It is one of our aims to constantly surprise you with global art treasures you may never have seen before. This is more easily done due to our 21 years in the art world. This length of time in business has its advantages and disadvantages; we are fortunate to be more on the lucky side. I guess you never stop learning or teaching, especially when you love what you do. I am a hopelessly obsessive collector. I am in love, personally and professionally with the artists I represent. I carry with me beautiful moments of interactions with them and with my readers, especially with those who share with us their love and appreciation for art but have never become active collectors. I have learned that art appreciation is a sign of finesse in one’s personality and we are fortunate enough to be surrounded with such a precious circle of human love. Art is the catalyst of it all.
Art is an excellent teacher of tolerance and love. It brings the world to you with all its colors, smells, customs, and voices. All you have to do is to have a willingness to relate to it all. Since the world is now my source of professional inspiration, where there is no room for discrimination, let’s go to one of the oldest pockets of the world, Armenia. In fact, the timing is perfect, since the little country has recently been in the center of global attention finding ways to achieve a peaceful transition of power using love and respect in place of weapons.
From the world of expressionism, the next stop in our journey will be simplicity and idealism. This was a period when life and relationships were simpler, and the world was like a warm enfolding blanket. Welcome to the world of Hakob Soukiasian.
Hakob Soukiasian is a native son of Armenia, a St. Petersburg prestigious academy graduate, and a professor, whom we lost recently. His works have joined those of other creative sons and daughters of the small nation of Armenia in surprising major auction houses by registering high prices for their art sales. Our current exhibition of his works at our Gallery is our farewell and homage to his legacy.
Hakob Soukiasian belongs to the generation that created heaviness in the elements of style-regime: poverty, simplicity, innocence, and abandonment as the result of being forgotten victims of cultural repression; those who somehow, with the grace of God, survived and ended up reconnecting themselves with themselves through the power of art.
If history and culture are the backbone of national identity, then the collected creativity of the nation is tomorrow’s certificate for eternity. Soukiasian is a perfect example of the back and forth transfusion of love and creative energy between the motherland and its creative son. In order to be able to connect emotionally and spiritually to his art one has to feel Armenian, see the colors of the land with closed eyes, have a memory of aromas of semi-nurtured part wheat, part cultured fields.
Soukiasian is considered one of the classics of the period. He was a quiet man, wrapped in his dreams, never sought recognition, never showed off in public festivities, as if he did not exist; yet, he knew that his existence would continue through his art, a form of cultural transcendence. One of his most famous students, Gevorg Yeghiazaryan described Soukiasian with a few simple words: “quiet, wise, and innocent, like a child.”
The innocence and simplicity of Hakob Soukiasian’s fragments of forgotten times are creative flashbacks to his childhood. Simple houses made out of stone, crafted and decorated from their immediate surroundings. The houses, hills and landscapes depicted in his paintings are bare and simple, existing mostly to showcase human virtues.
Where there is not much of monetary value, the treasures of life come from romanticized moments: a rooster singing, two men fighting over the love of a woman, a young girl bringing water to her grandfather. Moreover, robust and unfinished figures remind us of the roughness of life of that era.
Even though, throughout his lifetime, Soukiasian traveled to other countries and in other social circles, he forever remained committed to highlighting the building blocks of forgotten values and times of his beloved Armenia. His paintings are small in size, but the space they depict is large, encompassing hills, villages, and their inhabitants. They are minimalistic blueprints of the symphony of existence of a nation that was hunted by the cruel developments of history but never lost the ability to dream, love, and create.
Soukiasian’s monumental works are also panoramas of life itself, combining nature and people, showing them in spiritual and physical unity, bringing everything together in an enormous harmonious acceptance in one canvas. Soukiasian portraits: connections between people, early signs of blossoming love, unknowing attraction between love and shines of unity carrying unmistakable strokes of national character.
Armenia is a land of ancient fairytales, biblical symbols, and mythical characters that look like the rocks. Soukiasian’s ability to integrate the forgotten stories and national tales in one canvas, with all its compositional complexity and environmental colors, is a sign of the power of his undeniable command of brush and fundamental knowledge of regional history. His characters are approachable, somewhat naive, minding their own business, not seeking attention. They carry the colors of the environment. There is a warmth in Soukiasian’s palette as if you could warm your face under the warmth of a late autumn sun, or wash your hands in flooding mountain springs. His portraits and self-portraits carry the wisdom, modesty and hidden genius of the people of Armenia, as if the characters are looking at you through the windows of history, showing strength of character, kindness of heart and power of creating hands.
Soukiasian treasured everything that the land of Armenia offered, including the creative geniuses of the nation. No wonder his portraits of national icons, poets, musicians, depict in their background the country of Armenia, its dancing hills, occasional trees, abandoned castles, and semi-destroyed churches. Soukiasian’s work carries the unmistakable palette of the country, the modesty of its people, and the simplicity of their life pleasures.
I was fortunate to have met him and shared a few precious memories with him. It was then that I understood that I was going to be one of the voices of his creativity, that I wanted to use my words as a creative bridge to show that my art-loving roots are seeded in that land as well. I want to show that he and I have a common love for the land of Armenia and its creative miracles.
Hence, it is a moral obligation for me today, after so many years, to raise that voice and surprise the art-loving community with the beautiful innocence of forgotten times powerfully captured, simple on the surface yet complex compositionally, that show Soukasian’s love for Armenia. A Country which is getting smaller and smaller every day demands great love from all sons and daughters of a historical nation. In his art, Soukiasian paid back to the ailing land his dues of love and worship.
In Soukiasian’s Armenia, mountains are like people; they guard the history and longevity of an heroic nation. They safeguard the way young and old worship the sunrise, start a working day, peacefully welcome the end of a tiring day, relating to each other with the exchange of love, sharing the sparse offerings of the land showing the beauty of the nation, dreamy eyes, hidden shyness, high cheekbones, beautiful suntan skin, oversized working hands.
Soukiasian’s works capture real life and give you a view through a window that leads you to that forgotten world; free, welcoming, simple, as if travelling through roads that lead you to the beginning of time, where you can find the reminders of heroic past, the shortcomings of an insecure present, and the anxiety of an uncertain future.
People rest, the smooth roads are their beds. Their midday lunch will be delivered to them from local villages. They will stay and guard their modest belongings: a few heads of cattle or a piece of land. Turns will be taken by families in the village baking Lavash (symbolic bread that Armenians can’t live without) to be shared among themselves.
Simple musical instruments made from the branches of apricot trees are soul-touching tools of communication borrowed from heaven. The unusual sounds of those instruments that every village kid knows how to use, carry the voices of the past, the uncertainty of the present and the anxieties of the future, giving a sweet melancholy to their sound. One can dream under the melody, one can cry.
Throughout history, Armenians have learned how to coincide their laughter with their tears. Soukiasian’s works symbolize, document and immortalize the spirit of a nation that is very strong yet fragile, very moral yet confused. It has always carried the shadows of fear for its future. It is a nation that has experienced enormous territorial losses, genocide, earthquakes, massive migrations yet is still able to use today’s pain to create hope for tomorrow.
We invite you to learn, enjoy, and love Soukiasian’s art works. They will connect you with the historical, biblical nation of Armenia, the first nation that adopted Christianity; the first nation that spread its wings from sea to sea and then lost it without losing its kindness. Yet, with its newly regained independence, it now has the destiny of a newborn. There was a time of power, then, a time of repression and losses. But none of them were times of hopelessness, and the key of the rejuvenation of the national spirit was the creative power of the nation.
Some write their national history with wars and conquests. Soukiasian chose to exist and create.
Please enjoy the captive dreams of innocent times, purify your emotions in the remembrance of your childhood, reconnect your memory line to a possible instance in the memory of your own innocence. Be a child again by relating, enjoying and finding a refuge in the immortalized world of Hakob Soukiasian.
Tamara Hovhannisyan, PhD