Claude Lemand.
“As­sadour is born in Beirut in 1943, in a Lebanese-Armenian family. He went abroad at the age of 18 to study engraving and painting, first in Italy and later in Paris. Assadour is rec­og­nized as a great master in the field of engraving, and he devel­oped a renowned oeuvre of gouaches on paper and oils on canvas. His paint­ings are rare and often sought after as he did not exe­cute many.
A recur­rent theme in Assadour’s paint­ings, the fig­ures are inserted in a land or cityscape which is only sug­gested by the geo­metric lines and shapes of the com­po­si­tion. This con­struc­tivist approach refers to Assadour’s attempt to put some order to the world’s chaos, like the one he expe­ri­enced back in Beirut and just like the dis­order he still sees today, and the first of all dis­or­ders, the Armenian geno­cide. In the artist’s latest works, mon­u­mental fig­ures seem more and more to replace archi­tec­tural struc­ture and to be the core of the com­po­si­tion’s space.” (Claude Lemand)
Translated from French by Valérie Didier Hess.

Gerard Xuriguera.
“As­sadour the secret, prince of encryp­tion, with a tem­pered yet pas­sionate nature, appears as the most metic­u­lous master of images, which he inter­locks, untan­gles, clots, sep­a­rates again and finally fuses into one same sub­stance. His layout is inge­niously inscrutable yet nothing has been ran­domly placed. Everything is so pre­cise in this chaos which is very well thought out, that Assadour does not seem to destroy all the codes but rather sub­sti­tutes them with his own.” (Gérard Xuriguera)

Joseph Tarrab, The two Threats.
‘Desperate songs are the most beau­tiful songs’, says the poet. After being repet­i­tively dis­en­chanted, Assadour ends up singing. Since the start, the alter­na­tive is rad­ical for him: to sing or to die. He always felt the out­side world and the human envi­ron­ment as an aggres­sion. In order to defend him­self, he needs to shut him­self away with his own self or rather with his printer and painter’s work. His work is seen as a reg­ular, metic­u­lous, accu­rate hand­i­craft, on which many hours are spent daily. This metic­u­lous­ness is ther­a­peutic, as it puts some order to his inner dis­order and reme­dies to his anguish and grief caused by his recur­rent melan­choly. Through a mech­a­nism of com­pen­satory pro­jec­tion, the specific and sub­jec­tive dis­order clears into a uni­versal and objec­tive dis­order. By seeking to return to the world, Assadour actu­ally dis­in­te­grates it with his imag­i­na­tion. As a depraved watch­maker, whose work finds itself under Chronos’ fatal aus­pices, he dis­man­tles the real to bring him­self back.
He started decon­structing masks and faces before the decon­struc­tivist trend. He then took apart cities and land­scapes by increasing breaks, cracks, frac­tures, dis­so­lu­tion and frag­men­ta­tion. He dis­rupted the rules of grav­i­ta­tion by making heav­i­ness levi­tate and by having light­ness pre­cip­i­tating into pyramid-shaped heaps of col­lapses. He shat­tered the land reg­istry’s con­ven­tions by taking the role of a tipsy appren­tice-sur­veyor, playing with num­bers and let­ters which he deprived of any ref­er­ence or meaning and which have derailed in a uni­verse where geom­etry de-mea­sures Earth instead of mea­suring it; where reg­ular and irreg­ular poly­gons sab­o­tage the notion of con­struc­tion instead of being part of the archi­tec­tural struc­ture; where maps and plans, signs and sig­nals, arrows and direc­tions, dis­ori­en­tate instead of ori­en­tating; where the meaning of signs and sym­bols is actu­ally the absence of sig­ni­fying or sym­bol­izing, and where dif­fer­ence is in reality only indif­fer­ence.
When Bunuel was asked what his sons’ sym­bols were asso­ci­ated with, he coldy answered: ‘to nothing’. The same thing goes for Assadour: he doesn’t want to say, he says. It is up to the others to explain, to com­ment and to inter­pret – yet again, another aspect of his under­taking of demo­li­tion. A world in which nothing makes any more sense is a world over­ruled by an abso­lute dis­order, a pure chaos, the form­less con­fu­sion of origin: the dere­lic­tion, the dis­tress and the panic mas­sively trans­ferred to the exte­rior. Having caused a mess every­where, Assadour can sit down and laugh at the futility of gloss and the vanity of speeches.
Of course, his works have a meaning despite, or per­haps because, of his desire for them to not have any meaning. These works are amongst those, which reflect the best, in a mon­i­tory or rather pre­mon­i­tory way, the order and dis­order (two threats which weigh upon us, according to Paul Valéry) in which our Borgeso-Kafkaian humanity and world are entan­gled. We could also use the term: ‘assadourian’.

Joseph Tarrab, ASSADOUR. Painting / Motherland (1995)
In his works, Assadour first seeks to find tech­nical and artistic solu­tions to the graphic and plastic ques­tions he asks him­self. These solu­tions are the ones which gen­erate his lim­ited vocab­u­lary of shapes and con­fig­u­ra­tions applied: pen­ta­gram (a star with five branches), a dis­lo­cated or rather artic­u­lated cross, cir­cles, cres­cents, rain­bows, cut-outs and reg­ular or irreg­ular polyg­onal pat­terns, cross-hatching etc.
When Assadour draws a straight line, he finds it monotonous so he makes it blossom into a starry pen­tagon before com­pleting it. As he reaches its end, he needs a joint to make the tran­si­tion so he cre­ates a ges­tic­u­lating and mobile cross-shaped figure which can pro­duce either expan­sion depending on whether it unfolds itself, or con­trac­tion when it folds back. Assadour lays out an empty space which is too empty according to him, so he decides to add a circle or a star, and so on. With the help of these simple ele­ments and these geo­met­rical atoms, his aim is to suc­ceed in drawing up a time/space, ambiguous and with sev­eral mean­ings through dis­crep­an­cies and dis­con­ti­nu­ities of planes and col­orful areas, a pro­ce­dure which goes back to the Safavid minia­tur­ists.
In the oil paint­ings, these dis­con­ti­nu­ities create ranges and planes which lean over, topple, cap­size and get wrecked, sliding out from the canvas’ edges, as if being weighed down by their fig­ural and chro­matic den­sity. The world seems to be scat­tered in a thou­sand pieces, with each piece care­fully laid out and painted. There is a human puppet trapped in it, who is one ele­ment amongst others and who strug­gles, runs, ges­tic­u­lates or takes the posi­tion of a cru­ci­fied person, and this world then dis­in­te­grates, drag­ging bodies and goods in the depths of noth­ing­ness. A desta­bi­lizing anarchy which has been bril­liantly and clev­erly orga­nized by its author con­demns the defeat of an unstable and almost anti-cosmic world to dis­ap­pear. This leak is no other than the flow of time, where each moment, each image and each thought slip out from the realm of con­scious­ness.
It was unavoid­able for the work to not be devoid of a meaning: despite their tech­nical aspect, the pen­tag­onal star and the cross are a couple of exam­ples amongst others which are very ancient archetypes, much too embedded in History and sym­bolism to remain neu­tral. Among the rich plu­rality of their meaning, they sym­bolize an accom­plished man, body, spirit and soul, who has regained his radi­ance.
Assadour’s tech­nical reflec­tion there­fore trans­forms itself into an almost spir­i­tual med­i­ta­tion, unex­pect­edly sim­ilar to that of the Arab artist-geo­me­tri­cians whose com­plex arabesques were a rep­re­sen­ta­tion for the Perfect Man (“Al Insan Al Kamel”). Hence some new tex­tured colors appear on his palette, such as gold-, copper-, silver-, and car­borundum-dust. The way in which he paints these flat col­orful areas recalls the minia­tur­ists’ tech­niques as well as the fur­rowed pat­terns in Japanese Zen gar­dens, the latter being the most emblem­atic place for med­i­ta­tion. These ele­ments reflect Assadour’s `Middle Eastern illu­mi­nator’ char­ac­ter­istic, just as he admitted him­self. He has no choice as he is trapped by his own formal and chro­matic vocab­u­lary of which the sig­nif­i­cance always ends up tran­scending the orig­inal pur­pose des­ig­nated by Assadour. These `assadourian’ views are coherent as he is always fully aware of how he pro­ceeds.
Furthermore, the notion of coher­ence is reaf­firmed through his water­colors’ formal struc­ture, which in a sim­ilar yet dif­ferent way than in his oil paint­ings, cre­ates a play between oppo­sites: high, empty, light, ethe­real, bear­able against low, heavy, full, dense and suf­fo­cating. All the ele­ments, which pile up at the bottom, attracted by the forces of gravity, being `caput mor­tuum’, waste, rubble, debris, levi­tate freely in the air at the top.
It is as if there were two worlds, a mate­rial and a spir­i­tual one, of which the limits are defined by shade and light, trans­parency and opacity of the colors (burnt Umber and Sienna, ochre, purple, brown, beige, gold, copper, brick color, blue, with red, orange and yellow), infre­quency and abun­dance of signs, silence and loquacity and by opening and closing. This medi­a­tion on the being, with its light­ness and heav­i­ness, spreads out over a frame­work made of isosceles tri­an­gles fol­lowing the lines which have been traced by the folding and unfolding of the paper used as the art­work’s sup­port.
The under­world is not entirely lost for Assadour as the white areas and win­dows allow infil­tra­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tion between both worlds despite their seg­re­ga­tion. In one of his paint­ings, there is even a tiny ladder, as if depicted to escape from the prison of shapes and colors. Despite every­thing, it seems that hope still exists, even within the darkest night. It is normal: does art not drive out yet call upon the `assadourian’ demons and does it not rescue the artist by let­ting him recreate the Creation after having de-cre­ated it ? Is this `de-cre­ation’ not one of the main exer­cises prac­ticed by the high spir­i­tual tra­di­tions? In any case, it is not the hope to escape from the painting for Assadour: just as the poet does not live on a planet Earth but rather in a lan­guage, the painter does not live in the world but rather in a painting. It is the only moth­er­land from where no one can be evicted. Painting is Assadour’s inalien­able Armenia-Harmony, per­haps his par­adise once lost and now recov­ered ? Yet he says that he only knows Hell – let us call it his pur­ga­tory.

Translated from French by Valérie Hess

Copyright © Galerie Claude Lemand 2012.

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