Senior Art Exhibit 2006: Astkhine Aryants
The Death of Ignorance
I should like to see any power of the world destroy this race, this small tribe of
unimportant people whose history is ended, whose wars have been fought and lost, whose
structures have crumbled, whose literature is unread, whose music is unheard, whose
prayers are no longer uttered. Go ahead, destroy this race. Let us say that it is
again 1915; there is war in the world. Destroy Armenia. See if you can do it. Send
them from their homes into the desert. Let them have neither bread nor water. Burn
their homes and their churches. See if they will not live again. See if they will
not laugh again. See if you can stop them from mocking the big ideas of the world…Go
ahead, try to destroy them.
- William Saroyan
This is where I come from. A culture that has existed for thousands of years but no
one is aware of its origins or history. I come from a culture that has gone through
constant denial, generation after generation, and after all it has struggled, it has
marinated its posture and stands proud in seclusion among the vastness of the world.
Its only history is told through its children, who abandon and leave in search of
survival, exposing themselves and their culture to the rest of the world. I come from
a place which no one understands but me. When I tell my story, it echoes back to be
because no one is aware of who Armenians are. I come from a country whose walls narrate
ancient history; a place where scarceness rests upon day and night; where there is
no hope for the future, but the hope to survive. This place I call home. This environment
I long for but cannot reach. Only memory would allow me to walk upon its grounds,
eat its ripened fruit harvested upon its ancient soil, and read its history inscribed
on its ancient structures.
For my senior art showcase I decided to paint scenes that represent the Armenian Genocide of 1915 and my culture in general. Although most paintings that deal with a somber subject matter use monochromatic color scheme, like Picasso's Guernica, I chose to use a colorful palette to convey the same emotion as a subdued monochromatic palette. The challenge was to use bright and piercing colors to have the effect of a more subtle, peaceful, and turbulent energy.
My biggest painting conveys a violent yet serene atmosphere. It presents the idea of emptiness and the dominance of nature to show that the landscape that surrounded the victims of 1915 acted as a witness. First, the conductor is calling all Armenians together to face and overcome the denial of the genocide. Second, he is voicing the story of 1915 to the world, asking for acceptance. However, having no listener or getting no reaction, he faces denial. The wall pieces that lead toward the painting represent not only the dead victims but the living survivors on their march toward acceptance and recognition of the genocide. They also represent the genocide monument, Tsitsernakabert, which is in Yerevan. On the walls I sketched historical people and things that bear ideas of despair, struggle, and the death of ignorance.
I chose red as the dominant color in my works to convey the idea of blood as a sign of birth, life, and death. The pomegranate is associated with Armenia, in that while Armenians were driven into the desert by the Ottoman Turks, they could only afford to eat a seed a day. The broken pomegranate in my other paintings represents the victims, as they were untimely plucked and destroyed.
My title The Death of Ignorance refers to the following: ignorance did not only kill a million and a half of Armenians in 1915, but it is still metaphorically killing Armenians today because the genocide is still being denied.
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