Armenian Painters: Hakob Hakobyan
The work of the Armenian painter Hakob Hakobyan is a most important contribution to the artistic culture of Armenia. Hakobyan came to settle in his historical homeland, Armenia, from Egypt when he was already a mature painter - in 1962. Before that, the public had a chance to see his works at several exhibitions in Yerevan, Moscow and other cities. Hakobyan's early creations are small-size oils: one -figure compositions in interiors and still lifes. The painter strove to convey typological rather than personal characteristics.
His personages are social or occupational types - a tailor, a waiter, and so on. The static figures circumscribed by a space limited in depth, their mood of constraint and isolation suggest a lonely, miserable existence. The democratic trend evident in the choice of subjects and characters, the sympathy for the "little man" were the hall-marks of Hakobyan's early pieces. The subject matter of the paintings done in the 1950s determines their stylistic idiom.
The color scheme is ascetic, nearly monochrome, the outlines of the figures and the objection the interiors are dark, the forms are somewhat schematic; last but not least, the circumscribed and cramped space further enhances the isolation of the people and things portrayed.
Hakobyan's coming to stay in Armenia was a crucial landmark in his creative career. For him, getting to know his new world began with the landscape.
Yet his preoccupation with the landscape did not stem from the traditions of the contemporary Armenian painting school; it was prompted by the striving grasp and assimilate the new spatial milieu, dominated by a novel spiritual climate. Hakobyan's landscapes are marked by concrete motifs and by an emotional attitude all his own. They are quite unpretentious but extremely individualized as regards the choice of location. Hakobyan rarely takes up the landscapes that are so popular with the Armenian artists, and he is not drawn to the hallowed architectural relics. His very first Armenian landscape still evince a stylistic affinity with his own early work, particularly in the treatment of space and color. Gradually the painter began to transcend the circumscribed space of the cramped interior, the small courtyard or the narrow lane of a provincial small town. His landscapes become infused with the epic breath of the vast limitless world. The idea of the venerable age of the land of Armenia, of its grandeur and immutability is conveyed through a few stark details of the natural scene, such as stones, layers of rocks, a dead tree trunk, the poles supporting the electric wires. Series of landscapes of the Village of Malishka and of Agavnadzor, Areni, and Getap, city-scapes showing the streets of Leninakan, its canals, or old vineyards are important stages in Hakobyan's progress as a Soviet Armenian painter.
In his striving to comprehend the world around him, the painter proceeds from the particular to the general. Hakobyan's inherent predilection for meditation and analysis is revealed in his firm, veracious drawing. He materializes in painting both the forms of the outer world and - most important-their characteristic essence, revealing his sensitive insight. All of Hakobyan's landscapes, for all their concreteness and authenticity, are very well built, with the occasional, unimportant details carefully weeded out. The composition is usually conceived parallel to the surface of the canvas, so as to offer the viewer an integral and clear perception of the entire piece. The mood of a somewhat ceremonial immobility is enhanced by the even, subdued lighting. Hakobyan's works are based on the contrast between outward tranquillity and internal tension. A major feature of his landscapes is a sense of purpose, of the harmonious unity of the natural things and the man-made and man-inspired things. In his expressive, meaningful still lifes the painter was able to stretch the traditional limits of this painting genre. Quite often the still lifes reflect the acute, dramatic collisions of the world today. The paradoxical situations captured in the still lifes and the author's metaphoric approach are clearly visible in the series with tools, eggs and poultry, the tailor's dummies and especially the still lifes presenting clothes. It was gradually, stage by stage, that Hakobyan established his unbreakable bonds with Armenia. The first stage was the mastering of the country's landscape-the spatial milieu. And he came to comprehend his new subject, man, in an indirect way- through the medium of the still life and the world of things. In the past few years, works that inaugurate a new gallery of characters- portraits of Armenian intellectuals - have been displayed at exhibitions. Hakobyan's personages are always complex, many-faceted and dynamic; they are high-power, strongwilled individuals. The intellectuality of Hakobyan's art is paralleled by the models he chooses for his portraits.
Hakobyan's oils appear monochrome only at first glance, it is a fleeting, illusory impression. As a matter of fact, his paintings are intricate studies in color, and the brushwork is many-layered and painstakingly executed. The sophisticated subtlety and airiness of the colors soften the starkness of the forms and rhythms. The light, cool colors abound in different hues and subtle transitions, which lends a lyrical note to the epic construction of his paintings. "Implication" is probably a happier word in this case than "note". This implication enhances the emotional aspect of Hakobyan's painting, which would otherwise appear somewhat subdued. In our own day, Armenian art is dominated by a very different painting style, featuring overt emotionalism, vibrant colors and striking decorativeness. It is charged with a mood of optimism and joy. Hakobyan's work, however, is evocative of the "other side" of the traditions of Armenian culture: the constructivist and rational principle of form-building, which is so well conveyed by the work of Armenian architects and sculptors. Hakobyan's artistic progress is a fine example of the consecutive and purposeful development of the spiritual world and humanistic aspirations of an artist in our own day.
The painter is extremely popular in Armenia. Hakobyan's artistic contribution has also brought him official recognition: he has won the honorary title of People's Artist of the Armenian and a State Prize of the Armenian.