Interview with Vahagn Vardumyan
Painter, artist Vahagn Vardumyan’s interview to Eritasard.am.
Vahagn Vardumyan is a painter and president of the Eco Ashram environmental NGO. On May 24, the painter was one of the six artists who created works of art for visitors during the Overnight performance held as part of the Europe Day Celebration. Eritasard.am: How did you decide to participate in the program and create this painting? Vahagn Vardumyan: I received an invitation to participate in the event since I know Europe and Armenia very well. I decide to create a work of art that would portray dialogue. My canvas is an imitation of a wall and is entitled “From Wall to Wall”. On one side, you see the graffiti in Yerevan, and on the other side, you see the graffiti in Europe. Eritasard.am: What characters did you create during the process? V. V.: In the Armenian section I portrayed The Little Prince, whose message (“I Don’t Understand”) is taken straight from the book. It is fine for the Little Prince not to be able to understand many things about politics, economy and culture. In the European section I have also portrayed characters expressing protest. For instance, there is a man who is committing suicide with a gun loaded with benzene. Of course, there are also positive sides. From the Armenian side I present Mount Ararat and a grandfather’s memoir of Staliningrad in 1942. Eritasard.am: The painting was interactive in its nature. Why? V. V.: The painting truly turned out to be interactive. How do people come into contact with walls? They approach a wall and write something on it. This is how boys would approach me and ask me to write something on the wall. Of course, it was absurd, but I submitted to their desires since they were going to “pollute” another public wall and express themselves. My friends in Germany and Holland, who are environmental activists, also sent their message, which is the following: “Let’s fight for a cleaner planet”. Eritasard.am: How do you view this issue? Which genre did you prefer to work in? V. V.: Technically speaking, I chose the stencil art style or trafarets. In terms of the ideology, it was placard painting with symbolism and conceptualism. I tried to convey my message not with words, but the sorting of images. For instance, even though everyone associates the rat with something negative, I don’t see anything negative. With this same principle, an old woman has removed the lines of a zebra and has laid her laundry on them. This is people’s sarcastic approaches to animals. To continue with the topic of environmental protection, I must say that I myself am a vegetarian, but people in Armenia get very surprised when I tell them that and they can’t imagine not eating kebab or barbecue. To make a long story short, all that we take from Europe is both good and bad. Armenians have to learn how to filter and not be ashamed of showing the world all the good things that they have. Eritasard.am: Which good sides would you set aside? V. V.: We are always hospitable, and we should show that. We should also show how we treat people, how we extend a helping hand to others when they are in trouble, our modesty, which Europe lacks, as well as the genetic attributes that are impossible to transmit to others. Eritasard.am: You mentioned that you also know Europe very well. Have you personally felt what life in Europe is like? V. V.: Yes. I must also say that I have worked as a volunteer in Lithuania for six months and have also been in Germany. In the past ten years, I have traveled to 35 countries. I consider myself a painter-traveler. I think every Armenian, even the most conventional Armenian, should travel abroad, learn many things and come back with longing; otherwise, sometimes people poison themselves with their moods in the country and don’t see all that is good and only picture Armenia as hell. In reality, there are places in the world that serve as real models of hell, including in the West. Astghik Melik-Karamyan