Gegam Kacherian, 2009, "Beginning of the Last Page," Acrylic on canvas, 48'' x 72''
Leopards prance across cerulean skies, Thai dancers emerge from floating cities, and twists of color dart across a fuchsia haze: In Gegam Kacherian's conjured world, it seems that anything is possible. The Los Angeles-based artist's ecstatically inclusive approach to painting spans technique, imagery and palette. Kacherian's canvases burst with color--lime, tangerine, dove-gray, pale-pink--and feature finely detailed representational imagery alongside abstract markings on enigmatic grounds of ebullient, hazy color.
"I begin each painting in a meditative state," Kacherian explains. "I lay out the colors and see which one I have a relationship with at that moment. The background becomes like a little universe; it begins from nothing." In the next stage of his three-step process, Kacherian selects imagery from source material he keeps in the studio. Thus elephants and tigers, skyscrapers and high wires, children and palaces people the universe, each one rendered with delicate precision. In the final step, Kacherian add swirls and dashes of color, often marbled or blended. "For me, these [painted flourishes] represent a connection between the material and the spiritual world," Kacherian says. Though not overt in the work, KacherianÕs interest in balancing materiality and spirituality is an important part of his process. In 1999, he underwent a fast and cleansing. "It was an extraordinary experience," he says, that left him feeling "like I was living in the sky." This caused a shift in his work, from figurative canvases to amorphous fields of color. A few years later, an illness caused the painter to reflect on his relationship to physicality, and imagery again made its way into the work, albeit in a different way.
Kacherian's second solo exhibition at Rosamund Felsen Gallery, in the fall of 2009, comprised a celebratory fusion of figuration and abstraction, suggesting Japanese screen painting and Indian miniatures as readily as postmodern painting and animated fantasias. In an era dominated by a conceptual approach to art, Kacherian's dependence on intuition, coincidence, and an innate trust in the process is unique. Beginning of the Last Page (2009), depicts a man standing on the head of an eagle surrounded by a ghostly ship, white bird, and serpentine lines of color. "I found this image in a box in my studio and included it in the painting," Kacherian says. "I didn't know it at the time, but I found out later that this was a picture of the artist James Lee Byars. I was surprised to learn more about him because we had a lot in common. We both traveled frequently to Asia and shared eclectic interests."
Born and raised in Armenia, Kacherian came to Los Angeles in 1988, where he lives now with his wife and two sons. One work in the recent show, Grandma's Mirror, 2008, includes elements of his own story. Uncharacteristically, this painting is dominated by multiple shades of one color--pale blue. Near the top edge of the canvas, center right, a black and white panda nestles in an elegant twirl of blue and white. After painting the picture, Kacherian recognized the bear as symbolic of his grandmother. Below her spreads a silvery rendition of Los Angeles, the city she longed to visit. The work recalls the tumultuous day Kacherian moved to the United States. "My sister and I were at the airport with the bags and we were waiting," he recalls. His relatives were late and he soon learned that his grandmother, a survivor of the Armenian genocide who had long desired to travel to the United States, had died that morning. "When I finished the painting," he says, "It was like my grandmother's dream. She had a baroque mirror and when I look at the painting--I see my grandmother's mirror."
Gegam Kacherian's work could be seen this fall at Rosamund Felsen Gallery in Santa Monica, from September 12 - October 10, 2009.
This article was written for and published in art ltd. magazine