The Light of The Soul
«Russion Express», 10/10/2013, № 818
Searching for meaning of life and art.
The clear air of the mountains, pierced with sun beams, juicy color of pomegranate fruit, rainbow pollen of butterfly wings, scarlet poppies… The works of Alina Saakyan literally amaze you with uplifting purity and lightness. Even more so when you come to know that original materials for her handcrafts are non-felted wool and carpet threads.
Alina is from Armenian capital Yerevan. For 10 years already she lives in Canada. Whether it is short time or long time – it depends… She did get excellent education. At the beginning – Arts department of Armenian Pedagogical Institute. Diploma was on graphics (drawing) – illustrations for Bulgakov’s “Master and Margarita” in etching (ofort) technique. After this – two and a half years studying in Switzerland in Art Academy Maximilliene De Meuron (class of sculpture and painting). Later on – Toronto, New Image College of Graphic Design and in addition – Life Drawing Course at Central Technical School in Canada.
–My studying in Switzerland was simply a God’s gift, - Alina recalls, – then and there I was able to sense the spirit of art studio where people having identical ideas were united. I was surrounded by kind and understanding people, unbelievable beautiful nature was around, and I could completely devote myself to my work. I realized that there is only one way for the dream to come true and to achieve something in life: never stop, never surrender, trust yourself and believe in your mission. And above all – always work hard.
But certainly, in my family nobody had ever looked for easy ways of life. My father in his young days took a great interest in painting. But you can’t support family in this way, and thus art became only a hobby for him. And when he noticed my inclinations for art, he just began to develop them. My mother was a needle-woman: she sewed and knitted, and we, her children, adopted her skills. My grandmothers, – they survived a lot, – wars, famine, but still they somehow preserved the unlimited kindness and goodness… And all my family members were united by the idea – never give up, never give in. Probably I inherited to some extend these family qualities…
–Yes, definitely, for what you do now a lot of patience and persistence is needed…
–For quite a long time I was searching for my personal individual place and position – in painting, in sculpture. I experimented a lot until that lucky moment when I found the absolutely new direction, new trend and tendency, namely applied arts and crafts. And thus, for the last two years, I am entirely engaged in so called “felting”, for which I elaborated my own technique based on “dry felting”. I already created the collection of my works, which is not very big so far. At the moment I am trying to develop and enlarge it. I dream to be able to show all the versatility and beauty of this kind of art.
In April 2013 I had my first personal exhibition… Being very nervous and excited, I wondered about the audience reception of this novelty (before I was known mainly as graphic artist and painter). But, to my surprise, responses indicated that public accepted and approved my new genre and new style. So I got a stimulus to move ahead with my work.
–Tell us, is it easy to be an artist in Canada?
–There is no such place where it is easy to be an artist. You need to get into the right place in the right time, and meet the right people. You have to show yourself favorably, to advertise yourself. Of course, this is not easy and it didn’t happen to me yet. But I feel that already I was put on the right track. I was introduced to Ms. Reena Green, and now probably with the help of ARCAF association, I would be more lucky…
–Describe the specifics of your work. What exactly are you doing?
–As a first step I stretch the fabric, cotton or linen at best, on the stretcher. Then over the fabric I place the layer of non-spin wool, which I lean to fabric as to the base. On top of wool I spread out the image that I mentally designed as a draft. I do this spreading using threads.
–And how you attach all the materials? How everything is fastened together?
–With the help of special needle for felting the wool. This needle has tiny notches, which fasten and keep together the fibers. The threads might be easily removed.
–It means that you are not making the sketch beforehand?
–No, I only have the small notebook where I outline my thoughts and my ideas. And only afterwards it is transformed into visible image. It is impossible to follow the sketch in this situation. In the manufacturing process the threads are positioned, may be, by their own wish. And I just follow their curves and windings or may be their mood, as it happens…
–Materials for your pictures, where are they from?
–I use to bring the wool from Russia, it is non-felted but dyed. The woolen threads, in turn, I buy in Canada. These are carpet threads, specially treated – they do not fade from light.
–What affects the motives of your pictures?
–May be, it is my inner world and how I grasp outside world as it is… The nature dominates in my pictures being the eternal and inexhaustible source of my inspiration. I always wish to see the world multi-colorful, as in childhood…
–As to your family, what is their attitude to your activities?
–The attitude is very positive. I am grateful to my husband, who provides for us completely. Thus I have possibility to do what I like most. I have a small studio which I share with our 7-years old daughter. She is my first spectator, I listen to her opinion, her advice and her corrections. She is very interested indeed, but she is a child yet with her own world and her own pictures.
–Do you have a dream?
–Certainly, as everybody does. Dreams are different in different periods of life. But my main dream, dream “for life”, is to realize myself as an artist. Of course, God himself is Creator, He leads us, He makes the plans…But still I believe – I was sent to this world with the mission – to tell people about something, may be about love and goodness. Through my pictures to carry this tiny ray of bright, warm, clear and serene…
–You are a member of ARCAF association. What benefits do you have from this membership?
–I just recently became a member, but in any case meeting people, socializing with them is a great benefit. For those who just came to Canada and have difficulties in finding their circle of common interests, this is the favorable possibility. I myself was looking for a long time for contacts with people who can share my spiritual interests, common talks and discussions. If you communicate through Internet, online – this is not enough for most of us. But with ARCAF – we have a meeting once a month, let it be one or two hours, but these are normal human contacts…
As to festival “Born in USSR”, for me it is a chance to show myself, my pictures, to reassure that yes, this exists – the ray of light which is bright, warm and clear…
At presentation in ARCAF I was asked what other art media and genres are available for me. My answer was – painting and drawing. I am graphic artist by character and by cast of mind, but painting is the condition of my soul. And all my life I search for my own way…
“I believe – I was sent to this world with the mission – to tell people about something, may be about love and goodness. Through my pictures to carry this tiny ray of bright, warm, clear and serene…”
Correspondet Alexander Petrenko.
Sahakyan Exhibit a Major Success
AGBU Toronto had the pleasure of exhibiting exceptional works of art by Alina Sahakyan on three successive days, April 19th, 20th, and 21st, at the Alex Manoogian Cultural Centre. Ms. Sahakyan was born in Russia, grew up in Armenia and now resides with her husband and daughter in Stouffville, Ontario, just north of Toronto. She began to study art formally from the age of 13, graduated from the Yerevan Pedagogical University of Fine Art and subsequently refined her skills and knowledge at the Art Academy Maximiliene de Meuron in Switzerland.
Ms. Sahakyan's art education, her identity as an Armenian and her present life in Canada were all evident in one way or another in the compositions she exhibited at the AGBU. For example, her work entitled Under Sunlight was reminiscent of the brush strokes displayed in some of Vincent Van Gogh’s canvases. Vineyard recalled Mardiros Sarian and the cultivated fields one finds driving through Armenia. Armenia was also evoked by one of her other compositions, Pomegranates. Sakura depicted a tree resplendent in pink announcing the arrival of spring. Fall very much conjured up the Canadian country side much in the sense that Tom Thomson’s or the Group of Seven‘s works do. And Ms. Sahakian’s emboldened use of colour in all her works was inspired; colours explode in her works with a Fauvist’s sensibility.
This isn’t to say that Ms. Sahakyan’s works aren’t imbued with her own particular sense of style and originality because they certainly are. Ms. Sahakyan is an accomplished and talented artist adept at painting in oil or drawing in ink. However, her art exhibit at the AGBU was not of the usual kind. It truly was unique particularly because Ms. Sahakyan’s works on display were produced employing the ancient method of felting, a procedure which uses needles and wool. When asked, Ms. Sahakyan mentioned that she worked every day for over a month to produce each one of the works.
The technique of felting isn’t new. But the way Ms. Sahakyan has manipulated her yarns and needles in creating her compositions is new. Instead of brushes, she has used needles, instead of paint she has used an exuberant array of coloured wool yarn. They suffuse her works with a quality that transcends the medium. A case of Art meets Craft. And in that sense she has succeeded in providing us with wondrous works of art that engage the senses and give poetic meaning to rustic scenes and everyday subjects.