Interview with artist Gabriel Manukyan (Gabo)

“Where we are” (Որտեղ, որ մենք կանք)


How did you choose your career path?

It just happened. All children drew, but then they all grew up, and I stayed the same.


What is your creative uniqueness?

I think everybody has something to say, but the difficulty lies in finding the right way to say it. In general, people are used to say what they mean through speaking, but there is a type of people, who find difficulty to reach out, with speech. Specifically, it is difficult for me. Usually it is hard to tell anything, because mainly I draw what there is, I don’t invent it from my head. And sometimes I feel good not for the fact that people like my painting, but because they have perceived something. As it happens many times, and after long discussions, it turns out that even my friend hasn’t perceived what I mean, and I blame myself for not being able to explain a simple thing. But with painting, at least if they haven’t perceived it now, they will after a while. It has happened before where someone has bought one of my paintings and contacted me after many years, saying that he has just noticed some of the parts in it. I do not even get offended when they do not comprehend.


Mr. Gabriel, recently you created the painting “The Armenian Architecture through the eyes of Gabo: Where We Are”. Please specify the content of the canvas and the idea behind the creation. From what have you drawn your inspiration?

I never avoid revealing the source of my inspiration. Gohar Tutunjian has inspired me to create this canvas and I am very satisfied from it. I was drawing with so much enjoyment that if I had 10 canvases around me at that moment, the painting would have consisted now of 10 pieces. Because there was the problem of time, and I should have finished the painting as quickly as possible, I have concentrated on this one. Although it has been changed so much, with the colors as well as with everything else, that now I remember and regret, because the previous ones could also have been nice variations. When people were seeing both previous and later paintings, without remembering the earlier ones, they were saying that this one is better than the one before. In other words, this is a process and you cannot allow yourself to be limited.

When I drive around in my car, I notice that there is so much to be done in Armenia. In other words, limitation is not a problem, there is place, materials are available, everything is available, and in general it won’t be bad that things get built in the same speed as it is convenient to people. In that sense, architecture is in a much more decent place. Sometimes I think that it is a serious matter, I think what if man was this planet’s architect? I have the planet, I have the architecture, but I don’t have the opportunity that lets me to build in an open field. That is not there and it has been turned into absurdity, but it is in your imagination, which is unlimited, and specifically architecture takes advantage of that. For example, if you had an idea of a city and you said let's build it, that would only be realized with an architect, who will entrust a mad artist?


What significance do these black colors represent?

The color was an issue, so some things have been done so the painting would become active with color. Anyway, there is a point, nothing has been done like that. I’m not saying this so I could leave an impression of a smart man.


And what about the globe beneath the feet?

Well the globe should be under the feet.


And the elephant? Why and elephant? Why have you placed this burden on the elephant?

I saw a kind of a force task. At first it was a camel at the upper part then I changed it into some kind of an elephant-like thing, because the strength is an important thing in many places, even in architecture. If you don’t have that strength you will be easily disappointed, and you will be broken. That is how the elephant came before my eyes.

And you placed the wheel so you can give the elephant some movement? The elephant is moving with the wheel.

I placed the wheel so it can be visible to many people. When you do something you want it to be clear, and not confusing. The wheel is providing that possibility. And the movement itself is hope and faith. The wheel contains many symbols, it does not limit anything. This painting has tortured me a lot. I had numerous thoughts and great desires and that was preventing me to start. I was constantly changing it.


Mr. Gabriel, we know that, in the field of interior architecture, you have experience in placing large scale painting applications. What do you think about expanding and developing that experience?

It probably was not my experience, but Mrs. Gohar. I was just painting. I could not imagine what was going to happen. To be honest, when I saw it I got excited, I could not have imagined that the space was going to turn out that useful. It’s always preferred that your work, your behavior regarding all of this be more comprehendible, and more obvious. You know, maybe that was an opportunity for me to express myself, because you need a good environment for a painting, and in order to have a good environment, apparently you need the involvement of the architects and the interior designers, which is one the most important things.


What possible mechanisms and paths do you see for the encouragement of the Armenian art in the diaspora?

One of the ways is being carried out right through you, and regarding the art of painting I’m very meticulous and precise. You feel good about yourself when there’s attitude, there’s attention, because the issue about the good and the bad, is not for us to decide, but that attitude and that desire are considered a kind of a communication, and it’s good that people reach to that whether it was done consciously or unconsciously. There are things that although are done unconsciously, are guided with intuition, which is no less important than silence. Nowadays we are usually being punished on different occasions. Man has the desire to present, but as it turns out, the opposite happens. That is our common problem. Sometimes, you want something very intensely; you speak up about it and then feel like that you have devalued it.  Here comes that moment of silence. It’s better not to speak. It is also a matter of time. You have to give time some space, some value because every once in a while time can do something that no one’s brain can wrap around. Here’s also the issue of reckon. And regarding the complaint, it is always there, so we complain as well as believe. Time will pave so many things.