Preserving the art of writing
The next day, The Tale of Davit the Boy and Khandukht the maiden was introduced by author Ararat Sarkissian and poetess Roza Hovhannisyan – the epic’s translator in Carno dialect, which is the dialect now spoken in Gyumri and Shirak region. During the conversation, the artist imprinted images from the epic onto clay boards using cylinders, an ancient technique he kept and developed.
On the third day of the project, a master class on calligraphy and handmade postcards was held by painter Gyumri Vahan Topchyan. Those who participated were teenagers from the Gyumri and Vanadzor branches of the National Center for Aesthetics, the post-Merkurov art school, and the A3 painting group of the Gyumri branch of the Academy of Fine Arts. The young people made and illustrated handmade postcards and took the opportunity to ask the artist questions.
The outdoor book art fair “Book Ode” was held on the fourth day of the project. Contemporary writers from Gyumri exhibited their own books, and various souvenirs related to books and calligraphy were presented by the craftsmen of Yerevan and Gyumri. To conclude the series of events, the painter and graphic designer Taron Saharyan gave a lecture on the theme “The evolution of Armenian writing in the Middle Ages”, reflecting the historical and cultural process of the transformation of writing and police training.
Recovering memory through art
The leitmotif of the initiative is that art can recover and preserve the identity embodied in language-culture, even if the civilizations and peoples concerned have disappeared from history or are threatened with extinction. For the artist Sarkissian, this is the main motivation for his extraordinarily creative endeavours. “To me,” he wrote, “human experience, accumulated over thousands of years, is extremely important.” (https://araratsarkissian.wordpress.com/). Memory must therefore be preserved if identity is to survive. Some crucial events threatening the destruction of Armenian cultural heritage had a decisive impact on it. When asked in an interview what inspired his prints, he replied, “My main inspirations are old scripts, manuscripts and history. For example, in 2006, an entire tomb of Armenian stone crosses was destroyed in Julfa. I was so sad that I couldn’t stop thinking about recreating them on paper. I kind of gave them a second life, and that’s how I fight to preserve my culture. (https://www.homofaber.com/en/discover/discover-ararat-sarkissian) Another watershed event was the 1988 earthquake that devastated Gyumri, threatening to eradicate its identity.
To preserve this cultural testimony, Sarkissian explored and mastered the techniques associated with the arts of the ancient world. For example, he learned to make paper himself, as he explains in the same interview, from an artist he found in Jordan. Later, he experimented with the technique by adding his own ingredients, such as okra and Armenian herbs. He explained the importance of using such original techniques: “I strongly believe that old techniques and traditions can be transformed into something innovative. With my engravings in different languages, maps and stone crosses I want to show that the old can be transformed into the new. We can’t read these scripts, but they can be a work of art to look at.