30 years ago, the day when I gave him my piglet in a way of saying goodbye, Ararat was leaving to start studying again. He felt the longing for being an artist since he was a little child, and now the time has come. So he took the risk, quit his job, and flew to Sankt-Petersburg to study in the National Academy of Art.
In the Academy of Art
A whole new world, his world, revealed itself to him in Sankt Petersburg. He was able to learn a lot from his peers who were far ahead of him. Observing the mastery of the professors was a pure joy. The 95-year-old professor of drawing loved complaining about his poor eye-sight but kept asking to move the lines for half a millimetre. Surprisingly, that simple change completely transformed the drawing. Getting access to the Academy Library was a gift in its own right. It opened a whole new world of thousands of masters.
As it often happens, when Ararat started the journey on his own Path, the Universe offered him a helping hand.
He met the first of his “guardians” in the Academy. His name was Belerfon. Yeah, you’re right, even his name has something angelic in it.
Belerfon was a member of the artistic foundation Commission, responsible for managing the Government orders. He was a master of epic paintings. Battles, crowds, horses, portraits and landscapes. He could see a huge 10-metre painting as a whole in his head and could draw from one side to another in one breath. Then he looked at the painting, added few finishing accents and the picture was ready. In the same way, he could transform the work of others by adding few editing touches.
Ararat learned that skill of bringing the feel of completeness to the picture from Belerfon and still considers it one of his major lessons learned. In his turn, he helped to bring the antic buildings, ruins and mosaic floors to the paintings that Belerfon did for the Government. That’s when the architecture degree came really handy. They are still friends. Belerfon is 91 now. He still draws and loves saying that the moment he puts down his brush, he will die.
The Taste of Living Abroad
Next, he met Dorothee, a student from Switzerland studying Russian. Ararat introduced her to few friends and helped her to feel at home in Sankt-Petersburg. To say thank you, Dorothee invited him and few other friends to visit her in Switzerland. It was the end of the Soviet regime which made leaving the country based on invitation not easy but possible. Ararat couldn’t miss that chance. Together with a friend, they took all the money and all their belongings that had a value like paintings and engravings, and a few months later landed in Geneva.
Their luck ended at the border crossing. They didn’t know that importing the works of art, even their own was subject to customs duty. Paying it swallowed the small amount of cash they had in hand. The adventure in Geneva didn’t start right, but they were optimistic. No money for food? Ok, they had where to live, after all. Dorothee invited them to live in her parents’ house. And they still had the paintings they brought with them, though didn’t know anybody in Switzerland who could help to sell them.
The fate didn’t stay indifferent again. Once they found several 50-franc notes simply lying on the street. Another day, while having a walk in the town, they saw an Armenian church and were lucky to find the Bishop there. The bishop listened to their story and agreed to take a look at the paintings. A few days later, the friends received their first offer. They were asked to help with the restoration of old paintings from a private collection.
Back to School Again
Susanne and Serge, Ararat’s old architect friends, lived in Lyon and visited him few times during his stay in Geneva. When Ararat’s visa expired and he returned to Sankt-Petersburg, they invited him to Lyon. As Ararat didn’t speak French they helped him with the application process to Ecole Nationale des Beaux-Arts de Lyon.
The admission office checked Ararat’s portfolio and didn’t quite understand why did he want to get back to studies. But the School was completely different, and Ararat knew that very well. The education there wasn’t founded on the realism or academic drawing. The school specialised in conceptual and contemporary art that Ararat knew very little about. When he came for his admission interview, he was astonished by a naked girl who was drawing with her whole body. Another student was building a huge installation with empty plastic bottles in front of the jury. It was not the form that was important. The focus was on what the artist wanted to express. This was the freedom that Ararat longed for. And having an academic background, he was able to take it to a new level.
Susanne and Serge didn’t just help Ararat to get one step closer to his dream of Paris. They also introduced him to Taoist and other Oriental contemplative practices. He started his meditation practice, and then an encounter with Tibetan lamas happened on one of the workshops. It initiated an inner transformation process helping him to direct the flow of energy within him that he felt from childhood.
Around the same time, he met with already well-known Italian artist and sculptor Anselmo Francesconi. Ararat worked a lot in Anselmo’s studio learning new concepts of surrealistic, metaphysical and gestural art. His first exhibitions in Lyon were held together with Anselmo.
Ararat will be meeting people like this, offering a helping hand and changing the course of his life at all crucial points of his journey. His life will also not lack difficulties and periods when he’s not able to make ends meet. But if you ask him whether he regretted even once about taking this Path, he’ll just quietly laugh in response.
Conquering Paris and Back to Nature
10 years have passed since the first trip to Geneva. Ararat stands in front of a painting in Louvre staring in disbelief. Now he lives in Paris, he is a member of Association of Artists of France, his works are exhibited in Europe and the USA. Has the dream come true? He doesn’t have anything else to prove, does he? But seeing his painting presented on the Salon in Louvre just next door to the great masters is a completely different feeling. Especially if to get there you have to pass several stages of a contest and get chosen among thousands of others.
A little boy stands next to him, the one who drew the best he could just because he couldn’t live without it. “We got there, didn’t we?”, asks the boy. This boy soaking up the world around with openness and curiosity still lives in him.
Due to his curiosity, Ararat started investigating the oneiric world and practising lucid dreams. This new experience gave birth to surrealistic masterpieces that were sold out at Montmartre in half an hour. Yes, at Montmartre, where most of the artist did portraits for 50 euros, he was one of those who sold his paintings for several thousand.
The same openness to life helped him to make the decision about leaving Paris. At some point, the energy of the big city started exhausting his creativity rather than nurturing it. He moved to a little town in Picardy and reunited with nature. Now instead of the mountains, he was inspired by the ocean and woods.
“Nature expresses itself through us”, he loves saying. “The forms change, the flow stays with us, and the more we open to it, the more beautiful the form becomes”. Not long ago he showed to me a video of a fish that drew a mandala at the bottom of the ocean. “I feel oneness with that fish”, he said. “It feels the same call that I do and opens up to it”. The Vibrations of the Universe, Ararat’s last collection of paintings, continues that idea. And standing in his studio, I can’t believe that he simply said “Why don’t you try it” when I decided to transform his paintings into scarfs.