- Chant Avedissian
- Icons of the Nile
- each: signed and numbered
- gouache, hand-coloured stencil, gold and silver acrylic paint on cardboard, in hundred and twenty parts
- Executed in 1991-2010.
London, Rose Issa Projects, Re-Orientations II, 2012
He gradually integrated knowledge gained from his formal studies in Canada and France with personal research into legendary Pharaonic iconography, geometric Islamic architecture, floral patterns of Ottoman textiles, and popular 20th century imagery of icons from the Arab world. Avedissian first started his stencils series during the Gulf War in 1991. The series was catalysed by the overwhelming media coverage of the political situation, which consumed him with feelings of hopelessness and despair, resulting in a collection of faces, places and symbols from his past.
In his sophisticated stencilled works, Avedissian fuses symbols taken from Ancient Egypt such as hieroglyphics and dynastic monuments, with pictures of national heroes, admired politicians, popular singers and actors. These pictures are based on media imagery from Gamel Abdel Nasser’s rule (1956-1970), a decade that witnessed a socio-cultural reawakening permeated with a vigorous wave of Arab nationalism. Avedissian's concern for the disappearance of Egypt's rich heritage at the outbreak of the first Gulf War motivated him to explore topics such as; memory, history, imagery and self-representation in Egyptian culture. This shift in focus was a defining moment in his career as a contemporary artist, which had previously concentrated on photography and hand-dyed and sewn textile panels.
The result is an astounding hundred and twenty panel installation from Avedissian’s Icons of the Niles series, creating a grandiose mosaic of Egyptian cultural history retracing his country’s past, combining nostalgic imagery with a celebration of Egyptian iconographical motifs. Within this work, the artist avoids the use of oil on canvas. Instead, he blends his own pigments and uses a delicate stencil technique to transfer the image onto card or locally produced paper. The stencil technique requires a simplification of line and colour, and thus becomes similar to the hieroglyphic model of symbols. By means of repeating and layering images, Avedissian saturates his works with various suggestions and connotations, eloquently drawing our attention to the many faces of modern Egyptian society and Cairo’s visual landscape. Each stencilled panel embodies a variety of influences and themes, creating vivid organic patterns. His process of creation skilfully combines the use of local pigments, gum arabic, and hand-coloured textiles; the conclusion is presented as a powerful vehicle for the artist’s personal memories and experiences. Avedissian’s work, unique in its approach and execution, repeatedly compares and contrasts the West and the Middle East, art and propaganda, and tradition and modernity.
Throughout this work, the largest piece from Avedissian’s extensive oeuvre, he conveys his admiration and appreciation for opulently iconic Egyptian imagery, coupled with the remnants of his country’s magnificent historical past with an honest and profound sincerity. His iconoclastic images commemorate the country that nourished his creative soul.