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Hakob Hakobyan
THE ROAD'S END
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Hakob Hakobyan
THE ROAD'S END

Details & Cataloguing

At the Crossroads: Contemporary Art from the Caucasus and Central Asia

London

Hakob Hakobyan
B. 1923 - D. 2013
THE ROAD'S END
signed and dated 97; signed, titled and dated 1997 on the stretcher
oil on canvas
100 by 81cm., 39 3/8 by 32in.
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Provenance

Collection of the Artist

Catalogue Note

Henrik Igityan, founder of the first Museum of Modern Art in the USSR, once described Hakob Hakobyan’s art: "The forms and means employed by Hakobyan seem to be quite accessible, while demanding deep penetration and complexity. Hakobyan introduced a new facet to Armenian art, a facet that makes him different from the powerful colourists. His pensive blues melody has taken its legitimate and lasting place in mainstream art." [1]

Hakob Hakobyan shared a similar view of the world as Martiros Saryan (1880 – 1972), the titan of Armenian Soviet art who had tremendous influence on the next generation of Armenian artists. In terms of aesthetics, Hakobyan chose a completely different path though also specialising in landscape, the genre most favoured by Saryan. Hakobyan’s approach is best explained as the search for perfection through purified reality. His palette is calm and dominated by muted ochres and brown hues. His linear, mostly vertical calculated compositions convey feelings of displacement, nostalgia and muteness. Hakobyan’s motifs contain none of the traditional Armenian elements as established by Saryan, though the feelings expressed by his works intimately reflect the feelings of Armenians towards their land and their turbulent past. His works exude a very contemporary feel.

Hakobyan’s The Road’s End, 1997, has a Parisian modernistic feel and is closer to the works of Maurice Utrillo than to those of Armenian contemporaries. The sentiment and expression of Hakobyan's work is almost diametrically opposite to that of Saryan. There is none of Saryan’s upbeat spirit, no anguish, no colour, no movement. On the other hand, there is a language of symbols that the artist develops in order to construct his own version of Armenian national identity. The road is a symbol that carries a special meaning to the Armenian people. It illustrates the history of frequent and forced resettlement that shaped Armenian identity. The mathematical precision of Hakobyan’s art is perhaps as important for its understanding as the symbols he uses. The road and the pole are present in most of Hakobyan’s landscapes in both his early and late periods. His earlier work, On the Road to Echmiadzin. Autumn (1970, Yerevan Museum of Modern Art) is striking in its precise positioning of leafless, misshapen trees along the road, leaving no room for chance and accentuating a feeling of stiffness. A pole vertically separates a thrid of the composition. The viewer may even be overcome with the urge to count the number of trees and sticks which appear as a fence on the right side. There seems to be a hidden logic in which symbols are placed to the left and right of the pole. This differs significantly from The Road’s End (1997) where Hakobyan’s prodigious talent becomes apparent as the artist plays with the trademark mathematical precision that he develops in his earlier works. In The Road’s End, the pole is slightly offset from centre, and the position of the road itself leaves the viewer guessing as to whether or not it divides the composition into two equal halves. Misshapen stones appear to be strewn haphazardly on the front plane. The landscape is perfectly still and may best be described as 'ascetic'. There is no outburst of emotion - neither in the meticulously calculated composition, nor in chromatic language. The work is executed in ochre and brown hues, with only a few dark brown spots which manipulate the point of entry into a seemingly flat space. The viewer of this deceivingly irregular composition becomes unknowingly complicit in the mathematical structure and calculated harmony of the Armenian landscape, suddenly seeing beauty in a purified version of reality. This facet of Armenian nature, its silent and melancholic beauty, is not dissimilar to the Japanese perception of the silent beauty of Zen rock gardens and is one of Hakobyan’s 'trademark' discoveries.

In the present work Hakobyan explores the modernistic concepts of space and time that were very differently addressed by his contemporaries . The horizontal flatness and openness of the space of landscape reveals an almost Renaissance mathematical study of perspective mixed with Japanese elements in the construction of depth. Space in Hakobyan’s works appears as a vacuum, a sharp contrast to the sunlit expanses and fresh-air of Saryan’s works. This vacuum is perhaps one of the most important features of Hakobyan’s art.

Though Hakobyan’s perception of Armenia seems to be distinctly different from that of Saryan, certain qualities link it back to the founder of Armenian Soviet art; the attempt to create his 'own' Armenia and to develop his own language of symbols and colour to transfer his feelings about his homeland to the viewer. It is this construction of national identity, through his own vision of what it means to be Armenian, that shows a facet of 'Armenianness' overlooked by others. On the Road to Echmiadzin, Autumn and Vaiodzor (both 1970) illustrate how Hakobyan explores and develops his mathematics of composition that later result in The Road’s End. Although he does not introduce the human figure in his landscapes, its presence is felt. Everyday objects seem to come to life on his canvases. Leafless bare trees and desert rocks impart a feeling of fragility and helplessness and the electricity poles, seemingly permanent inhabitants of his landscapes, lend a persistent character. This generalization of images reveals a very different side of Armenian national identity: lonely, melancholic, filled with muted feelings and ultimately self-sufficient.

[1] H. Igityan, Armenian Palette of the XX Century, Yerevan, 2004, pp. 150-151.

Catalogue note written by Sabina Sadova

At the Crossroads: Contemporary Art from the Caucasus and Central Asia

London