Gayané Khachaturian. Painter of Dreams (Armenian Pavilion)


Gayane Khachaturian at her Studio in Tbillisi, 1985
Photo by Zaven Sargsyan

When I was selecting the National Pavilions to follow during the Biennale, I was very sad to hear that Gayané Khachaturian just passed away on 1st May 2009. 

Gayane Khachaturian was born into an Armenian family in Tbilisi, capital of the Soviet republic of Georgia. Her mother was a Zog, member of an ethnic group, which legend associates with Jewish tribes, but which in Armenia are regarded as Armenians and are much respected there. In her teens she attended an art school for children, but after a grave illness, which apparently affected her psychologically, she ventured to work on her own – even though she has to be in the proper mood to create, needs to feel the resisting texture of the painter’s medium and works to a musical accompaniment. Hers is an agonizing search for her own manner, for a means of expression, for symbols with which to depict her own characters, the trees, the moon, a horse, or a lion … her Weltanschauung stems from the typically Caucasian scenery, with its mountains, vividly colored fruits and verdant green, and the peculiar Eastern way of life and mores of the Caucasians, with their national and social attitudes and their eroticism: from “World Encyclopedia of Naive Art: a hundred years of naive art”, Oto Bihalji-Merin, Nebojsa-Bato Tomasevic, London – F. Muller, 1984. pp. 293-4 


Armenian fine arts suffered a great loss.
Gayané Khachaturian, renowned painter and master of fantastic colors and allegoric characters passed away.
After Parajanov she became the exemplary symbol of the Tbilisi Armenian community,whose name has long surpassed national and ethnic boundaries.

Her art, through her luminous personages has indeed led us to bright horizons of optimism.
Alas, her major solo exhibition at this year’s International Art Biennale of Venice will take place without Gayané Khachaturian. I present my deepest condolences to her relatives and enthusiasts of art. Let us console in the fact that the artist is mortal, but art created by her is eternal.
May 2, 2009

P A I N T E R   O F  D R E A M S 

Commissario/Curatore: Edward Balassanian

Commissario Onorario: Jean Boghossian

Sede: Palazzo Zenobio ex Collegio Armeno Moorat-Raphael, Dorsoduro 2596, Fondamenta del Soccorso


Edward Balassanian:
Of 8 million Armenians around the world 3 million live in the present-day Armenia. Armenian Diaspora is culturally very rich and diverse. Artists such as painter Arshile Gorky (USA), seascape painter Hovhannes Ayvazovski (Russia), cinematographer Sergey Parajanov (Georgia) are among many prominent names of the international art scene that are from Armenian Diaspora. Gayané Khachaturian, albeit less known, rightfully belongs to this esteemed group of artists. She was born in Tbilisi, Georgia, and lives and works there to date.

Gayané Khachaturian’s works are distinctly allegoric. They are inundated with colorful and rich collection of symbols referring to unending parables and metaphors from her personal past and her collective memories of the Armenian community of her native town. On an occasion she has said that many of “the stories” on her canvases are influenced by the tales her grandmother told her in her childhood.

Her colorful canvases are reminiscent of such world masters as Marc Chagall, Arshile Gorky and even Hieronymus Bosch of a much earlier era. Chagall spoke of the lives, trepidations, joys and grief of his people in the “Old Country” in a representational manner. Arshile Gorky expressed the same in the abstract—witness, his “How My Mother’s Embroidered Apron Unfolds in My Life…” Gayané is as story-teller as Chagall. However she is much more personal, delving into deep layers of her own psyche and inner feelings. She is reservedly abstract in the use of colors and forms as Arshile Gorky is, and as intriguing in concept and composition as Hieronymus Bosch. Like Bosch, she often “packs” her canvases with personages turning them into “static” scenes—snapshots—each telling a very personal story, expressing a feeling from deep inside.

 Her works are “theatrical”. Each canvas seems like a frozen mis-en-scène of a play—a theater scene. Her portraits resemble personages, dressed up and made up, ready to step on the stage. This attribute seems to be under distinct influence of her friend and contemporary, cinematographer and accomplished painter Sergey Parajanov.

Gayané Khachaturian has been selected to represent Armenia because she is one of the important links on the “chain” stretching from the depths of history—Armenian illuminated manuscripts of the Middle Ages—to the present day. Her colors, composition concepts and the “story-telling” are all in concert with the roots and branches of the same tree. While Armenian illuminated manuscripts depict the stories of the Gospel, Gayané tells stories of mostly personal and delicate emotions, and often communal issues and concerns.

It is noteworthy that selection of Gayané Khachaturian has independently coincided with the 53rd Venice Biennale Director and Curator Daniel Birnbaum’s intent to “explore strings of inspiration that involve several generations and to display the roots as well as the branches that grow into a future not yet defined”.

 There is a wealth of Armenian artists—Arshile Gorky, Yervand Kotchar, Martiros Sarian, Minas Avetissian and others—who tie Armenia to its past and form the source and the basis whence contemporary Armenian art feeds and on which it lays foundation.

Gayané Khachaturian is one of the few artists still living, who belongs to and represents this invaluable “procession” of treasures.

Catalogue on PDF: