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Armenian Relief Society, London, Exhibition of UK Armenian Artists


By Hasmik Harutunyan

On June 12, 2016, Armenian Relief Society (ARS) of Great Britain had organised an art exhibition at Navasartian hall in West London. Alongside the works of established Armenian painters such as Leonie Pilart and John Nakashian, visitors were equally introduced to less known artists such as Manouk Baghdjian, Johanes Farhadian, Mano Kaplanian among others.

Exhib ONEMrs. Arshaluis Babayan of Armenian Relief Society welcomed the community members and thanked for their continuous support in their fundraising initiatives.

“We aim to send the proceeds of today’s art sales to the ARS Artsakh Fund, to support our armed forces and their families during the present critical period”, said Mrs. Arshaluis Babayan.

One of the highlights of the exhibition, was certainly the presence of Leonie Pilart, renowned London-based professional artist, who graduated The Academy of Fine Arts in Beirut and The City and Guilds Art School in London. Born in Lebanon, daughter of a wealthy manufacturer, she arrived penniless to London from Lebanon during the civil war in the 1970s.


Now she is an established artist, sculptor, painter, conservator and art restorer, meanwhile her own work is nowadays in high demand.  Leonie had numerous one man-shows during her extensive professional career including in Beirut, New Jersey, St. Louis, New Orleans, Buenos Aires and Milan. She had participated in several group exhibitions in London since 1977 – the Royal Academy of Arts, Tricycle Gallery, The Mall Gallery and other prestigious venues. When she is not painting or sculpting, she is busy doing restoration work at the British Museum or teaching her private students.

EXHIB Leonie horses“I love working with the younger generation of all nationalities and inspiring them to be original and daring. What do we stand for without culture, without art, without identity?” Leonie stated with her persuasive manner.

Elegant and distinguished, it seems that years have not taken away her natural charm reflected in her compositions. Leonie’s style is neo-figurative, expressive and colourful, while her solid classical technique is apparent in her paintings, nevertheless, harmonious colours and idealistic configurations are equally contemporary, with an air of nostalgia of the days and things gone…



EXHIB Mano Portrait of my daughter

EXHIB Mano Hripsime ChurchMano Kaplanian (1968-) from Armenia – unable to attend the exhibition at Navasartian Hall, meanwhile his distinctive drawings using solely black, silver, gold and grey colours, disclosed his delightful and unique artistry. Professional miniaturist, Mano has graduated from the Academy of Arts in Yerevan and currently works at the Museum of Arts and Literature, specialising in restoration of old masters and ancient manuscripts. His style is instantly recognizable and inimitable, due to his rare technique using just pencil and ink on paper: portraits of young girls, landscapes, ancient Armenian monasteries, churches, and so on. The delicacy and the meticulous detail in his works testify a refined, spiritual artist and human being behind them.


EXHIB Nakashian 2006

Another distinguished Armenian artist in this inspiring exhibition was John Nakashian from Manchester. John, a self-taught artist, prefers huge oil canvases in abstract figurative style – colourful and expressive, representative for many Armenian artists: Gorky, Sarian, Minas and Elibekian brothers. Born in Iraq to Christian Armenian family, his art is strongly influenced by his Armenian and multi-cultural roots. John ‘s works are in high demand among collectors and galleries in the Middle East, Germany and England.

John’s colossal paintings correspond to his larger than life personality: energetic, full of life and dynamic. His interests are equally eclectic and wide-ranging: from history to modern literature, from current affairs to theatre. John’s driving force is his boundless optimism and appetite for life, that is so palpable in his artwork.

Nakashian 2

John has exhibited in cities across continents such as Amman, Beirut, Manchester, Warsaw, Moscow and Munich, recently he had his one-man show in London:

“This is just the beginning. I intend to hold many more solo exhibitions in the future”, confirmed John in a recent interview. Fortunately for art lovers, retirement is not on the agenda of John Nakashian.

Manouk Baghdjian – London-based amateur artist born in Cyprus in 1929 – exhibited his artwork, profoundly influenced by his full-time profession as architect. His paintings are varied, technically sound, with skilful interaction of colours. He told me about his passion for painting since early age, contrasting with his former military career in the British army in his native Cyprus. Arriving to Britain in the 1970s, Manouk pursued a successful career as an architect, meanwhile continued painting more regularly, concentrating on watercolour. Manouk loves painting nature, landscapes, nudes both by observation and from memory.

“It is not my goal to sell my artwork; I paint, because it is my passion, it is my life”, confessed Manouk Baghdjian during our conversation.

He showed me enthusiastically his numerous drawings of female figures, with surprisingly bright and jubilant, I told him his vibrant colours and technique used in female figures reminded me of Edgar Degas:

“I have not thought about it, that I have impressionist style!” confessed Manouk with satisfaction.

Already in his eighties, Manouk Baghdjian is an absolute role model for all, energetically working and painting every single day, and attending art programmes and courses – as enthusiastic as a teenager.

Johanes Farhadian, known among the Armenian community for his successful catering business in West London, spends his spare time painting landscapes. Johanes was born in Abadan, in the south of Iran, and attended Armenian school in his home town.  He particularly enjoys painting the sea in its various shapes and forms: storms on the sea, moonlight on the sea, sunrise on the sea, and so on. The mood of these larges canvases is peaceful yet troubled, expressed by solemn palette of colours dominated by greys, blues and greens.

“As a child, I always used to paint, and I do not remember that I have ever stopped painting since”, acknowledged Johanes at the exhibition. I was curious to find out what was his fascination with the sea.

“I feel liberated and relaxed when I paint the sea, it frees my mind from daily burdens and duties”, confessed the artist energetically.             

“I do not sell my paintings at all. They are my children – how can you sell your own child?” exclaimed Johanes during our conversation; however, when a visitor purchased one of his landscapes, he immediately donated the money to ARS Artsakh Fund.

The art exhibition at Navasartian Hall assembled motivating and diverse works by Armenian artists of different generations, backgrounds and movements. Visitors had the opportunity not only to contemplate a rare interaction with talented artists, but equally contributed to a worthwhile charitable cause by purchasing an original and hardly available artwork.


Written for ACCUK  http://www.accuk.org.uk
by Hasmik Harutunyan, free-lance reporter

London, 18th of June 2016

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