Gayane Khachaturian at her Studio in Tbillisi, 1985
Photo by Zaven Sargsyan
Extract from World Encyclopedia of Naive Art, 1984*
KHACHATURIAN,GAYANE (1942) USSR
Gayane Khachaturian was born into an Armenian family in Tbilisi, capital of the Soviet republic of Georgia. Her mother was a Zog, member of an ethnic group, which legend associates with Jewish tribes, but which in Armenia are regarded as Armenians and are much respected there. In her teens she attended an art school for children, but after a grave illness, which apparently affected her psychologically, she ventured to work on her own - even though she has to be in the proper mood to create, needs to feel the resisting texture of the painter’s medium and works to a musical accompaniment. Hers is an agonizing search for her own manner, for a means of expression, for symbols with which to depict her own characters, the trees, the moon, a horse, or a lion. Her fantasies derive from an inner emotional impulse, while her subject-matter is highly metaphoric, enhanced by a wide gamut of tonal values. All the many phases she has gone through tend towards theatrical make-believe. Her technical skill derives more from an acquaintance with professional painting than from professional training, while her Weltanschauung stems from the typically Caucasian scenery, with its mountains, vividly colored fruits and verdant green, and the peculiar Eastern way of life and mores of the Caucasians, with their national and social attitudes and their eroticism. The world of her painting is flat with no drama, no social upheavals, no personalized or historical reminiscences, no psychological probing: the characters that populate it are not real flesh-and-blood people or beasts, but symbols as static as the elements of a stage set. Rather this is a reflection of a dreamland world devoid of movement and of genre detail. Over the past few years, her works have become more complicated with an increased emphasis on detail and an abstract play of color. Is she really a naive artist? And is she herself naive? Certainly she is not naive in her manner of thought. Yet the knowledge she draws upon to reflect that world in forms and shapes corresponding to her own intuition has not prevailed over her artless sincerity. Her work stems, in effect, from the human heart, and her amazement at the eternal riddles that nature and life propound, coupled with the opportunity offered to her of expressing these riddles in paint in accordance with her own inner observations, are, in substance, naive.
Gayane Khachaturian’s work is in private collections and in the Museum of Modern Art, Yerevan (capital of the Armenian Republic). She has had several one-woman shows in Yerevan, and has been represented in exhibitions in Tbilisi and elsewhere in Georgia. Articles and essays have been devoted to her and her paintings and a television documentary was made about her in Armenia. Meanwhile her tiny studio has become a tourist attraction. In 1982 she was accepted as a member of the Union of Soviet Artists.
* Reprinted from “World Encyclopedia of Naive Art: a hundred years of naive art”, Oto Bihalji-Merin, Nebojsa-Bato Tomasevic, London – F. Muller, 1984. pp293-4