In the studio with Thénie Khatchatourov, a contemporary visual artist whose works seem by nature to be a bridge between individuals and a way to transcend borders. We met with Thénie to tell us about growing up in Switzerland, her Armenian origins, and the exploration of love as a core theme through her practice.
I started seeing myself as an artist when I could materialize my ideas and turn them into concrete pieces of art. An artist, to be considered as such should be able to build up a strong esthetic arsenal and a strong and sensitive corpus.
I was born in Geneva Switzerland, I am of Armenian origin. Coming from a family of Armenian musicians, grand-niece of violinist Jean Ter-Merguerian, I grew up between classical music and paintings, surrounded by artists, painters, musicians.
I took the artistic path after university studies in socioeconomics at UNIGE and a Master Innokick, at HES-So. After my studies, I moved to Armenia for a mission at the Embassy of Switzerland in Yerevan, where I stayed for two years. I started drawing, painting in Armenia.
Paint us a picture of your artistic journey. What inspired you to first pursue, and then continue to practice, artistic work? Was there a pivotal moment when you felt you were on the right track?
When I got back to Geneva, I knew I could not work in an office. I decided to take the artistic path, no matter what and give it a chance. In the first month I met a galerist who offered me to have my art pieces for an exhibition in 2019. On the opening night of the exhibition 25 of the 34 pieces exhibited were sold. I couldn’t believe it, and to me this success was a clear sign that I had to keep working and fully exploit my creative potential.
The sacred as a subject for the painter is divested, even profaned today. My approach aims to question the importance of the return of the sacred in art, in a dialogue with the present, by updating mystical subjects among which love, union, motherhood, peace. However love remains the main topic in my work, as it is the greatest topic ever used in art, all forms of it combined. I just choose to keep celebrating love, by depicting couples intimacy, figures facing and kissing each other. The love scenes depicted and the close connexion I build up between personas is an invitation to a peaceful relationship between men and women. I am trying to spread a message of reconciliation between genders. Because this topic is a hot one today, because genders tend to think they are living separately while they are complementary, I had to find a way to reunite them in a poetic way in order to avoid the threat of a symbolic separation thereby avoiding the symbolic death of Humanity. I still believe that art, above all forms of expression is the best way to instill the desire for union
Who and what are your greatest influences?
I really started drawing when I first came across Gustav Klimt and all the Viennese Secession movement artists’ works. I then discovered Gauguin, Van Gogh and all the post impressionism and the Nabis movements that I particularly like for the composition and the colors. I am also very inspired by Armenian artists like Rudolf Khachatryan, Minas Avetisyan, Martiros Saryan.
An unexpected source of inspiration?
The Opera Anoush by Armen Tigranian, and the Ballet Orphéus and Eurydice by Gluck choreographed by Pina Bausch for they are full of Christian and pagan symbols.
Are your works planned? What do you want people to take from your work when they view it?
I tend not to plan too much about what themes or figures I’m gonna paint, but I always have A7 format notebooks where I quickly draw and prototype ideas. I work a lot on composition and color association. I have now nearly 14 notebooks full of sketches and ideas that I regularly open to get inspired again.
I have no specific target, since art pieces are not products although there’s a market for it. People who love my artworks love the vibration of the intention I’ve put in it. It always makes me happy when people come to me to share their emotions or thoughts on my painting. I want people to feel so familiar and comfortable with what I draw that they couldn’t stop watching it.
What events in your life have mobilized change in your practice?
Understanding the world around me, reading and getting more curious about life and people impact my art because what I think needs a way out, a way to be turned into a concrete form.
I experiment with a lot of different materials, explore new techniques to say things I’ve said before, and the other way around, to find new things to say with traditional techniques.
What are your ideal conditions or catalyst for creating a “good” piece of work?
A good piece of work is sometimes a happy coincidence. A good piece can emerge anytime, anywhere, after days, weeks, sometimes months of observation and reflexion. But some of my best pieces were made in a day, in an hour. It’s hard to say, I’m afraid there’s no magic trick.
Tell us about the inspiration behind one of your works?
The Lovers’ was more that inspired by a man I loved, who’s a talented Armenian artist, architect and stone carver that I admire. Love and passion is behind all of the pieces I’ve created I guess. Here is the trick. Love.