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I am Happy

The exhibition presents paintings by Naira Akopyan created from the end of the 1940s to the early 1990s. The artist selected these works for her future museum, and they were carefully kept in the family. Naira Akopyan painted them for herself and many of them will be shown for the first time.


23.09.2016 — 30.10.2016


I am Happy. Works by Naira Akopyan

Naira Surenova Akopyan was born in Stepanakert (Nagorno-Karabakh) in 1930. In 1932 the family moved to Moscow. After the Second World War, Naira graduated from the Moscow School of the Arts, and continued her education at the Moscow State Art Institute named after V.I. Surikov. For her diploma piece, Akopyan created six decorative compositions that detailed the tragic love story between the tsar Ara the Wonderful of ancient Armenia and the young princess of Assyria Semiramid.

Akopyan often worked in the studio of her teacher, Mikhail Ivanovich Kurilko, who specialized in theatre decor. "Mikhail Ivanovich brought mystery and magic to my life," the artist would reminisce: "He taught traditional painting and composition with imagination and passion, rather than the usual academic dryness."

The artist developed her delicate style that balanced its rich coloring with a light touch through her other teacher, G.G.Korolev. It was with Korolev while sketching the suburbs of Moscow, that Akopyan first felt like a true artist.

The artist's style visibly changes over time, the soft, lyrical landscapes of suburban Moscow of the 1940s-1950s give way to a surprising and powerful burst of color in her works of the middle 1950s. During this transition, in the painting "Field Flowers", Akopyan discovered her favorite window motif, which allowed the artist to combine landscape with still life painting.

At the end of the 1940s Naira Surenova met the artist Martiros Saryan and forged a long-lasting friendship with him. In 1955 Akopyan decided to return to Armenia, making the Armenian landscape a prominent theme within her art. "In 1955 I returned to Yerevan, and that was a shock for me. Moscow and Yerevan became inseparable to me," the artist recalled. From that point onwards, Akopyan led a life split in two: life in Moscow and life in Yerevan.

Armenian nature and the friendship with artist Martiros Saryan launched a new period in Akopyan's art. It was specifically the sight of Saryan's work with Armenian landscapes that prompted the artist to rapidly switch her approach. The series "Flowers and Fruits" reflect Saryan's style, and through him the style of the French art school. With echoes of Cezanne and Matisse the artist intertwines concrete objects with lyrical landscapes.

Akopyan created her pieces of the late 1950s - early 1960s using expressive color palettes, a strict rhythm of color coordination and thick contours, often relying on windowsills as a thematic way to unite landscape with still painting. The artist would fill her balconies with vases and bouquets, behind which a sprawling landscape would peak through. The murky background that seemed to be blurry with fog starkly contrasted the delicate detail of the items on the front plane of the paintings.

Akopyan used this approach, surprisingly, for her piece titled "A Girl with Her Toys", which became a rare example of Soviet modernism. The soft evening glow of a winter city counters the bright colors of the room's interior.

Patterns sprinkled upon the girl's dress, the doll and the curtains seem to accentuate this complex rhythm. The white tablecloth reflects the blocks of color on the girls dress, resembling a lake reflecting a window's rays of light. The toys, the girl, the doll and the landscape all play an equally important role in this complex composition.

In 1960 Akopyan joined the Moscow Artist's Union. The art that she created for herself continued to be her main priority, allowing her to experiment stylistically and to search for her artistic voice. Her works of the 1980s and 1990s gradually became free of her initial expressive and decorative style and developed intricately into more complete compositions. Armenia's portrayal changes with each painting, ebbing and flowing from sunny landscapes to lyrical evening scenes. "Flowers become trees and still lifes become landscapes as Akopyan's pieces begin to thematically expand. Akopyan separated herself from the closed-in, almost laboratory-like atmosphere of still lifes and transitioned towards the more fluid nature of works created with a rapidly changing landscape or a scene from memory," Nikita Ivanov, acclaimed art critic, defined Akopyan's work.

Her technique gradually becomes more exact and divisionist. They are like "clouds filled with fire," as Akopyan would say, reciting her favorite poet Balmont's line, when describing her art. In these descriptions she often turned to the words of her dear friend Saryan who said "I am happy that I have been in this world." "I am happy." Naira would say.