For many years now the beloved Charles Aznavour Square of Yerevan has been attracting attention with its metal sculptures. First there appeared Horses in the square, but after a while they “ran away” to some unknown place. Then appeared the Bull, and shortly afterwards the Spider. The author of all these sculptures is Ara Alekyan – a traditional sculptor who one day unexpectedly and abruptly subjected himself to a kind of metamorphosis. Alekyan considers master monumentalist Ara Harutyunyan as his main teacher, who while teaching his student the art of sculpture, once advised him to work with bronze. Ara failed then at his first attempt, but the teacher’s advice to use metal as a material for sculpture, settled firmly in his mind and wouldn’t let go. The dream about metal sculptures became a reality in the times when the earthquake of 1988 left Armenia in ruins – the earthquake had brought construction metals and different types of materials out to the surface. In these very rusty, transformed and ripped metal piles Ara Alekyan saw characters and parts of his amazing art-objects. Taking a whole pile of metal to his studio and its surroundings, he slowly, at first unconfidently (nowhere do they teach how to work with such material) but with time gaining more confidence, started his search. It was like a kind of Lego – he was designing and inventing his own sculptures. Little by little he developed a unique technology and came up with specific forms of his own artworks. The characters that subconsciously appeared in his imagination were through experience turning into real sculptures. Metal is his material and welding is his technique. He became a welding master and since then he has been working without any assistants. He creates his sculptures all by himself.
The process is time-consuming; after all, Ara solves not only artistic tasks but also engineering issues, as it is rather hard to find the right place for a metal piece in a sculpture. First he created the Queen, then the King. These two were not only a great couple together, but could also be viewed as a remake of Henry Moor’s famous composition. After the iron men the Fish was created. It was a rather impressive 1.5-meter sculpture, but it also looked like a jewelry work – very fine and fragile. Working with welded metal since then greatly attracted Alekyan. He is the only one of his kind in Armenia; actually outside Armenia too there are very few like him. And if we take into account the magnitude of the influence, professionalism and the unreal realism of his works, we can come up with only a few names to put next to him. Of course there are those who use the welding technique, but their compositions are abstract or amusing and are not professionally-made sculptures. Alekyan’s first major work was the Rhino. As he himself explains, it was his dream as a student and it was also the influence of Ionesco. But while French playwright’s Rhinoceros is an absurd visionary phantom, the one created by the Armenian sculptor is a strong, powerful animal. Its tension is skillfully reflected in the animal’s muscles with relevant mechanical details with the use of big and small springs… The sculpture is monumental but at the same time transparent, resembling the mechanism of a clock. Interesting uniqueness! Willingly or not, one mentally divides Alekyan’s sculptures according to one’s technical knowledge of details, and at the same time realizes how pointless and senseless it is to do that. The dual attitude towards his works functions faultlessly: what is important is to find the portion of perception and try to pass from a part to the whole, from the whole to a part. Only in this case one can enjoy both the professionalism of the master, the constructor’s way of thinking and the great art of the true Artist, who being inspired (rather than doing it mechanically) works hard for months on each of his works. Rhinoceros was created in half a year…
Spider 450×560×610cm, 2011, “Cifato” firm, Moscow
Performance “The opening of the spider” 2011, Euro-Expo, Dusseldorf
When the pile of the metal that he had stored on those days started “melting” under his feet, Ara began creating small sculptures. That is how the insects – the Scorpio, the Ant, the Bee and the Spider were created. Some of these had a couple of variants that completely differed from one another. Of course this is not because of the fact that it is actually impossible to create identical sculptures (as the material doesn’t allow this); rather it is because Alekyan does not want to create identical insects, horses or fishes. He wants to portray the character and the mood of his animal-models in the metal. And he succeeds in doing that. His Bees are ready to fly at any moment – you can feel the vibrations and movements of their wings; the Scorpio is tense and is ready to sting, while the Mosquito is already sucking someone’s blood… Ara Alekyan creates his iron sculptures without doing any sketches. What sketch can there be if the author finds himself face-to-face with the scrap metal? The most that he can do before taking the welding equipment is to outline the scheme of the future construction. But… it is hard to say how the first welded sculpture was created. It is quite probable that he saw his future works in the pieces of metal and in the details of cars; or maybe the vague images that appeared in his imagination would sharpen his instinct and at that moment he would find that single detail which would fit into its place (although he sometimes has to forge some refined parts of the insects).
Otherwise how can one explain for instance why a scythe has become the tail of the Cow? In short, Alekyan’s sculptures are a result of a rather intricate and unregulated creative process in which the component of chance is always at play. His sculptures are the result of complete absorption of both creative and technological processes. However, it is not right to consider Ara Alekyan an animalist. The material and the technique allow him to also create portraits and sculptures of people, such as the slim Ballet Dancer, the Walking Man and even Jesus Christ with barbed wire as his Crown of Thorns – this is a very convincing and powerful portrayal of the Savior. The Crucifixion made of wood and metal is also like that – it portrays a wizened body, mourning, despair and obedience. Developing his mastership with time, he created the character of a real, well-known and prominent man Sergei Parajanov. Alekyan created a well recognizable image of the film director who has paradoxical ideas and behavior. Yes, this is indeed maestro Parajanov – a powerful forehead, tricky and clever eyes and an ironic smile. He created three portraits of Parajanov who is a man with many faces. All three are fascinating works! At first with small figure-sketches Alekyan created Parajanov the clown and the joker – there is nothing excessive, and at the same time the work is done with the exactness of a jeweler. This as a matter of fact is typical to all his works; but Parajanov’s portraits help us see how Alekyan achieves his artistic truth and how he makes the viewer believe this truth.
With his creative metals Alekyan has considerably enriched the Armenian art. His works are not perceived unequivocally – they are beautiful but their beauty is of a completely different conceptual form. In any case one thing is clear – the sculptor has expanded the dimensions of Armenian sculpture and decorative art. Now he is working on a new idea and is trying to combine the easel art with bronze and metal. More than 20 works by Ara Alekyan are in private collections and museums and decorate public places and parks in Belgium, US, Italy and Armenia. One of his Horses is included in the book “200 sculptures of Brussels”, among such prominent masters of the 20th century as Calder, Maillol and Moore. A monumental Bull has recently appeared in far Blogoveshensk. This was Alekyan’s present to the city. There is no need to wonder how national Ara’s creations are by form or content, especially because such concepts are conditional in modern art. What matters is that Armenian sculptor Alekyan, whose admirers are British Moore and French Cezanne, adds his colors and means of expression into the national culture. This is his creed and his iron statement.