LONDON- Auction houses have always been home to the world’s most valuable art pieces. Online auction house AucArt was launched in 2017 as an auction house specialising in emerging art. It quickly became known for championing early career artists. In April 2021, Gallery Girl‘s Lizzy Vartanian Collier guest-curated the show You Cannot Escape Destiny on the platform.

Hagop Kalaidijan, Nour 8, Generations, Fine art giclée print of 35mm film negative on archival watercolor paper, 2021

The sale hosts artwork by 7 emerging Armenian artists residing in the US, Europe, and Jordan. The artists featured in the show are Arda Aslanian, Thenie Khatchatourov, Narek Barseghyan, Ripsime, Muriel Jaouich, Hagop Kalaidjian and Alisha Sofia. Through different media like paintings and photography, You Cannot Escape Destiny speaks to Armenia in multiple forms, and is a meeting point for commemorating a special memory of home. Lizzy shares her experience with the artists’ creations through her eyes. 

“I think all of the artists beautifully comment on what it’s like to be Armenian and to have a love for our history, from Hagop’s images of the pomegranate, to Arda’s inclusion of Armenian needlelace as well as Thenie’s appreciate for our stonework and architecture, culminating with Narek, who grew up in Yerevan and looks at street culture and what it means to be an Armenian person in Armenia today.” – Lizzy Vartanian Collier 
Hagop Kalaidijan, Nour 8, Eastern Sunrises, Fine art giclée print of 35mm film negative on archival watercolor paper, 2021

Manhattan-based photographer Hagop Kalaidijan was among the participants of the sale. His work was featured in the fashion industry’s biggest names and has worked on shooting for Vogue, GQ and Vanity Fair IT. In his NOUR 7 and NOUR 8 collection with Tania Sarin, we see warm toned photographs away from the limelight, making their way into a more intimate context. The collaboration raised profits to the Paros Foundation to support Armenia and Artsakh. 

“I was always interested in documenting the sweetness in life. This comes through in my AucArt show as well, which is inspired by people who have overtaken great distances and tragedies to arrive at refuge in la dolce vita.” – Hagop Kalaidijan 

The series features images of pomegranate, a prominent symbol of prosperity and good fortune according to Armenian mythology. They are also known to protect from the evil eye. In Armenia, pomegranates are part of the national cuisine, heritage, culture and art scene as well. As we look into NOUR, Hagop uses 35 mm film to capture the fruit from home away from home. One of the pieces showcases a hand reaching towards an iridescent bowl of deep-red vibrance, each granule glowing under the sun. The idea stemmed from Hagop shooting photos of the pomegranate tree at his family home in Los Angeles. He was eager to further study its symbolic meaning through turning it into a visual representation of Armenia through his eyes. 

Thénie Khatchatourov, Armenian Lover, Pencil on Paper, 2021.

As we switch mediums from lens to paint, contemporary artist Thénie Khatchatourov stunned us with her diverse compilation of pencil drawings, in which she imitates stone-carving textures and takes us back to an entire history of Armenian sketching techniques. Thénie’s aesthetic dimension dives into themes of love, birth and death. She touches on the importance of maintaining strong relationships across society and celebrating intimacy. 

“The love scenes depicted and the close connection I build up between personas is an invitation for a peaceful relationship between men and women. I am trying to spread a message of reconciliation between genders.” – Thénie Khatchatourov 
Thenie Khatchatourov, Brothers, Oil on Linen Canvas, 2021

While she displays a heartwarming depiction of affection in this drawing shared between two individuals, she also portrays self-love in her works. Here, we see Thénie in a new light, reflecting all the love poured into her paintings back to a raw, breathtaking self-portrait. 

Arda Aslanian, Hai Saint I Oil on Canvas, 2021

Making our last stop back home, Amman-based figurative painter Arda Aslanian responds to the 2020 tragedy that occured in Artsakh through her series, Hai. Although the sky is her limit when it comes to the subjects in her paintings, Arda leans towards placing significance on women and their struggles in male-dominated societies. In Hai, the black and white female figures glow against fiery burnt sienna skies making their strong and resilient gazes the focal points in the compositions.

Arda Aslanian, Hai Saint II Oil on Canvas, 2021

In Hai viewers are introduced to traditional Armenian headwear embellishing the persona’s figure. Arda derives her inspiration from the Old Baroque and Renaissance schools, and incorporates Armenian needlework into her paintings. This further showcases resilience, power and beauty in the eyes of her Armenian heroines. 

“Living in the diaspora, does not make me less Armenian, because our identity and language endures beyond physical borders.” – Arda Aslanian 

Tradition is a treasure chest of stories that continues to inspire artists to this day. There are boundless aspects to explore in one’s culture, and beneath a rubble of rich history, some tales that were once untold need to be revived. The artists in You Cannot Escape Destiny translate nostalgic emotions from their hearts to their hands, showing the world a visual manifestation of missing home. The show is a pathway that shows how each artist documents their discovery and vision of their homeland, miles away from Armenia. 

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