MANTRA - An Essay by Dr. Tom Flynn

Armen Agop is best known for his sculptures in black granite whose purity of form and texture seem to belie the laborious processes that brought them into being. The current exhibition offers a glimpse into another, lesser-known aspect of Agop’s creative life — a series of paintings that invite us to view both practices in a fresh context. Careful looking reveals intriguing connections between the two disciplines, emerging as they do from an approach that has more to do with the concept of play than with conventional attitudes to physical work.

The late theoretical physicist and Nobel laureate Richard Feynman once said, “There was no importance to what I was doing. But ultimately there was.” His words could almost apply to the work of Armen Agop. This is not to suggest a parallel between deep space physics and painting, but rather to identify an underlying philosophy shared by both men in their respective pursuits. It is an approach that draws on the positive benefits of open-ended experimentation and a particular kind of play.

Agop’s recent body of work emerges from a practice grounded in a belief in the creative potential of what in contrast to orthodox forms of work might seem like time-wasting. The paintings are the outcome of a certain attitude to studio time, and more broadly to life itself — “I don’t work, I either play or pray,” says Agop, who often indulges in seemingly aimless activities, knowing they occasionally deliver unexpected rewards.

The paintings in the current exhibition appear to be products of an entirely different creative approach to that involved in the making of sculpture. After all, working an obdurate material like granite would seem to have little in common with applying paint to a flat surface, save, perhaps, for the quotient of time consumed in both processes. However, on closer inspection these apparently contrasting technical engagements share surprising formal and conceptual preoccupations. One unifying characteristic in the current body of work might be expressed as a focus on the shared aesthetics of the ‘point’.

It is a feature that appears in the sculptures as a raised pinnacle protruding from smoothly sloping contours. In the paintings it takes the form of a kind of abstract ‘pointillism’ comprising thousands of near identical dots combining to form a cloud of colour against a light-absorbing dark ground

The choice of granite for the sculptures allows for the creation of a surface texture from which evidence of the maker's hand has been almost entirely eradicated. The presence or absence of the artist in the finished work has long been an issue of abiding concern in sculpture and is vital to Agop’s approach. “People talk about them being smooth,” he says of his granite sculptures. “To me it’s important that this kind of finish cancels the traces of the human factor. I may chisel them or hammer them, but afterwards I cancel myself from them.”

Agop’s granite works are clearly made by the human hand and yet we are left to wonder about the processes that brought them into being. They are notable for their formal elegance and purity of finish, qualities that have occasionally invited comparison with everything from Zen aesthetics to Scandinavian modernist design. Such interpretations fail to recognise them as in part a response to their creator’s cultural hinterland. In many of the granite works the eye is drawn to a sharp peak rising from an asymmetric, convex surface. The contours are rendered with such acuity as to visually defy the hardness of the granite. The material seems almost to have been poured, or to have flowed into its present form rather than having been coaxed into being with hard tools over countless hours. Sand dunes naturally spring to mind. Having spent time in the deserts of North Africa in his youth, Agop is happy to acknowledge that arid landscape as a distant influence.

Agop is Egyptian. He grew up in Cairo of Armenian parentage. From an early age his natural aptitude for painting and drawing was encouraged by his mother. At age fifteen he acquired his first book on Ce´zanne and thereafter began familiarising himself with the major figures and movements of western art. Entering the academy at eighteen he was determined to learn every discipline in order not to be constrained by any one of them. He eventually decided to settle on sculpture and went on to win the Prix de Rome. This occasioned a move to the Eternal City where he set up a sculpture studio. Throughout this time he continued to paint and draw, albeit only occasionally and largely for his own enjoyment. However, like so many artists before him, he soon responded to the siren call of Pietrasanta, the world-renowned sculpture commune in Tuscany. He has lived and worked there for the past twenty years.

His early experience of the desert landscape has stayed with him, however. “It was in the desert that I really learned how to see. At first you don’t see anything; there’s just sand and yellow and the dazzling sun and you can’t even open your eyes at the beginning. But that’s where I really began to notice things — like the passage of time. You go back to the same place maybe two weeks later and something subtle has changed. The sands are continuously moved by the wind, sometimes over months, sometimes over weeks, sometimes days”.

The granite sculptures might be seen in part as a transposition of those early experiences into three-dimensional form. They can take months to create. Each surface pinnacle becomes the cynosure to which the eye is inexorably drawn. This may be the most interesting connection with the recent series of paintings.

The black canvases offer an oblique reminder that ninety-six percent of the universe is in darkness, a scientific fact unavailable to the eighteenth-century philosopher Edmund Burke who nevertheless included darkness as one of the defining qualities of the philosophical Sublime. The profundity of the darkness in Agop’s paintings is accentuated by another presence, an indication of light — mists of colour hovering on the surface, yet seeming to emanate from the abyss. If these works offer intimations of astronomical deep space, of ancient stars, or distant galaxies, such outcomes were never intentional, says Agop. He is surely aware, however of the importance of stars in ancient Egyptian mythology in which the dead aspired to live on among the nocturnal constellations. The ceilings of pharaohs’ tombs were often decorated with stars to accompany the deceased into the afterlife. The recent paintings are not aiming at representation or depiction of any kind, however. This is not space art. The process is all- important, for again these works are the outcome of a form of meditative play involving the painstaking application, one by one, by hand, of tiny points of colour. Together they may combine to evoke extraterrestrial nebulae, or perhaps swarms of marine organisms viewed from the depths of the deepest oceanic trench, but this was never the goal. Rather, the veils of coloured light are the result of a repetitive action which, Agop readily suggests, could be done by anyone with the time to spare. “It’s not an accident, because if I’m standing in front of the canvas for three hours, that’s not accidental.” Confronting a black canvas, pen in hand, applying tiny points of colour, requires infinite patience and the humility to surrender oneself to an ascetic activity. Hence the title of the exhibition, which refers not merely to the repetitive process of making these paintings — a kind of gestural mantra — but also to the state of mind required to undertake the same task hour after hour, week after week, sometimes with little to show for the labour expended. There may have seemed no importance to what he was doing, but ultimately there was.

The new paintings don’t translate well to a digital medium; their luminosity tends to dissolve into a pixellated blur, even at high resolution. This is a critical aspect to consider for it emphasises the importance of direct visual engagement with the work and much can depend on how far away one stands from the surface of the painting. Contemplating the mantra-like process that went into creating these skeins of colour somehow deepens the immersive quality of the viewing experience. And the viewer’s share has always been important to Agop. An earlier sculpture series entitled Touch featured works that played with balance in such a way as to invite the viewer to touch the work, thereby making it rock from side to side. Granite will absorb such tactile interaction in ways that marble cannot.
What surprising bounties emerge from the joy of play! To quote Richard Feynman again: “Why did I enjoy physics? I used to play with it. I used to do whatever I felt like doing — it didn't have to do with whether it was important for the development of nuclear physics, but whether it was interesting and amusing for me to play with.” Like Feynman, Armen Agop invites us to share the creative consequences of his playing and praying...and what an enriching experience it is.

DR. TOM fLYNN OCtOBER 2019 

THE RIDDLES OF THE ABSTRACT SPHINX by Rubén de la Nuez

"The sand of the desert, upon which I used to be, (now) confronts me; and it is in order to cause that you do what is in my heart that I have waited."
Thutmose IV (Dream Stele, 1401 BC)

"I insist upon the equal existence of the world engendered in the mind and the world engendered by God outside of it"
Mark Rothko (1943)

In 1868, French artist Jean-Léon Gérôme painted Bonaparte Before the Sphinx. History and mythology appear face to face in the Egyptian plateau of Giza. Napoleon is portrayed as unusually humble and introspective in front of the imposing limestone statue of the Great Sphinx. He does not act like the defiant Oedipus ready to solve the deadly riddle of the menacing female rock. His powerful army appears dissolved in the shadows of the endless sand-scape of the desert. The only mighty feature is the profound silence of contemplation. The couchant sphinx projects her gaze over the head of the would-be emperor into the vast horizon. She ignores and hypnotizes him.
Unavoidably, nature and human interference will continue to deface and polish the Great Sphinx into an abstract monolith. Somewhere in the future, the naked soul of a lost civilization will still surface from the dust of time. One can sense this history of solitude and timelessness in contemporary Egyptian sculptor Armen Agop's work. His silent objects appear as leftovers in the desert, witnesses of an age that preceded and will succeed humanity. Each of Agop's sculptures is an objet trouvé that has fallen from the edge of time. The idea of the Transcontemporary, which titles his most recent exhibition, speaks about the extemporary quality of an object that could be articulately found in a cabinet of archeological wonders, the royal cache of Ramesses II, the workshop where the Persian alchemist Jabir ibn Hayyan tried his philosopher's stone, or even at Leonardo storage module in the International Space Station.
Agop's 'trans-contemporary' objects produce, indeed, a sensation of alchemical outcome: halfway between geological science and mystical gesture. They perform as a sort of talisman in which spiritual properties are embedded in the nature of materials. The transformation of the material's nature acts as a form of consecration. Furthermore, this uncommon geological mysticism claims an equally special type of interaction: a metaphysical experience that goes beyond the aesthetics of traditional sculpture.
Comparable to the above-mentioned philosopher's stone of the medieval alchemists, the anxiety about immortality is a fundamental currency in Agop's aesthetics. Being born in Cairo might have influenced Agop's material sensitivity. It is not incidental that the use of granite as an artistic material would find its genesis in ancient Egypt, precisely associated with its most sacred concern: the conservancy of death. Agop's art is to some extent a quotation of the material concept within the cultural history of sculpture. Granite and bronze imply a semantic of transcendence.
Material is never semantically neutral in the art of sculpture. The "zero degree" of sculpturing can only be achieved before the selection of the material. Once it is chosen, a meaningful language, developed from centuries of material culture, is inexorably activated. Materials speak before they are touched by the sculptor. Herbert George mentioned that: "Creating a sculpture is a three-way conversation between sculptor, material and viewer. Material is by necessity at the center of that conversation, and it is as much alive as the other two. However, the ultimate aesthetic challenge for the sculptor is to create a form that transcends the material from which it is made.(*1)
"1 Material as transcendence of reality and reality that transcends materials are part of the philosophy beneath the surface of Agop's sculptures. Agop is a descendent of an Armenian family displaced as a consequence of the genocide that began precisely a century ago, in 1915. Agop has referred to the Armenian word koyadevel. Loosely translated as 'continued existence', this term is familiar to every Armenian living in diaspora. (*2) Agop said that: "In the Ancient Egyptian civilization you find the dream of eternal existence. So in both the Armenian present and the Egyptian past [one finds] the dream of eternity or survival."3 Hence, equal to the loose gaze of the Sphinx in the desert, the sense of permanence in Agop's art is related to cultural objects that struggle to exist outside of their original time and/or space. Chronus and locus travel within the same dimensional spaceship. In Agop's art, the impression of 'continued existence' occurs when an object has been 'scraped' from its narrative, idiosyncratic, allegorical or any circumstantial form of culturally conditioned reading. Fundamentally, this process of abstraction from physical and ephemeral reality brings us a few chapters back to a certain obsession with formal purity that characterized Modern artistic movements, such as 1930s concrete sculpture. Sculpture becomes an object per se, and not a "casting" of a piece of reality. Likewise, Agop's objects do not intend to symbolize reality. They are meaningful and heterodox fragments of reality themselves.
One of the essential sculptural features in Modern aesthetic pureness is 'surface'. From the double surfaces Max Bill started in the 1940s to the reflecting surfaces Anish Kapoor initiated in the 1990s, a sense of perfection erases any trace of sculptural process. In the case of Armen Agop, this illusion of disappearance of human action is particularly striking, as his sculptures are the result of a heavy deployment of manpower. The physical gesture of the artist does not seem to erode the object. The sculpture appears as the creation of a divine machine. It is no longer a human but a godly catharsis. The sculptor is concealed within the sculpture. Subjectivity rises from the gaze, not from the object. There is a classical flavor in the sense that the artwork is as far away as possible from the original natural rock. If Bernini's sculptures are never cold and stiff marble but the soft and sensuous skin of Daphne, Agop's sculptures are bronzes ready to fly or granites ready to spin. In Western classical art, sculpture is always "unfaithful" to its natural physicality. In Agop's compact and quasiceremonial steles there is always an impression of weightlessness.
Such ethereal feeling may recall that of Constantin Brâncu?i's marble and bronze series of 1920s sculptures Bird in Space. Brâncu?i said: "What is real is not the external form, but the essence of things [....] It is impossible for anyone to express anything essentially real by imitating the exterior surface" 4 Similarly, Agop's art aims to formalize immaterial conditions rather that visible realities. This is the aesthetic premise that connects Agop's artifacts with certain chronicles of Modern sculpture.
However, Agop's creations noticeably differentiate from the concrete and abstract tradition by the rejection of the straight geometrical and natural motives that, respectively, characterized those areas within Modern art. Nature and geometry appear off-balanced in his oval planes. His sculptures drift away from these references, although they may still perform as the mother and father of Agop's alien objects.
Agop's poetics are basically focused on the objectification of the intangible, of the mystery of things and events. It is a sort of visual ontology that ossifies what is doomed to fade away. This visualization of essence is generally produced by a minimum of intervention. The legacy of modern design, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe's adopted motto "less is more" for architecture, and other forms of aesthetic subtraction, simplification or essentialism are core to Agop's intellectual enquiry and expressive repertoire.
Nonetheless, his pristine output should not be straightforwardly identified with the artistic movement known as Minimalism. In the tradition of Modern abstraction, Minimalist artists acted as facilitators of a platform in which visual resources (shapes, colors, materials, volumes, etc.) could express themselves in full voice. If on the aesthetic level Agop's art appears informed or influenced by this 1960s American movement, the conceptual propositions are different. Minimalism allowed the material world to speak by itself. Agop's objects seem to "materialize" and to confer a "worldly appearance" to the artist's spiritual concerns. He interferes in the nature of materials. He makes them to adopt outlandish shapes. The piece of stone is no longer speaking as its natural being 4 Herbert George. Idem, p. 45 but as the artist's bare self. Minimalism was the nakedness of forms; Agop's sculptures are about the nakedness of the human condition.
Some of Agop's sculptures appear like sorts of wombs, space capsules, or fossilized cocoons from which supernatural lively entities scuffle to emerge. This tense energy may remind one of ancient Egyptian Benben stones or pyramidia displayed at the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities in Cairo. Those mythical black granite mounds that topped the pyramids and obelisks alleged to concentrate the divine power conferred to the monument. In a similar fashion, Agop's granites act as essential or metonymical visualizations of a power that exceeds the object.
Yet, there is a fundamental dissimilarity between these sacred stones and the sense of sacredness manifested in Agop's art. His sculptures condense a sacred experience into a horizontal, tactile and anthropometrically scaled dialogue. These sculptures are not altars but mirrors of the viewer's soul. They produce another Napoleonic humbleness in which one could ponder his own transient power, beliefs, and values with those of the transcendental quality of time-space dimension emblematized by Agop's modeled rocks. These stones express the sacredness of the profane, of the down to (the desert's) earth, of the immenseness that frames and minimizes human existence. The riddles to be answered are in tune with this complex (at once telluric and incorporeal) relationship between Man and Universe.


*1 Herbert George. The Elements of Sculpture, London: Phaidon Press, 2014, p. 12
*2 Gillian de Boer and Armen Agop. "Armen Agop: Life in a Transcontemporary World", Art Plural Gallery Blog, http://www.artpluralgallery.com/blog/2014/11/armen-agop-and-life-in-atranscontemporary- world, November 1st, 2014, 3 Gillian de Boer and Armen Agop. Idem.

DOUBLE IDENTITY by Maurizio Vanni

immagine:  DOUBLE IDENTITY by Maurizio Vanni

The formation of identity is a long process that involves every person in the early years of his existence, in fact it begins in the early stages of a child's development and consolidates in adulthood. In some ways, we might say that one of the main themes of our lives is just this search for identity, an understanding and acceptance of our being. A study of consciousness bound to the dissociation between our interior world as a human being and the world outside, with the assurance that some external models will condition our awareness of identity.

Armen Agop's story begins like that of many young men who believe in the dream of art and fantasize about becoming professional artists, maybe traveling the world and doing exhibitions in major museums. An aptitude for drawing, determination, desire to convey and express himself, put Armen in a position to make choices and find, through hard work, his own way. Being an artist means not only following the predisposition, but also believing in something beyond rational understanding, to be disposed to enormous sacrifices and to give up a lifestyle that would surely be more pleasant and easier for a young man. Being a professional artist means to put oneself at stake every day and to be ready to make many choices cohesive with existential and artistic principles. Each element should be pondered carefully by the final goal and only the artist can be aware when he can permit reason to free completely the instinct.

The Egyptian artist shows sculptures of refined black granite, essential and elegant, that, at least at first glance, give sensations of gentleness and refinement separated by a strong identity. But if we give more time to our sensory faculties and allow our eyes to scan the forms well, to perceive the inner energy, the throbbing of the discrete centripetal movement that seem to draw to itself all forms of vitality, then everything could manifest itself differently. Agop's work, in fact, grants to those who are in tune with his genesis, that is to say to all those people who have the courage not to stop on the superficial surface, although attractive and seductive, but to go further into the research of identity and essence.

In his works there is constantly the allusion that something cannot be explained rationally, that cannot be justified using only the sense of sight, in fact there are no instructions in which to understand his work nor a formula to predict the socio-cultural level and the sensory apparatus index of every viewer who, due to the unpredictability of emotional response, must interact both with the sculpture and his or her imagination as well.

The clear dream enters the creative process in Armen's work, and becomes a fundamental part. That conscious illusion, that by a sort of natural inclination, fed by elements taken from reality, together with others related to our own experiences and instinctive imaginations, creates a constant connection with our inner self to grant memory an important role. It is as if in front of each sculpture, each person is allowed to give a logical sense to the artistic work, discovering that there is no single identity and, consequently, only one truth.

Round shapes with small asymmetric peaks, structures folded on themselves seeking a balance with the area they occupy, essential sculptures that interact with light and enhance the opacity of the black colour - which absorbs the luminescence without returning it - celebrate their absence of geometry with unpredictable elements that seem to have always belonged to the granite. On a symbolic level, black is considered the universal substance of colour, the raw material and the original chaos. It is the counter colour of each chromia and is associated with primordial darkness, but also it corresponds to what lies beneath the apparent reality and also represents the depths of the earth, which takes place in the regeneration of the daytime world. The great goddesses of fertility, the ancient mother-goddesses are often represented in black.

In mathematics, the term identity is used to define the equality between two expressions where one or more variables are involved. This definition is true  only when the values we give to the variables are able to render  meaningful expressions. The collection of works by Armen Agop have a very recognizable style: clear and well defined variables, filled with values, that however, may violate any rational, conventional and predictable definition of what we perceive. In fact, for this Egyptian artist, the truth does not consist of the stylistic coherence or the assumed emotional choices, but it implies a cerebral and physical rapport with the subject: authenticity, discovery processes, rediscovery, knowledge and self- knowledge.

Strength, inward and outward connection with the material and intellectual honesty: the density and purity of forms are the fundamental characteristics of a style that is also distinguished by a controlled freedom of expression. Sometimes, Agop fights vigorously with the granite in a continuous struggle, involving peremptory and cunning qualities, endeavoring to subdue this material to his expressive will, while at other times he indulges instinctively in listening to its compactness and accomplishes the manifestation of its essence.

Each work may be considered as a contemporary microcosm, unnamed, self-referential, but rich of past and present identity, still tied to previous work but announcing the forthcoming one, which enables the viewer to participate in the discovery of his inner energy, sharing in the identity. Each plastic work is a son of his time  -  thanks to technology available to artists - continuing to enhance the manual technical aspects but without ever denying the past.

In philosophy, identity is what makes an entity definable and recognizable because it has a set of qualities or characteristics that distinguish it from other entities. In this case the identity transforms two things, also apparently dissimilar, in one thing, or  divides the same thing into several parts. Of course it will always be important to have the consciousness of being supported by the knowledge of events. In the works of Agop, thought and external reality are not stable, definite and isolated, but are as  processes aimed at mutual adaptation. A harmonic and unimaginable union of opposites: spirit and matter, light and shadow, static and dynamic, finite and infinite, lightness and heaviness, are, in their essences, deeply related. A kind of metaphysical identity that goes beyond appearances and leads the viewer to get involved in blowing up mentally the surface of his works, the reflection of his own conscience.

This process pursued by Agop might represent an active intervention on reality that is beyond thought: not a passive contemplation of a predetermined truth, but a recreation of the whole, starting from unconventional perspectives. An open universe that is accomplished without necessarily any closure, with the soul and mind of people who agree to live in it, giving new identities to something that will always remain in eternal motion.

Maurizio Vanni
Translation by Melania Spampinato

 

Italian  --------------------------------------------------

La formazione dell'identità è un lungo processo che coinvolge ogni persona fin dai primi anni della propria esistenza; infatti ha inizio nelle prime fasi dello sviluppo infantile e si consolida nella vita adulta. Per certi versi, potremmo affermare che uno dei temi principali della nostra vita sia proprio la ricerca di identità, intesa come comprensione e accettazione del nostro essere. Una ricerca di coscienza legata alla dissociazione tra il proprio essere e il mondo esterno certi che saranno proprio alcuni modelli esteriori a condizionare la nostra consapevolezza dell'identità.

La storia di Armen Agop inizia come quella di moltissimi giovani che credono nel sogno dell'arte e che fantasticano di poter fare gli artisti professionisti, magari girando il mondo e facendo mostre nei musei più importanti. Predisposizione al segno, determinazione, voglia di esprimere ed esprimersi, hanno messo in condizione Agop di fare delle scelte e di trovare, attraverso il duro lavoro, la propria strada. Essere artisti non vuol dire solamente assecondare la predisposizione che sentiamo dentro, ma anche credere a qualcosa che va oltre la comprensione razionale, essere disposti a sacrifici enormi e rinunciare a un tipo di vita che, sicuramente, risulterebbe più gradevole e facile per una persona di giovane età. Essere artisti professionisti significa mettersi in gioco ogni giorno ed essere pronti a fare tante scelte in coerenza con i propri principi esistenziali ed artistici. Ogni elemento deve essere ponderato dagli scopi finali e solo l'artista può essere consapevole del momento nel quale permettere alla ragione di lasciare completamente libero l'istinto.

L'artista egiziano propone delle sculture di granito nero raffinate, essenziali ed eleganti che, almeno a un primo colpo d'occhio, trasmettono sensazioni di dolcezza e di delicatezza disgiunte da una marcata identità. Ma se concediamo al nostro apparato sensoriale più tempo e permettiamo alla nostra vista tattile di scandire bene le forme, di percepirne l'energia interiore, di cadenzare quel discreto moto centripeto che sembra attrarre a sé ogni forma di vitalità, allora tutto potrebbe manifestarsi in modo differente. L'opera di Agop, infatti, si concede a coloro che sono in sintonia con la sua genesi, ovvero a tutte quelle persone che hanno il coraggio di non fermarsi a una fruizione solo superficiale, seppur gradevole e seducente, andando oltre, verso la ricerca dell'identità e dell'essenza.

Nelle sue opere c'è questa allusione costante a qualcosa che non può essere spiegato razionalmente, che non può essere giustificato utilizzando unicamente il senso della vista; infatti non esistono delle istruzioni per l'uso per comprendere il suo lavoro o una formula per prevedere il livello socio-culturale e l'indice dell'apparato sensoriale di ogni fruitore che, proprio per l'imprevedibilità della risposta emotiva, è chiamato a interagire, oltre che con la scultura, con l'immaginazione.

Il lucido sogno entra nel processo creativo dell'opera di Agop, ne è parte fondante. Quella consapevole illusione che, per una specie di inclinazione naturale alimentata da elementi desunti dalla realtà, uniti ad altri legati alla propria esperienza e alla propria fantasia istintiva, stabilisce una relazione costante con la propria interiorità tale da concedere alla memoria un ruolo importante. È come se di fronte a ogni scultura, ogni persona si sentisse autorizzata ad attribuire un senso logico al lavoro artistico scoprendo che non esiste una sola identità e, di conseguenza, una sola verità. 

Forme rotonde con piccoli aggetti asimmetrici, strutture ripiegate su se stesse che cercano un equilibrio con la superficie che le accoglie, sculture essenziali che, interagendo con la luce ed esaltando l'opacità del colore nero - che assorbe la luminescenza senza restituirla - celebrano la loro a-geometricità con elementi imprevedibili che sembrano sempre essere appartenuti al granito. Sul piano simbolico, il nero è considerato il colore della sostanza universale, della materia prima e del caos originario. Esso è il contro-colore di ogni cromia ed è associato alle tenebre primordiali, ma corrisponde anche a ciò che sta sotto la realtà apparente ed è anche il ventre della terra in cui si opera la rigenerazione del mondo diurno. Le grandi dee della fecondità, le antiche dee-madri, sono rappresentate spesso nere.

In matematica si utilizza il termine identità per definire un'uguaglianza tra due espressioni nelle quali intervengono una o più variabili. La verità di questa definizione è testabile a patto che i valori che attribuiamo alle variabili siano in grado di rendere sensate le espressioni. Il corpus di opere di Armen Agop ha uno stile ben riconoscibile: variabili chiare e ben definite piene di valori che, però, potrebbero violare ogni definizione razionale, convenzionale e prevedibile di ciò che percepiamo. Per l'artista egiziano, infatti, la verità non consiste nella coerenza stilistica o nelle scelte emotive praticate, ma ha a che fare con un rapporto cerebrale e fisico con la materia: autenticità, processi di scoperta, ri-scoperta, conoscenza e auto-conoscenza.

Forza, relazione interiore ed esteriore con la materia e onestà intellettuale: la densità e la purezza delle forme costituiscono le caratteristiche fondamentali di uno stile che si distingue anche per la controllata libertà espressiva. Alcune volte, Agop combatte con determinazione con il granito in una lotta incessante, che coinvolge perentorietà e astuzia, cercando di sottometterlo al proprio volere espressivo, altre volte lo asseconda istintivamente ascoltando la sua consistenza e accondiscendendo la manifestazione della sua essenza.

Ogni opera potrebbe essere considerata come un microcosmo contemporaneo, privo di nome, auto-referenziale, ma ricco di identità passate e presenti, comunque legato all'opera precedente e preludio della successiva, che induce il fruitore a partecipare alla scoperta della sua energia interiore e a condividerne l'identità. Ogni lavoro plastico è figlio del proprio tempo - anche grazie all'utilizzo della tecnologia a disposizione degli artisti -, ma non rinnega mai il tempo passato continuando ad esaltare anche gli aspetti amanuensi della tecnica.

In filosofia, l'identità è ciò che rende un'entità definibile e riconoscibile in quanto possiede un'insieme di qualità o di caratteristiche che la distinguono da altre entità. In questo caso l'identità corrisponde a ciò che trasforma due cose, anche apparentemente difformi, in una sola cosa, oppure è ciò che divide in più parti la stessa cosa. Naturalmente sarà sempre importante avere consapevolezza dell'essere, supportata dalla conoscenza degli eventi. Nelle opere di Agop il pensiero e la realtà esterna non appaiono come dati stabili, certi e isolati, ma come processi tesi a un reciproco adattamento. Armonica e inimmaginabile unione degli opposti: spirito e materia, luce e ombra, statico e dinamico, finito e infinito, leggerezza e pesantezza risultano, nelle loro essenze, profondamente affini. Una specie di identità metafisica che va oltre le apparenze e spinge lo spettatore a mettersi in gioco per cercare, deflagrando mentalmente la superficie delle opere, il riverbero della propria coscienza.

Quello di Agop potrebbe essere definito un processo di intervento attivo sulla realtà che va oltre il pensiero: non una passiva contemplazione di una verità già prestabilita, ma una ri-creazione del Tutto partendo da ottiche assolutamente non convenzionali. Un universo aperto che si completa, senza necessariamente doversi chiudere, con l'anima e con la mente delle persone che accettano di viverlo, attribuendo nuove identità a qualcosa che rimarrà sempre in eterno movimento.

Maurizio Vanni

 

Armen Agop Vanni FINAL translated by Spampinato.doc

Armen Agop - saggio-by Vanni FINAL.doc

 

INTERNAL GRAVITY by Anne Wallace Thomson

Internal Gravity

They sit, like silent sentinels, an army of giant water lilies in a still pond, stones in a Zen garden. Yet, despite their size and arresting form, they do not actively call out to the viewer, demanding to be seen. Rather, like planets spun out on their axes, orbiting around their own centres of gravity, they seem deep in conversation with each other, preoccupied within their own galaxy, oblivious to the outside world. It is this feeling of an energy at once spun out from an internal axis, meeting at peaked edges, yet tightly confined within a rocky heart that characterises Armenian-Egyptian Armen Agop’s sculptures. They rest, on their perfectly curved surfaces in what Victor Hugo Riego calls a ‘secretly precarious stillness’, broken only by the touch of a hand, yet always returning to their original point of rest – a perfect balance.
This is partially due to Agop’s choice of medium – the black granite that has come to characterise his oeuvre. Carefully honed, each individual sculpture can take months to finish, and granite itself is notoriously hard, unlike other, softer stones. “Granite is a type of stone that doesn’t really want to change,” he explains. “It has taken millions of years to form. This creates respect – it is more than a block of stone you buy from the quarry, you are, in essence, interfering with a part of nature.” Agop painstakingly spends as long as it takes in the final stages of each work, until he feels that each and every curve, ridge and line is exactly as it should be. “The process is quite meditative,” he muses, “and stone is an unforgiving medium.”
At the Faculty of Fine Arts, Helwan University in Cairo, from where he graduated in 1992, Agop studied both painting and sculpture, yet he was always intrinsically attracted to the latter. “There was simply a feeling with sculpture that I didn’t have when it came to painting,” he says, “a sense that there was something I could do here, something I could say.” While Agop began with media such as clay, resin and plaster, his ultimate choice of black granite has become as important as the sculptural shapes which he creates. It is also a medium which allows for his pieces to stand out, its very denseness of colour allowing the eye to take in a work’s aesthetic form without marbled veins or other textures detracting from the experience. Black granite is, in a sense, a blank canvas that retains some of this neutrality even after its transformation into a smooth and elegant orb. Over time, Agop’s sculptures moved from figurative creations to simpler and simpler shapes, until they were so compact that they were “just asking to be done in stone,” he explains.
Arresting in their perfect simplicity, he does not intend for his pieces to be dramatic, per se. “They’re not striking at all, in my opinion,” Agop says. “They’re serene and calm. too calm to be dramatic.” Indeed, the works do not scream for one to look at them. In fact, it could be said that they do not even care if they are seen or not. In what is almost a dismissal of their audience, the works’ relation with themselves becomes much stronger than any relationship they may have with the outside world. This preoccupation with what is within harks to a Sufi-like relationship with the universe and an understanding of what is within in order to understand what is outside oneself. “It’s all about uniting with yourself in order to unite with the world,” explains Agop. In their compact nature, his sculptures encompass an internal centre of gravity, and in exploring this, they appear to renounce the outside world. This is, however, a Sufi process with a twist, for while there is arguably a Sufi element to Agop’s work, especially the process through which his pieces are created, working with the material, respecting its grain and understanding its shape, for the artist, the key difference is that he does not seek a oneness with nature. Rather, “while there is harmony to my pieces, one can definitely see the human decision – so rather, they are not at harmony with nature, but are the result of a meeting between the human and the nature.” Ultimately, once a work is complete, Agop’s sculptures are no longer an extension of him, and they become part of the universe. “They’re mine until I finish them,” he says thoughtfully. “Then they’re not really mine anymore.” 
 

ARMEN AGOP by Rebecca Bell

immagine:  ARMEN AGOP by Rebecca Bell

Everyone sees the unseen in proportion to the clarity of his heart, and that depends upon how much he has polished it. Whoever has polished it more sees more — more unseen forms become manifest to him. -Rumi, Sufi mystic*

An enchanting rhythm ensues as one chosen step is repeated over and over until limitations give way to bliss. With this one methodical step, spinning around themselves, they discover a unity from within, and like this, a path is opened to a rapturous state of rejoicing in their own true nature.

This is the dance of the Sufi.

The ascetic practice of renouncing worldly pursuits to achieve higher spiritual goals, in other words, the decision to have less in order to see and feel more, is the way of the Sufis.

So it is with the work of Armen Agop.

Renouncing all other forms in pursuit of the purity of one. Agop delves deeper and deeper into one form to discover it anew. Like the dance of the single step, he has chosen to harness a center energy, condensing it to a point instead of expanding it outward. In this way, the energy is unified and composed. The forms nearly vibrate with vital energy, and with the slightest touch, they open up and begin to move.

This movement is reminiscent of the balance of all life energy, the ebb and flow of the tide, the phloem in plants, the transfer of oxygen, the give and take, the increase and decrease, the positive and negative, the connection a nd balance of all things. Upon further observation, the energy in Agop's sculptures seems to expand toward the horizon while at other times it ascends toward the heavens.

Agop's countercultural approach may be due to the place of his birth and the roots of his Armenian ancestry. Growing up in the ancient country of Egypt enabled Agop to become intimately acquainted with the notion that with continuous repetition of form, be it a dance, a sculpture, or the single line of the dunes in the desert, the eyes open to see more. “It was in the desert,” he says, “where there seems to be nothing, that's where I learned to see.”

It is not only one form he chooses, but also one material. Agop himself cannot explain why he is fascinated with granite, whether it is the material itself or its will to exist. Koyadevel (ph.), an Armenian word meaning continues to exist, is a concept that every Armenian grew up with. So it is not surprising that he works with an ancient material that exists and persists, as his stone of choice.

A round form is not new; it too is ancient and enduring. It is also contemporary, and it will survive tomorrow and the day after. For his show, Agop shares with us his perspective to see it anew, keeping in mind his own approach that “New is a very old word.”

Like his forms, his intention is simple, that essence is found in the deep, not the broad. When seeking significance, when seeking the heart of things, go deep, remain, and go deeper still.

*As quoted in The Sufi Path of Love: The Spiritual Teachings of Rumi (1983) by William C. Chittick, p. 162

By, Rebecca Bell

THE MAN AND THE STONE by Victor Hugo Riego

Man and Stone.

Armen Agop’s sculptures repose in a secretly precarious stillness. These seemingly anchored forms consent
to movement when pressed to it by our hands. Later, they inexorably return to their original position. As a
result of their curved shapes, these black granite metronomes gradually slow and stop in a subtle dialogue
between light and shade.
To the creative work on the variety of abstract shapes and the assured manner in which these occupy their
position in space, the artist adds a variety of sharp, pointy or linear details. These elements, combined with
the curves, rhythm the gravity of the granite. A dance, sometimes giddy, unfolds on the sleek surface of these
sculptures. A curious weightlessness transfigures the stone.
Paul Valery, in an excerpt from his poem «Orpheus», (Album of antiques verses), speaks to us of the
metamorphosis of stones during a volcanic eruption:

Il chante, assis au bord du ciel splendide, Orphée!
Le roc marche, et trébuche; et chaque pierre fée
Se sent un poids nouveau qui vers l’azur délire!

On the deep black granite surface, smooth and polished, light draws bits of uncertainty within the shades.
Increased attention is called for and the viewer’s acuity focuses to avoid losing itself while following the
undulating surfaces of these luminous waves. In half-light, the sculpture reveals, in depth, its shape and the
space it occupies.
A line interrupts the space held within the stone and testifies of the existence (yet again following an idea of
Paul Valery), of a «secret architecture». These sculptures resemble solid fruit born from an earthly thought.
Their slight differences reveal different stages of an evolving process. Thought contaminates the form and
reveals itself through it.
As an artist endlessly interrogating the same purpose, Agop explores granite and continuously asks it to yield
its secrets, time and time again using his perception to explore the matter’s limits. Through his profound
knowledge of the stone, the artist’s work feeds a delicate dialogue that marks his sculptures.
The geometry of each artwork leads our vision away from its center towards the edges, where the surface
suddenly becomes more abrupt, then breaks. In these stones, which contain a closed horizon, the artist
allows the matter to express its density and its strength through strong sensuality. The desire within the
form exceeds it and emerges on the surface, with a slightly ironic and refined eroticism.
These earthly meteorites do not forecast any disaster or nightmare; they rather shelter an unknown purpose
where vibrates a closed and magnetic prospect. They announce the rise of a new era of fascination for beauty,
perhaps as Beaudelaire had already forecast in his poem titled «La Beauté», where beauty says to us...

Je suis belle, ô mortels ! Comme un rêve de pierre,
Et mon sein, où chacun s’est meurtri tour à tour,
Est fait pour inspirer au poète un amour
Eternel et muet ainsi que la matière.

Armen Agop’s sculptures confirm a strong bond between man and stone for both are born from a sublime
fire that yet consumes them.


Victor Hugo Riego, October 2010 (Translated by MJ Lukoff)

 

---------- French version ------------

L'homme et la pierre.


Les sculptures d'Armen Agop reposent au sol dans une immobilité secrètement précaire. Ces pièces stables consentent à se mettre en mouvement si nos mains les y invitent. Après elles retournent immanquablement à leur position d'origine. En raison de la courbure de leurs formes, ces métronomes de granit noir s'immobilisent, graduellement, dans un jeu subtil d'ombres et de lumières.

Aux différentes formes et à la manière assurée dont celles-ci prennent position dans l'espace, le sculpteur ajoute une variété de cônes, de pointes et de lignes. Ces éléments, se combinant aux courbes, rythment la pesanteur du granit. Une danse qui touche le vertige se déploie sur la surface lisse des sculptures. Une apesanteur métamorphose la pierre.

Paul Valéry, dans cet extrait de son poème «Orphée», de l'Album de vers anciens, nous parle de la transformation des pierres lors d'une éruption volcanique:

Il chante, assis au bord du ciel splendide, Orphée!
Le roc marche, et trébuche; et chaque pierre fée
Se sent un poids nouveau qui vers l'azur délire!

Sur le noir profond du granit, lisse et poli, la lumière dessine dans les ombres des parts d'incertitudes. L'acuité du spectateur redouble d'attention pour ne pas s'égarer et suivre l'ondulation à la surface de vagues lumineuses. La pénombre révèle, en creux, le plan, la forme et l'espace.

La ligne ponctue l'espace contenu dans la pierre et vient témoigner de l'existence d'une «secrète architecture», en suivant une idée de Paul Valéry. Ces sculptures sont comme des fruits nouveaux qu'engendre une pensée de la chair du monde. Leurs différences mettent à nu divers stades d'un processus de maturation. La pensée contamine les formes.

Comme un artiste qui interroge sans fin le même motif, Armen Agop explore le granit et lui demande, sans cesse, de lui livrer son secret. Cela n'est possible qu'à la condition de se servir d'une perception qui ne cesse d'interroger les limites de la matière. Son travail nourrit une intimité singulière grâce à une fréquentation assidue de la pierre, d'où il tire un dialogue d'une profonde délicatesse.

La géométrie des sculptures décentre notre vision et nous entraine à la périphérie d'une surface que termine un bord abrupt. Dans ces pierres, où siège un horizon clos, l'artiste laisse à la matière la possibilité de manifester, à travers sa densité et sa force, une vive sensualité. Le désir contenu excède les formes ou pointe à la surface, avec un érotisme raffiné, où souffle une douce ironie qui la plie.

Ces météorites terrestres n'augurent d'aucun désastre, d'aucun cauchemar, ils abritent plutôt un dessein inconnu où palpite un avenir proche et radieux. Ils témoignent du choc de l'apparition d'une nouvelle ère de fascination de la beauté, peut-être comme Baudelaire nous l'avait déjà annoncé, dans son poème intitulé «La Beauté» où elle nous dit:

Je suis belle, ô mortels ! Comme un rêve de pierre,
Et mon sein, où chacun s'est meurtri tour à tour,
Est fait pour inspirer au poète un amour
Eternel et muet ainsi que la matière.


Les sculptures d'Armen Agop attestent d'un lien indéfectible entre l'homme et la pierre puisque tous les deux proviennent d'un feu céleste qui les brûle encore.


Victor Hugo Riego

ARMEN AGOP by Ilaria Cipriani

ARMEN AGOP
A ray of sun interrupts the blackness and ignites in throbbing flakes; some drops of rain and the granite is polished by tears; with the touch of a caress the form awakens, gently oscillating, like a living thing. Then it is possible to enjoy the play of light, to be moved in front of imaginary tears or to listen to the work in continuous movement, with a vibrating profile as that of open and closed lips carrying different messages for each beholder. The subject worked by Armen speaks to the careful observer, often soliciting the desire to touch it as if it were trying to establish a first contact and initiate a dialogue. It is enough to delicately brush the surface with the fingertips and the granite opens, like an introverted friend that finally confides after a pat on the shoulder.
In perfect equilibrium, a refined personal game of volumes and symmetries, the sculptures are brilliantly rotund with subtle lines, almost like thin veins under dark skin. The smooth and leathery epidermis of the black granite is the preferred material of the artist, who works it with all the love of his Egyptian heart.
Born in Cairo in 1969, Armen Agop graduated in 1992 with a BFA from the University of Helwan in Cairo where he also won a scholarship as Assistant Researcher. He taught in the faculty there until 2000, when he made the decision to move to Italy. He has represented Egypt in diverse cultural events: Winter Art Festival of Sarajevo-2001; Young Egyptian Artists in Rome, Italy-2001; and Contemporary Egyptian Art, Toledo, Spain- 2005. Several of his works are in public and private collections in his country of origin, specifically the Egyptian Modern Art Museum (Cairo) and the Aswan Open Air Museum. Currently Pietrasanta, a city in the heart of Versilia that is home to innumerable artists of world fame, has become his adoptive home, but this sculptor preserves well the strong roots that tie him to his own country, hence the choice of granite does not appear a casual one.
A heavy material with its compact grain is so distant from the stratifications of the marble as to seem much too hard to be modelled. Yet under the agile fingers of Armen the granite, no longer static and motionless, is magically lightened, letting fall to earth all that is superfluous leaving a honed, elegant essentiality. After an arduous labour of love worthy of the best poetaes nove, the sculptures are freed from their oppressive crust like enchanted creatures longing to finally come out from under the bark of ancient trees. Born of round forms, ovoid, sometimes similar to cones sweetened by a soft fullness, often hollow on the underside, the form of many of these sculptures terminates at the upper extremity in a delicate gently rising point.
They may be a final point at the conclusion of a phrase, the termination of a line of reasoning or tiny buds ready to burst open, destined to become who knows what corollas of reflections? It is not easy to answer and perhaps to truly understand, caressing the sculpture one needs to listen to the movement. It is an oscillatory motion sought after with extreme precision by the artist and insured through time by the granite's capacity for resistance, protecting the delicate balance and symmetry. A desired rocking motion, wise in its naturalness, that transforms these works of art into loquacious mouths. Nevertheless, the answers remain innumerable and the sculptures seem different to the eyes of each beholder. Next to a drop of darkness that widens across the page of life may appear a meteorite radiated by cosmic waves, while the black disk of a pendulum keeps on reminding us of the inexorable flow of time. All this is seen through the fascinating kaleidoscope of Armen's art that projects images on images in an implacable vortex of stimuli. No single analysis is considered definitive, because, as it happens for the hermetic poetries, in front of the sculptures of Armen an interpretation is tied intrinsically to the sensibility of the observer. Sometimes to make one think that those tiny points on the upper extremity of some sculptures indicate that the priority of the work and the material is closing in on itself, with only a small tendency to open towards others and the external world in an attempt marked by mistrustful reservation. In short the difficulty and the character of this sculptor, firmly vindicate his right to remain in silence without explaining his concepts. In effect Armen avoids titles for his work. Not working with maquettes but through direct carving, he discovers only in the course of making how the sculpture will evolve and is the first to be surprised by what has emerged. There is only one inalienable constant in this process of creation: the extremely fertile meeting between the talent of a young artist and the millennial history of the granite; crossing chronological barriers, to survive time.

Ilaria Cipriani

--- Versione italiana  ---

ARMEN AGOP
Un raggio di sole e il nero s'accende in scaglie palpitanti; qualche goccia di pioggia e il granito si lucida di pianto; il tocco d'una carezza e la forma si sveglia oscillando leggera. Come cosa viva. Allora è possibile divertirsi tra quei giochi di luce, commuoversi davanti a lacrime immaginarie o ascoltare l'opera in continuo movimento, col profilo vibrante come quello di labbra aperte e chiuse su messaggi per ognuno diversi. Perché la materia lavorata da Armen parla all'ossevatore attento, che spesso avverte l'esigenza di toccarla quasi per stabilire un contatto capace di avviare la comunicazione. Basta il delicato sfiorare dei polpastrelli e il granito si scioglie, come l'amico introverso che finalmente si confida dopo una pacca sulla spalla. In equilibrio su un raffinato gioco di volumi e simmetrie, le sculture sono lucide rotondità con linee appena accennate, quasi vene sottili dietro una pelle scurissima. L'epidermide liscia e coriacea del granito nero, materiale senza dubbio prediletto dall'artista, che lo lavora con tutto l'amore del suo cuore egiziano. Nato Al Cairo nel 1969, Armen Agop si è infatti diplomato nel 1992 alla Facoltà di Belle Arti della stessa città. Vincitore di una borsa di studio come Assistente Ricercatore, ha insegnato in questa facoltà fino al 2000, anno in cui è venuta maturando in lui la decisione di recarsi in Italia. Ha rappresentato l'Egitto in diverse circostanze (Winter Art Festival of Sarajevo - 2001; Giovani Artisti Egiziani a Roma - 2001; Arte Egiziana Contemporanea , Toledo spagna 2005, ed alcune sue opere si trovano in collezioni pubbliche e private nel paese d'origine, quali l'Egyptian Modern Art Museum (Il Cairo-Egitto) e l'Aswan Open Air Museum (Egitto). Attualmente Pietrasanta, cittadina versiliese che ospita innumerevoli artisti di fama mondiale, è diventata per lui una patria adottiva, ma lo scultore conserva ben salde le radici che lo legano al suo Paese. Non può quindi apparire casuale la scelta del granito. E' una materia pesante, in grani, compatta, tanto lontana dalle stratificazioni del marmo da sembrare addirittura troppo dura per essere modellata. Eppure sotto le abili dita di Armen il granito, non più statico e fermo, si alleggerisce magicamente, lasciando cadere a terra tutto ciò che è superfluo per vestirsi soltanto della più elegante essenzialità. Dopo un labor limae degno dei migliori poetae novi, le sculture si liberano della scorza opprimente come creature incantate che sospirano uscendo finalmente dalla corteccia di alberi centenari. Nascono così delle forme tondeggianti, ovoidali, talvolta simili a coni addolciti da morbide rotondità. Spesso vuote nella parte inferiore, non di rado queste sculture terminano in estremità delicatamente appuntite rivolte verso l'alto. Sono il punto fermo alla conclusione di una frase, al termine del dipanarsi di un ragionamento, oppure boccioli in pieno divenire, destinati ad aprirsi in chissà quali corolle di riflessioni? Non è facile rispondersi e forse, proprio per capire, accarezzando la scultura bisogna farla parlare nel suo movimento. E' un moto oscillatorio ricercato con estrema precisione dall'artista e assicurato nel tempo dalla capacità del granito di non consumarsi rosicchiando equilibri e simmetrie. Un dondolio sapientemente voluto nella sua naturalezza, che trasforma in bocche loquaci quelle opere d'arte. Ciò nonostante, le risposte restano innumerevoli e le sculture risultano diverse agli occhi di ognuno. Accanto ad una goccia di buio che si allarga sulla pagina della vita può apparire un meteorite irradiato da onde cosmiche, mentre il disco nero di un pendolo continua a ricordare lo scorrere inesorabile del tempo. Tutto attraverso l'affascinante caleidoscopio dell'arte di Armen, che proietta immagini su immagini in un vortice implacabile di stimoli. Senza una lettura unicamente valida. Perché, come accade per le poesie ermetiche, di fronte alle sculture di Armen l'interpretazione è legata in massima parte alla sensibilità dell'osservatore. Tanto da far pensare che quelle piccole punte all'estremità superiore di alcune sculture indichino che la priorità dell'opera e del materiale sia la chiusura in se stessi, con solo una piccola tendenza ad aprirsi verso gli altri e il mondo esterno, un tentativo segnato da diffidente riservatezza. Insomma con la difficoltà propria anche del carattere dello scultore, che rivendica fermamente la libertà di stare in silenzio senza spiegare il suo operato. In effetti Armen evita di mettere titoli alle sue opere. Non lavorando con bozzetti ma a taglio diretto, lui stesso scopre soltanto in itinere dove arriverà la scultura ed è il primo a sorprendersi davanti a quanto ottenuto. Solo una costante irrinunciabile in questo processo di creazione: l'incontro estremamente fecondo tra il talento di un giovane artista e la storia millenaria del granito. Oltre le barriere cronologiche, per sopravvivere al tempo.

Ilaria Cipriani.

ARMEN AGOP by Ahmed Fouad Selim

Armen Agop

The sculpture resembles what it should be, although by its own nature of stone it could be the opposite of the visible, and it could be a proof of the invisible in the representations of the mind.

Armen Agop confines us within the dimensions of the stone body to the point that the invisible rebels against us and even becomes obscure, given the treachery of the clues to one another.

Here he is sculpting for us the stone as dark as basalt, the stone that for us will represent the hidden part of conscience. It is not a coincidence that we should find it in the sculptures of Armen Agop, but it is the surprise of what was stored in the body of the stone.

We see in his sculpture a delicacy similar to rhyming verses, rhythms like oriental keys, edges as sharp as the blade of a knife, a Sufi-like wisdom entangled in its dignity, a body of stone pulled tight and drowning in the curves of the circles and a porosity that appears to us as if it were human skin.

***

Armen Agop sculpts the space as if he were holding the void and solidifying the place at once; just as if the space around it, and not the dimensions of the stone, was the real body of sculpture.

The terrestrial and celestial join there, as well as the sensed and the reasoned - in other words, this is where the action of the legend begins. This is why when looking at the sculpture, we are struck by motions of virtuous sexuality; by indications on the surface of the stone of the Sufi fear of God.

When looking at the oval stone plates, the lines joining at the edges are separate, then adjacent, and finally extend to the point of disappearing on the surface of the stone, and we are left face to face with the hypothetical image that Armen Agop wanted, the image of the "invisible," which perfectly confirms the "ideal" in the stone sculpture in terms of rhythms and from the fact that it is a bridge bringing us back to the primitive beginnings, an evidence of the initial purity.

***

Armen Agop does not produce nature in itself with his stone sculpture, he produces for us a second nature, a nature which was transported twice: once from this society which is identified in its fabric, and another time by the creator who unveiled it and made it public.
There is a spirituality to Agop's sculptures, which reminds us of Brancusi's spirituals, an instinct similar to that of primitive cells of Arps's, a poetry resembling that to which Miloti invites us and a sensuality similar to the cement pieces of Staccioli. There also is a character from the Sufi energy that surprises us in the pharaonic sculptures in basalt; a mix, creating this existentialism which gave honesty to Armen Agop in his stone pieces.
We nevertheless see him as an individual artist unifying with the stone. He has this random capacity that makes us run our fingers on the stone as if it were part of our everyday nature. We touch Agop's sculptures furtively, for fear of drowning our fingers in them, for fear their traces should be printed on us or that the sculptures themselves be startled and suffer from the weight.
And this is how this sensitivity holds the license of human expression and the characteristics printed on the active mind.

Ahmed Fouad Selim

Interviews

Materially Speaking Podcast: Face the Nothingness

Image Journal: In the Studio

Canvas: Black Poetry

Q & A with Armen Agop

Novelles Di Armenie: Observing the Invisible (English and French)

Art Plural Gallery video

BETWEEN MAN AND STONE: INTERVIEW WITH ARTIST ARMEN AGOP

A WORD WITH SCULPTOR ARMEN AGOP by Veronica Neo

Jane A. Peterson, Art Plural Voices of Contemporary Art

Armen Agop Contemporary artist P.IVA 02099750461 - Privacy