Category: Conversations, Latest, Opinion

Bagrat Arazian. “Slovenia is a work of art in itself”

The G.ART Gallery online platform team continues to explore the contemporary art of Eastern Europe. After Poland and Hungary, the route heads to Slovenia. A small country with a huge creative potential. Our first stop was in the town of Pivka, where Bagrat Arazyan, an artist, lives. Born in Yerevan, Armenia, he has become a man of the world, changing countries of residence, languages and occupations. He has experience as a gallerist and art businessman. Back in the 1990s he was actively selling art, but when the business component began to suppress creativity, he chose the way of an artist.

Today Bagrat is a successful artist, his exhibitions are held in different countries, and just before the war two exhibitions were opened in Kiev, Ukraine. The language of his work is clear without translation, because Bagrat works with universal structures and forms, perfectly simple and exquisite. Lines, rectangles, circles, planes merging one into another, flashes of colour and much air, space – it is a harmonized universe governed by the laws of music.

Bagrat visited Slovenia for the first time thirty years ago, and finally settled with his family in Pivka seven years ago. In 2017, together with his wife, he founded the Centre for contemporary art Pivka, where he is responsible for visual projects, and his wife, a philologist by profession, for programmes related to movement, plastic arts and performance. The centre does not have its own premises and collaborates with various institutions and venues.

Therefore, Bagrat’s meeting with the online platform G.ART Gallery took place at Ethno Museum Klenik, located in Klenik village near Pivka. Here he is organising exhibitions by artists from various countries, with plans to introduce Slovenians to Eastern European masters. In the autumn of 2021 he conceived the international project Touches, about the past that does not disappear without a trace, touching people, things, events. Thirty-eight artists from 19 countries submitted digital images of their work in various techniques, giving the Centre for contemporary art Pivka the right to sell A3 prints in limited editions. As soon as war broke out, Bagrat decided to dedicate his project to Ukraine. The “Touch” exhibition was held in Slovenia and travelled to Germany, with all proceeds going to help Ukraine.

Young Ukrainian artists are of particular interest to Bagrat Arazian. Some of them are not yet well known, but they are very interesting and promising. For example, in October 2021, there was an exhibition of graphic art with erotic overtones by Olga Drozd, a conceptual artist from Kiev. In May this year, EthnoMuseum Klenik presented a joint exhibition of Olga Kopeleva and Oleksandr Zhyltsov – a strange and disturbing graphic work, with fiery, intense greens in contrast to the cold, subdued greys.

painting by Olga Kopeleva

Olga, Bagrat tells us, was evacuated to the countryside in the early days of the war – without her belongings or art materials. On the advice of her curator, she began taking photographs with a telephone, then turned to collages, and later bought acrylic colours and complicated the technique.    

painting by Oleksandr Zhyltsov

Oleksandr Zhyltsov works with an ordinary biros, and it is hard to believe that such sophisticated graphics are created with such a simple technique. Bagrat calls it a metaphysical world that is interesting to travel in.

painting by Aliona Romashkina

Aliona Romashkina is an artist from Lviv. Her paintings and graphics are filled with colour and the author seems to be able to master any colour combinations. These intuitive works in different techniques (Alyona loves to experiment) stop a moment in its uniqueness.

painting by Nikita Storozhkov

Another very interesting young Ukrainian artist is Nikita Storozhkov. His strange and beautiful graphics are an entwinement of signs, resembling the writings of unknown civilisations.

Bagrat Arazyan, who has been so active in promoting these and other artists, is already considered an expert on Ukrainian contemporary art in Slovenia. His curatorial activity is an integral part of his work. Bagrat says: “An artist works with materials, textures, colours and the curator’s material is the artist himself and the exhibition space. With the help of artists I transform the space to show them in the most advantageous light, to create some new idea”. And the question “what are you, an artist or a designer?” Bagrat answers: “I am a conceptualist. I create concepts in which I use all the baggage of my knowledge”.

Curating seems to take up too much time, but Bagrat also has time to work on his own projects. After the war started, he revised his creative plans and created a new project, Can you see the light in the dark – not about war, but about love and hope. The artist paints, makes collages and is keen on computer graphics. “I don’t like to get locked into one style. I am interested in working with different media and textures,” says Bagrat.

He is deeply immersed in the Slovenian art scene, aware of its strengths and weaknesses. Despite the presence of many artists, including world-class masters, the country is still fairly provincial in terms of contemporary visual arts, Arazian believes. But Slovenia’s undoubted advantage is the dispersal of cultural life to all cities and even small villages, where international events can take place.  

 

Bagrat calls his relationship with Slovenia “an affair”. He is ready to declare his love for this beautiful country every day: “Slovenia is a work of art in itself: this is how people live, how they mow the grass, how they plant trees. I drive my car, look out the window and think – what a lucky thing I am here!”