Steemit Exclusive: My Interview with a Fascinating Armenian Artist on her Influences, Egypt, Art, Religion & Much Else

in esteem •  3 months ago

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Questions: “The Ultimate Hell”
a conversation with Anna Boghiguian, who is, currently, showing at the New Museum

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Anna is an Armenian-Egyptian painter who’s exhibited extensively in Egypt, Canada and France over the last twenty-five years. Her painting has been inspired by Greco-Roman and Egyptian culture, specifically the Fayoum portraits; the poetry and personage of C.P. Cavafy; the streets of Alexandria and Cairo. Her work has been described as “a distillation of the spirit of place”. Anna has also produced a series of painted books (recently exhibited at the AUC Rare Books Library) that present an emotional topography of her artistic journeys.

Below, an exclusive Q & A with an artist I'm proud to also call my friend:

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Q: What does Armenia mean to you?

A: I don’t know. I was there for three weeks.

Q: Just your impression...

A: That it was very … Soviet Union décor, and not much Armenian. It was very …very bad. Anyway. I don’t like to discuss my impressions of Armenia.

Q: What about India?

A: My first impression of India is that I liked the color of the sand. The land. Of course, if you ask me what was my first impression of Montreal, I would say Italians With Salamis.

Q: Anna, how would you describe your inner life?

A: My what?

Q: Inner Life!

A: I don’t know … that’s a very … I think that is becoming a little like … Psychic Magazines.

Q: Anna, what’s your relationship to Cavafy*, the poet?

A: I think that he is a very interesting personality. And, it’s always very good to live outside the times, and into the times (like him).

Q: How is he outside of the Time?

A: Because he was into the Greco-Roman time, and he was living a situation also which was beyond the time that was in Alexandria.

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Q: What’s the difference between the religious and the spiritual?

A: Religion is a concept (that becomes) a certain fad or attitude, throughout the ages. You know, what does it mean, someone who is a ‘very spiritual person’? Empty words. And the idea of a ‘very materialistic’ person, also kalem farigh (nonsense, in Arabic) – because we are on the world.

Q: Really? But you don’t think that a spiritual person is an exaggeration or an intensification of some sort?

A: I think that a materialistic person also has a spiritual life of seeking money.
I mean the materialistic person has lost his way, he has made a choice. He thinks he can gratify himself by giving himself material comforts and material goods. And, that’s what the West has done, they give themselves comfort, while the spiritual person does not.

Q: By that definition, you are surrounded by about 60 million very spiritual people.

A: Who?

Q: The Egyptians!

A: But, they want money.

Q: So, what do you think of the Egyptian art scene?

A: I don’t see it as an art scene. I think it is an embroidered-falling-apart-situation. You can’t really be part of an art scene unless you are part of a movement. And, there is no such movement of thought here. Even if some people are wanting to create this movement of thought.

Q: If you could have a conversation with any artist, living or dead – who would it be?

A: Velasquez and Michelangelo. Velasquez would not have talked with me much, but I think I could have had a very good relationship with Michelangelo…. I don’t think that I like Leonardo Da Vinci very much – and, I think I would have despised Raphael.

Q: Why despised?

A: I used to hate Raphael, tremendously, when I was a child, (because I had these art books). And, one of the people I hated the most, passionately, towards whom I had great anger, was Raphael.

Q: Why?

A: I thought he was a pompous, little decorative, little man. Who dressed very nicely-
and was very … you know, fashionable. And, he did beautiful little paintings, but he was not The Artist. But he promoted himself.

Q: I have a question, ya Anna. What is the price of Art for the Artist, as you know it?

A: There are a lot of things that people do that most artists cannot do.

Q: Like?

A: Like material things. Like comfortable things. Like the way of thinking. The isolation from society. I mean it doesn’t mean that you have to give up seeing people. But, there is an isolation that happens.

Q: You’re apart-

A: Yeah, you become apart. But, I think that it doesn’t mean that you give up people.
You have to deal with people. Because, otherwise, as a human being you do not evolve if you are not with people. The moment you reject people you are rejecting life. You are rejecting accepting life.

Q: Anna, how do you think people will think of you in the future and your art?

A: I don’t think that people are going to think about me at all. I think that most people would love to think that they would be considered and recognized and loved when they’re dead. I don’t think I would.

Q: How accurate do you think your evaluation of your art is?

A: Quite. First of all, I think that my work is ephemeral. It will never last because the substances with which I paint – not all of the work – but the majority of the work, which is very good, I paint in such a way that the painting will dissolve.

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Q: Anna, what’s your first conscious memory?

A: I can remember the first day I walked. I was two.

Q: Really Anna, I never believed it when people said that.

A: I remember it very well... But I think it came automatic to walk.

Q: It comes automatic to live after a while.

A: To stand up.

Q: And walk and talk.

Q: Speaking of words Anna, we say some words and you say the first thing that comes into your mind – like a game.

A: What time is it, is it 9:30?

Q: No it’s 9:20, we have 10 minutes.

A: Yes I hope this finishes quickly because I’m getting very bored.

Q: Baudelaire.
A: Passion... flower.
Q: Beauty.
A: Beauty, ah yes it’s a very trans... beauty – it’s Ether, Ether.
Q: Cairo.
A: White uniformed soldiers, very tired, hanging on their guns. Huge used boots.

Q: Night.
A: Breeze, jasmine smell, and in Canada – snow storms. Electrical lights.
Q: Garden
A: Garden. Yes. ‘kipos’. It means garden in Greek, which means the ultimate soul of the person.
Q: ‘Cultivate your own garden.’ It’s Voltaire’s Candide...next word: Questions.
A: The ultimate hell.
Q: Silence.
A: The ultimate treasure.
Q: Secrets.
A: Secrets? Something I would not want to have.

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  • C.P.Cavafy,early 20th century Greek Alexandrian poet. Anna painted a number of portraits and scenes inspired by his city and work. She’s also produced pieces under the influence of the Fayoum Portraits, Ptolemaic funerary art executed in wax-based colors.

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All art in this post by Anna Boghiguian

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What a great read! This woman's responses had me rolling in laughter and then quickly had me thinking. Great piece! Nice job on trying to keep her engaged in the interview process as well. Congrats on the Curie curation upvote! Well deserved. :-)

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Laughter & thinking is the best response — to anything! Many thanks, for your kind words of encouragement & your own Curie. Cool art 🙏🏼

I like Anna :) She is feisty. There was an interesting staccato rhythm to the interview with the short bursts of exchanges. The ending back and forth is really nice, and this is sublime:

Questions -

The ultimate hell.
Silence -
The ultimate treasure.
Secrets.
Secrets? Something I would not want to have.

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Thanks, Carl, the bit you highlight was my favorite part, too, where she says in a handful of words what she withholds, earlier.

Yup, Anna, sure is feisty! At parties, if she’s bored (a not infrequent occurrence) she’ll simply turn off her hearing aid, take it out of her ear and set it on the table in front of her!

She’s a real character & consummate artist... Glad you enjoyed our exchange 🤓

wow!She is very polite and dedicated artist.I really enoyed the conversation.Nice interview man.

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Polite, Anna? Hardly! Dedicated? Yes 💯%

Good to hear you liked this piece :) Thanks 🙏🏼

That Anna sure is a feisty one! Love her frank attitude! Great interview my friend! 😀

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Good to hear from you, dear Andy, and I'm glad you enjoyed this :) Yes, it's refreshing being around someone who tells it like it is!

Wow, she is bracingly honest and unfiltered. I can't believe she said she was getting bored! Still, honesty can be refreshing too.

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The bigger your spirit is, the more you can afford such unflinching honesty. Anna is the real deal, and only a small-minded, narrow-hearted spirit would take offense once they see hervforvwhatvshe is. Sweet dreams 🙏🏼

Hello, Yahia. This is an ​ interesting interview, thank you! And the fact that Raphael was not an artist can long argue :)

Hi yahialababidi,

Your post has been upvoted by the Curie community curation project and associated vote trail as exceptional content (human curated and reviewed). Keep creating awesome stuff! Have a great day :)

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