The work of Sarkis is a tangle of meanings. Applying layers upon layers, he plays as much on the emotional and sensitive as the intellectual level; on the course of history as on his personal experience. After the great exhibition staged by the Villa Empain, the Galerie Nathalie Obadia is showing the artist once again. The film by Michelangelo Antonioni, Il Grido (The Cry), lends its title to a vibrant work, full of references to visual art, film and history. It’s a manifesto, which we can highlight as follows.
In the beginning, there is the man, balanced and cordial. To speak to him feels like a privilege, a rare occasion. His vast knowledge is fascinating. His simple truths, wise remarks punctuated by silences, are delightful. In his eyes, a hint of mischief. His gaze is as intense and caring as what he says. The 78-wise Sarkis tells us about the spark that the discovery of the famous painting by Edvard Munch ignited in him. “I was wrapping meat in pages of a magazine when I discovered a photograph of the Scream,” he recalls. He was only 10 at the time, but this image made a profound impression on him. This was his first contact with the art world and is now the fulcrum of an exhibition enriched by strong personal resonances.
“This exhibition is a real conversation,” explains the artist, “a dialogue with two monuments of the 20th century, with major works that marked a turning point in their careers. Sarkis is accustomed to opposing and bringing artists together in such a way. The need to speak out gushes powerfully from this silent cry that the artist has represented in many different ways. Subtle variations stemming from the same root. Just like the Norwegian painter had done before him. The narrative is in the detail. With all these assembled gazes, this is an art that distorts, deforms and increases anxiety. The confrontation with African masks carries a wealth of meanings. Such a huge echo is reminiscent of the discovery of primitive arts. The images flirt with a contained, felt, silent or future angst.
Right next door, we move to a new setting where the artist focuses his pictorial research on the way colour reacts, on the aura it exudes on paper. And then there are these letters, like an extremely delicate musical score. As a film buff, the artist has selected images from movies which he has torn and stuck back together. He gives them a new lease of life. According to the ancient Japanese technique of Kintsugi, it is possible to repair broken porcelain using gold lacquer. The repair becomes beautiful; it enhances and breathes new life into what was destined to disappear. In this new relation with the object, its history and its life are important. The crack and tear become underlines, veins through which flows a new meaning. Sarkis cauterizes and strengthens. The fracture is transformed into a bond!
We discover yet another side of Sarkis’s creativity upstairs. It has to do with a renewal in a centuries-old art: stained glass. He mixes it with photographs which represent what is instant and perishable. The Cycle des innocents is striking with its creatures where men and watches seem to live in the same body.
Born in 1938 in Istanbul, a child of the Armenian diaspora who escaped the genocide, Sarkis tames the past by looking at it with absolute modernity. In 2015, he was the main attraction of the Pavilion of Turkey at the Venice Art Biennale while taking part in Armenity, the project recipient of the Gold Lion. “It was a challenging project, an extremely difficult decision. I wanted to convey a message of love.” The conceptual artist seems to be on a mission which guides his trajectory and fuels his oeuvre. Without any bitterness or nostalgia, his creation follows an impeccably consistent axis. In this uninterrupted continuum, his works are the molecules of the same thought, the same desire. Art is peace, a facilitator of tolerance and love.
A must-see exhibition which shows an accessible artist. A pacifist haunted by history but who is in tune with his time. His head always full of all kinds of ideas. “I am always searching, always looking. I love museums; I am interested in the artefacts of civilisations and the way they are treated,” he adds. We are moved by this creative genesis. On behalf of all mankind!
Sarkis, Il Grido
Galerie Nathalie Obadia
8 rue Charles Decoster
Jusqu’au 26 mars
Du mardi au vendredi de 10h à 18h00, samedi de 12h à 18h