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My first encounter with Varoujan Mardirian’s art was in 1988, in the city of ljevan, Armenia, where I happened to be the organizer and creative manager of the Fourth International Symposium of Sculpture.

 

A month-long communication with Mardirian was of special signification to me, because as an art critic I ha for quite some time been doing research on the phenomena of creative activity. Meanwhile, I already knew about Mardirian. I was not surprised that he started working having neither an outline nor a sketch of what he intended to sculpt.

What did strike me was his deep concentration as his thin and sensitive fingers handling a piece of redwood hit upon the tough vessels and twisted lines of the wood’s natural layers as if trying to discover its natural bloodstream or respiration.

 

For a whole month I witnessed the extraordinary transformation of a piece of wood awakening slowly from day to day under the artist’s chisel, being brought forth as if from its magic sleep, acquiring curvatures and rising in its carved form to the majestic splendor of the nude female figure called REBIRTH.

 

    

I invited Mardirian to participate in the next annual International Symposium. This time the “awakening” of redwood resulted in a female figure of a plastic form in the minor key called TREPIDATION. These two sculptures gained Mardirian a deep appreciation by Armenian art fans as well as professional recognition by the Armenian and foreign sculptors participating in the symposium and working in different styles and on different media. Getting under the spell of Mardirian’s art, they specifically experienced the enigmatic effects of the creative phenomenon.

 

It was not easy in those years to come to terms with the idea that the first, as well as the rest of his sculptures should take the form of fantasies of nude female figures with an absolute preference given to wood as the image-creating material. However, that was not bound to be a clear-cut preference. It was with these speculations in mind that I had an urge to share some thoughts about his wonderful sculptor.

 

  

 

       

The Beginning

 

Creation is a secret retained in the deep, most sensitive, inconceivable layers of the human soul that like a smoldering seed will one day wake up and welcome the birth of a newly created tree of wisdom. Thus, it came to pass that Varoujan Mardirian, a civil engineer and architect, one day discovered Varoujan Mardirian the sculptor.

 

In Beirut those were the days of cruel internal strife and civil war, when a colleague aware of Mardirian’s priorities, brought him a piece of palm tree damaged by shrapnel. Strained and deeply worried by the destruction of his beloved city, by the bullets incessantly whizzing around his own house, in fear for the safety of his family, he lay his hands upon the wounded piece of wood, injured by the shell fragments piercing its body and at that same moment, spurred by an unexplained feeling, he started to caress the wounded piece of wood with the hot palms of his hands.

 

What was that? It is hard to tell. A relief or instinctive longing to mitigate the pain? Maybe the distant call of blood from the tree-worshipping ancestors?

 

That was the day Mardirian the artist was born, born sooner that he himself could have known it. Actually, it was a rebirth. On that day a seed smoldering for many years exploded like a bullet in his soul flooding its essence with the cognizant breath of the tree of knowledge.

 

That “wounded piece of wood” is in his workshop to date, retained as it was then, an inscrutable mystery of creation.