Armenian Jerusalem
1,001 Nights fantasy
                  Ever   since   he   was   a   child   gamboling   in   the Armenian   Quarter   of   the   Old   City   of   Jerusalem,   and later    in    the    cobblestoned    alleys    of    Bethlehem, Jacques   Sarkis   Kaplanian   had   been   fascinated   by the    interplay    of    shades    and    colors,    shapes    and gradations.                While   other   children   brandished   make-believe guns   and   scimitars   and   engaged   in   mock   battles, Jacques   wielded   a   paint-brush   and   attacked   canvas after     canvas,     in     an     outpouring     of     delightful creativity,   carried   away   by   the   power   it   wielded   in helping    him    create    phantasmagoric    ghouls    and sunsets with his fertile imagination.                As   he   grew   older,   and   honed   his   skills,   the fascination   became   full-blown,   propelling   him   into fresh avenues of artistic expression.                And   as   the   youth   matured   into   manhood,   he would   discover   yet   another   dimension   to   exercise   his   skills   with   a   brush   -   hairdressing   - approaching   it   with   the   same   tenacity   and   devotion   he   had   manifested   in   his   lifelong   love affair with painting.                But   whether   he   is   wielding   a   hair   brush   or   a   paint   brush,   Jacques   remains   true   to   his ideal: creating an object of beauty and admiration, be it a hairstyle or a canvas.               A   move   to Amman,   the   capital   of   the   Jordan,   in   the   wake   of   the Arab   Israeli   war   of   1948, proved   the   pivotal   milestone   in   Jacques's   life   for   it   was   not   long   before   his   skills   reached   the ears of Jordan's aristocratic circles and power elite.                The   royal   command   soon   followed,   and   Jacques   found   himself   catering   to   the   rarefied wishes   of   members   of   the   Kingdom's   First   Family,   in   particular   the   princesses   Muna   Al Hussein, Alia Al Hussein, and Serwath Al Hussein.                They   were   heady   days,   but   alas,   all   too   brief.   The   1970   confrontation   between   the Jordanian   army   and   the   Palestinian   guerrillas   spelled   the   beginning   of   the   end   of   Jacques's idyll   and,   with   a   family   to   support,   and   a   dream   still   to   realize,   he   began   seeking   greener pastures elsewhere: Australia, where friends and relatives had settled before, beckoned.      Jacques arrived in Sydney in 1990 and has never looked back.                True,   the   Cadillac   flying   the   royal   Hashemite   Kingdom   of   Jordan   pennant   does   not   call anymore,   nor   is   there   any   sign   of   the   bandoleered   Bedouin   hajjana   (camel-riding   royal guards)   that   used   to   welcome   him   at   the   entrance   of   the   palace,   but   then   Jacques   has   found something   just   as   precious   as   the   prestige   he   once   enjoyed:   the   tranquility   and   security   he needs   to   give   full   and   unfettered   rein   to   his   creativity,   now   full   blown,   and   branching   out into sculpture and music.                Jacques   has   had   his   share   of   glamour   and   prestige,   but   there   have   also   been   dark episodes of disaster and despair.                "I've   never   given   up,   even   in   the   midst   of   the   worst   calamity   to   befall   me,"   he   tells   this interviewer.                The   calamity   he   was   referring   to   was   a   night   journey   he   undertook   with   his   new   bride, Olga,   20   years   ago,   through   the   violence   swept   minefields   of   Jericho.   As   he   drove   through the   threatening   night,   he   was   stopped   at   a   roadblock   and   called   upon   by   masked   gunmen   to get out. Some   sixth   sense   warned   Jacques   that   would   not   be   a   good   idea.   He   slammed   his   foot   on   the pedal   and   raced   away,   to   the   accompaniment   of   an   angry   fusillade   of   bullets   that   perforated his car, and tore out a chunk of his shoulder.      But he did get away.                "I   mostly   remember   the   courage   of   my   wife,   her   amazing   self-control,   as   I   wrestled   to control the car despite being shot," Jacques recalls. Jacques   attributes   his   interest   in   the   arts   to   the   cultured   and   refined   environment   provided by his parents and the constant encouragement he received from them and from his wife.                "I   studied   art   and   became   well   known   for   my   detailed   paintings   and   as   always   fascinated by the human form, painted caricatures and portraits of the people around me."                Jacques   was   born   in   Jerusalem   in   1939   but   left   for   Bethlehem   slightly   before   the   first Arab-Israeli war of 1948.                In   1960   he   left   Bethlehem   for   France,   to   study   ladies   hairdressing   at   the   Eugene   Gallia, Paris.   During   this   time   he   also   enrolled   at   the   Ecole   des   Beaux   Arts   and   studied   under   the enthusiastic   guidance   of   Frank   Postillion,   and   Jean   Marie   Nodin,   receiving   tuition   in   the   Post Impressionist movement.               The   ladies   hair-dressing   salon   Jacques   established   in Amman   grew   into   a   thriving   business and   acted   as   a   stepping   stone   for   an   ambitious   export   drive   to   Iraq   which   ground   to   a   halt during the Gulf War of 1991. Jacques    continued    to    run    his    salon,    a    job    he    descries    as    very    demanding    and    time consuming,   but   managed   to   find   time   to   keep   painting.   He   held   his   first   exhibition   at   the Jordan   Intercontinental   Hotel   in Amman   in   1964.   Following   the   success   of   that   exhibition   he went on to organize several more in downtown Amman.                "My   fondness   for   the   human   form   was   enhanced   by   my   field   trips   into   the   outer   reaches of   Jordan   to   create   studies   of   native   tribes   people,   the   spectacular   Bedouin   nomads   of   the desert.   Many   of   these   sketches   still   survive   to   this   day   and   often   form   a   basis   to   my   fantasy pieces," he says.                In   the   aftermath   of   the   civil   war   in   Jordan,   Jacques   virtually   lost   everything   that   he   had worked   so   hard   for,   and   had   no   option   but   to   seek   respite   from   the   political   travails   of   the region, and embarked upon a new odyssey, this time to Sydney, Australia.                Ever   eager   to   further   his   education,   Jacques   enrolled   at   the   North   Sydney   Art   Center where he also was given the opportunity to hold several exhibitions.                But,   as   with   a   great   number   of   migrants   from   the   Middle   East   who   miss   the   rich   social   life they   had   taken   for   granted,   Jacques   became   homesick   and   returned   to   Jordan   in   1976   where he   established   a   hair   cosmetics   business,   eventually   manufacturing   his   own   line   of   cosmetics products geared to the export trade.                Between   1976   and   1993   he   held   several   exhibitions   in   Jordan   and   also   traveled extensively   overseas,   with   stopovers   in   France,   Greece,   Cyprus,   England,   the   Middle   and   the Far East, where he exhibited more of his paintings.                But   Australia   beckoned   once   more,   and   Jacques   packed   his   bags   and   flew   back   to   the lucky country, opting this time to settle in Perth. In   time,   he   became   a   resident   artist   at   the   Fremantle   Allegretta   Artists   Studios   and   Gallery where he participated in a joint exhibition opened by the Hon Carmen Lawrence.                He   also   exhibited   at   the   Galleria   Del   Mondo   in   Fremantle,   and   in   1995   was   awarded   the Community   Arts   Certificate   of   Appreciation   as   organizer   of   the   Gosnells   Multicultural   Art Forum.      It was during his tenure at Fremantle that he began experiment with sculpture.                "I   felt   that   I   needed   the   challenge   of   a   new   discipline   and   began   working   in   wood, producing   several   beautiful   fantasy   pieces.   This   eventually   led   me   into   experimenting   with clay   as   a   medium,   and   this   became   my   forte.   I   now   specialize   in   creating   sophisticated   and detailed   spectacular   fantasy   clay   sculptures   and   my   work   has   been   appreciated   at   several galleries of note in and around Perth," he said.                His   three   children,   Sammy,   Ronny   and Annie   are   now   grown   up   and   living   their   own   life, but   every   single   one   of   them   has   inherited   the   artistic   gene   of   their   father   and   genteel culture of their mother. Jacques is very proud of them.      "They work wonders with computers," Jacques says. Computer graphic art is one medium he is still to try.      "I'll have to leave that to Annie - she's a born graphic artist," he chuckles.      Jacques lives in Perth, Western Australia with his wife Olga and three children.
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
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
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