throughout history. On the left are shown North American Indians who were victims of the largest genocide to date: around one hundred and fourteen million people were killed by European conquerors. The flying crow depicted above the head of an Indian chief is a symbol of indigenous American mythology that signifies resurrection and light within darkness.

On the upper right corner the artist has painted soldiers of ISIS, who are carrying out genocide as we speak ━ though perhaps in a slightly different form.

The plague doctor symbolizes the "Black Death", a pandemic of plague, that took away the lives of a million people during the Middle Ages. The artist uses this reference as a symbol of natural genocide, carried out by nature itself. According to Demirtshyan however, even the plague caused less death during the whole of human history than man-inflicted pogroms and genocides.

The only character in the painting who looks directly at the viewer is a child: a face that brings a static quality to this otherwise dynamic painting. Indeed, it is really quite difficult to concentrate on the child’s gaze for more than several seconds.

There are so many details in this painting that it doesn't make sense to describe everything in full. It would be better to go to the National Gallery of Armenia and see it in person. The exhibition is called, "The Answer After 100 Years: The Past in The Present", and by viewing the painting closely one can discover all of the hidden details of Zack Demirtshyan. Yes, it’s not an easy or pleasant task, however it is of vital importance that we not only remember the past but also analyze and ponder it ━ in this instance with the help of visual art.

The exhibition, which also features the work of several other artists, will be open at the National Gallery until the middle of June, 2015.

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