Armenian Jerusalem
This project has been supported by the Gulbenkian philanthropic Foundation, the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem, and members of the worldwide Armenian community. Reproductions of the genealogical documents [domar’s] are courtesy Photo Garo, Jerusalem. Copyright © 2007 Arthur Hagopian
Chronicle 1
          Since   early   childhood,   Sarkis   Antikajian   had   nurtured   one   paramount   dream:   to   paint,   to   be   an   artist,   to   give expression to the creative urges in him by metamorphosing them into landscapes, portraits, still lifes.             But   the   fact   that   he   was   growing   up   in   a   part   of   the   world   where   art   took   last   place   to   the   struggle   for   survival,   did not   prove   easily   conducive   to   the   realization   of   that   dream.   So   he   had   to   bide   his   time   and   be   satisfied   with   continuing to study, hope and plan.             He   was   born   in   the   Jordanian   capital   of   Amman,   but   spent   part   of   the   formative   years   of   his   childhood   across   the (Jordan) river, in Jerusalem.             Walking   along   the   cobblestoned   alleys   of   the Armenian   Quarter   of   the   Old   City,   Sarkis   absorbed   the   unique   ambience of   the   holy   precinct,   his   keen   eyes   taking   detailed   note   of   the   rarefied   palette   of   the   gold   and   copper   of   the   ancient walls, the virginal blue of the skies, the red sunsets over the domes, minarets and towers.             It   was   a   heady   education,   an   experience   he   would   later   translate   into   his   prolific   output   as   he   experimented   with the   immense   variety   of   artistic   expression,   a   lifelong   delight   and   accomplishment   that   resulted   in   a   formidable portfolio   of   paintings,   and   a   book,   evidence   of   an   artist   who   is   "extraordinary   gifted   and   versatile,   equally   facile   in several   genres   from   impressionism,   expressionism   to   nonobjective   or   abstract   art,"   in   the   words   of   Shannon   Ray, director of the Lawrence Gallery in Oregon where Sarkis now lives.          It   was   no   easy   task   to   gain   acceptance,   as   is   usually   the   way   of   life   with   art:   but   assiduous   work   and   self-motivation, backed   by   timely   opportunity,   provided   by   the   workshops   with   leading   contemporary   artists   that   he   attended,   helped propel him into the mainstream.             "After   years   of   uncertainty,   at   this   part   of   my   journey,   I   am   pleased   to   call   myself   a   painter   -   and   sometimes,   with   a smile, an artist," he says.    After graduating, Sarkis worked as a pharmacist (for over 30 years), and raised a family.          "I   cannot   recall   a   day   during   those   years   that   I   did   not   attempt   to   find   ways   on   my   own   to   learn   the   craft   of   drawing and   painting,,"   he   says.   "Throughout   this   process   of   learning   I   stressed   the   need   to   draw,   not   so   much   to   render accurately,   but   to   lean   towards   the   gestural   quality   that   I   desire.   This   was   accomplished   through   my   persistent   drawing of the outdoor landscape, still life setups, or years of weekly drawing from live models."          Looking   at   his   paintings,   one   is   inescapably   drawn   to   a   comparison   with   Van   Gogh.   There   is   the   same   symphony   of color, the same, call it "abandon", of ritualism.          Examine   his   nudes. There   is   no   trace   of   lasciviousness   in   the   contours   of   their   limbs,   rather   a   mysterious   essence   that is as old as humanity.          Sarkis   believes   in   giving   the   viewer   a   mere   suggestion   of   what   is,   or   can   be,   in   tender   watercolor   strokes,   the   way   the child   puts   out   its   hand   and   touches   its   mother's   cheek   -   can   the   viewer's   response   be   anything   but   the   feeling   of   a mother for her child?          Some   of   his   pencil   sketches   are   also   reminiscent   of   Norman   Rockwell.   In   his   "Girl   in   Green"   he   has   dwelt   a   little   longer on   the   face   of   his   model   as   if   coaxing   the   child   concealed   within   the   folds   of   the   canvas   to   come   forth,   and   manifest itself.          In   "Girl   with   Puppy,"   all   Sarkis   has   to   do   is   angle   one   of   the   girls'   posture   slightly,   to   convey   the   depth   and   nature   of affection for the animal.          Sarkis   showcases   some   of   his   work   in   a   website,,   and   a   has   encapsulated   an impressive   gallery   in   a   book,      "Paintings,   Drawings   and   Images   in   Words,"   (available   from   Amazon),   a   celebratory exposition where he frames his pictures with flights of poetry that reinforce his love of nature.      He remembers one particular outing that says it all:     "It must have been sometime     "in March, on a Saturday afternoon,     "the crocus had broken the soft fertile soil     "to usher a new beginning."             But   it   is   Jerusalem   where   the   heart   returns,   and   he   pays   tribute   to   it   with   bold,   eloquent   strokes   of   a   brush   that   has succeeded,   with   a   minimum   of   line,   color   and   shade,   in   absorbing   the   mystique   of   that   remarkable   city   and   conveying it   onto   the   canvas:   see   how   economically   he   has   depicted   the   stones   of   Jerusalem,   letting   his   brush   caress   its   walls, streets   and   gates   with   soft   fascination:   Sarkis   does   not   want   to   influence   or   instruct   you,      but   rather   to   invite   you   to discover and experience Jerusalem for yourself, by offering you a portal into its heart.    And what joy will you find in that journey and the exploration.