01 August 2013, 12:27
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Why Did You Grant Me So Much?

As I was leaving the studio of one of the most prominent contemporary French painters, Jansem, I asked him, “What are you going to do now, right after I leave?” He replied, “I’ll have a snack and will continue working.” That’s how the monologue that started with the words, “I love to paint,” should have ended.

I love to paint. This kind of love, just like anything else in the world, had its own beginning. When I was only eight years old in school I could copy any picture. I received my first set of oil paints as a gift from my brother when I was eleven. When we moved from Greece to France, I began attending Art school. Over the course of several years I participated in various contests, and received many awards. There have always been two very important factors in my life – “luck” and “encounters.” I was often given a chance in life, and I met with famous people who appreciated my work. Of course, my paintings weren’t bought right away – an eighteen year-old boy cannot sell his paintings.

And i didn’t paint them for that purpose
Today I could be happy, but the painting that I make might be sad, or the other way around. I am not influenced by momentary perceptions, or fleeting moods, but by my overall feelings. Who can explain why people sing in sadness, or cry in joy?
In reality, a painting isn’t a mood, but a lifetime search. The world is created in such way that many puzzles remain unsolved, and yet men continue to search for eternal truths, final answers. Philosophers contemplate the meaning of life and death; they try to understand what comes after death. I think that they know for sure that the answer in unattainable, but that’s how it is…

A man always looks for answers
Entering life each one of us takes the path that he or she must. Some manage to reach the end of it, and some stray far away from their original path. Once, long ago, I spoke harshly about Picasso in an interview. Now I regret it, of course. Picasso is a great artist, but his work does not resonate to my feelings. In any case… I love him at times, and sometimes I hate him. I love Cezanne, Van Gogh, and Klimt. They always took one straight path - their own, till the end. Picasso was wavering left and right, mixing up everything on his way. He seems to be wandering, drawing others into his confusion. Many young artists have lost themselves trying to follow his path. I am not fond of artists and people like Picasso. I like those who don’t seek fame, or money – those who just do their work.
Great wealth is given even to the poorest among us. Our head, our eyes, arms and feet, beautiful things, colors, the world – it’s so beautiful. Fifty, or even one hundred years ago we weren’t here. Life – this is the greatest gift. We should try to use our

Chance to live at its best
When I was a young boy I always took the same road to school, passing by a house with a window into a small studio. It was full of dust and firewood. And every time I passed, I would stop by that window and ask God, “Give me a place like that, tie my foot to the wall, give me a bit of bread, and I will draw my whole life.” That was all I wished for. Now I have several large studios. I was not longing for fame, property, or money. I just lived my life, I just live my life. I have much more than I ever wished for. Sometimes I ask God for something small, and He gives me much more. And then I ask Him, “Why did You grant me so much?” But I don’t get an answer.

How to comprehend it?
I am not a religious person, I don’t go to church, but I have faith in God, of course. I know that He created our world. Maybe not so successfully, it can be said. There is no truth in the world, no fairness…I think, He tried to make the world perfect many times over, but it didn’t work out. Probably, it’s impossible to make it better than it already is. Maybe if fairness existed, there would be no life. If there was truth – again, there would be no life. Let’s accept it, all creatures and plants eat each other in order to survive. So existence, in my view, is possible only in its present form. In this form, life has its own rules and these I call “God”. To think that there is no God – all that would be left in the universe is complete

Madness and emptiness
I have a feeling that soon everything will be over. I so want to return my youth and strength! I would give everything for that – estates, wealth, fame… I would interrupt this conversation, would get out of this studio with just a shirt on, and would never return. I would have asked the God for that, but if He suddenly granted my wish, I would stop believing in him. What kind of God He is, if

He gives to some, and not to others
I am eighty-six today, so I have been painting for seventy-five years. If we count 30-40 paintings a year, it totals to approximately three – four thousand. Only the most valuable ones are documented – about three thousands of these. I know people who have at least ten – fifteen of my paintings. But the majority of paintings – who knows where they are now. So many exhibitions of my works were organized by galleries in various countries around the world… In most of them I wasn’t even present. Just in New York, there have been over fifty exhibitions, but I attended only two of them. There are two museums in Japan which display my paintings – approximately one hundred works in each. But I have never been there. For what?

Is it really necessary?
There are masters who are able to express themselves with a great power and a big soul. Leonardo da Vinci, Titian! Everybody loves them, and I love them, too. There are artists who feel the same way as I do. They are mostly expressive, like El Greco, Goya…But I love even those who don’t have a great talent, because I think that there are many interesting thoughts in their heads, only their hands are not able to express them all. One isn’t always able

To do what he wants
If I had more strength, I would go back to Armenia. I have many friends there. I am very well accepted during both official and informal meetings, although I don’t feel any difference between these two – the attitude of the government officials towards me is so warm and friendly, that one can’t call them “official meetings”. I am tremendously grateful to the Armenian Embassy in France and personally to Sir Ambassador Eduard Nalbandian for arranging my last trip to Armenia. I like it there very much. I would like to live in Armenia to know it more intimately. I had a feeling that it is my place to live, my “apartment.” Although I lived in France my entire life and am more fluent in French than in Armenian, I never had such a feeling here, in France. As soon as I return to Paris, I feel nostalgia for Yerevan.

That’s the problem of the armenian diaspora
They would like to live on the Armenian land, but they can’t. Their roots are in another land. Those, who have moved back, could not stand being uprooted. I ask myself, could we call someone a one-hundred-percent Armenian if they do not live in Armenia? No! I love Armenia, but I can’t live there, and for me - it ’s a great pain.

Yerevan Magazine, Fall, N2, 2008

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