Tigran Tsitoghdzyan: “I am “a full-fledged citizen of Yerevan” in New York”

11:18, July 25

Talented painter Tigran Tsitoghdzyan moved to New York years ago. The move was a necessity for him as a creator, just like air and water are necessities for us all. Currently, Tigran is an integral part of the cultural Beaumont. He is known and respected, but at the same time, Tigran is not like the several Armenians who have become Americanized. He is a full-fledged citizen of Yerevan, and it seems as though he never left Yerevan. Tigran says he immediately transforms as soon as the plane lands at Zvartnots International Airport and the best thing for him would be to spend half the year in Yerevan and the other half in New York… “This is almost like my lifestyle. I visit Yerevan in the summers, and then I come for two weeks in the fall and two weeks in the spring,” Tigran said in an interview with STYLE. “I am building a house, that is, a studio with all the facilities. I don’t have and probably won’t have such a house in New York.” STYLE: What is your house in New York like?

Tigran Tsitoghdzyan: I have a loft there. It is big for New York, but tiny compared to my house in Yerevan. STYLE: Do you live in a good district?

Tigran Tsitoghdzyan: Yes, I live and work downtown. It is convenient. There is a street for pedestrians, and I don’t hear the noise of cars. It is just me and my world. When I go out, I find myself in the epicenter of everything that is going on around me. I am a “full-fledged citizen of Yerevan” in New York. Whenever I come to Yerevan, I instantly become assimilated.

In reality, the important thing is to not compare. Of course, coming to Yerevan after a two-and-a-half-year hiatus was shocking. It was at that moment that I realized that I am heartfelt for Armenia, Yerevan and the dirty entrance to my house. STYLE: But there are still dirty entrances…

Tigran Tsitoghdzyan: I don’t notice all that now. I have gotten used to it. STYLE: Aren’t there dirty entrances in New York?

Tigran Tsitoghdzyan: There are a lot of dirty things in New York, and I love all that as well. I only see the good in both New York and Yerevan…I love that which is irreplaceable and that which can’t be found elsewhere. STYLE: What, for example?

Tigran Tsitoghdzyan: Interactions with people and human relations. I understand Armenians, and of course, better than anyone else. I understand them immediately. It is part of who I am. I adore Yerevan, my beloved city. I love Armenians. They are close to my heart. At the same time, there are a lot of things that frustrate me because I want to see everything under a brighter light. I want Yerevan to be a good city and the citizens of Yerevan to live the good life, and so, sometimes this annoys me… STYLE: I think you are an idealist. Well, at least your judgments and portraits leave such an impression. Your female characters are ideally beautiful…Do you want to show them better than they are?

Tigran Tsitoghdzyan: The whole meaning of those portraits is to show the beauty of a woman in proportion. Let me put it this way — I draw them the way they theoretically want people to see them. I make them ideal. What is interesting for me is the borderline until which they start losing their persona and until what point they can change their image to have the beauty of a model, a borderline where they start losing their persona. After all, this is what most girls are busy doing on social media websites. They keep “fixing” their faces, and what interests me is what they try to fix and how much. STYLE: In contrast to everything we see on social media websites,  more often we hear the message that inner beauty is much more important and that appearance is not interesting without inner beauty.

Tigran Tsitoghdzyan: Attention can ruin a beautiful person. At the end of the day, everything is in comparison. A beautiful girl attracts a lot of attention in a small city and becomes formed as an individual in this context. New York is an enormous city, and this is a different story. It is the center of the world where there are 60-70,000 models who go to casting sessions, stand in lines and are rejected day after day. They are always in question, and this is exactly why they are very simple and self-criticizing. They are so down-to-earth that I can interact with them as I would with guys, nothing personal. STYLE: Look, you work with women a lot. Have you understood anything about us women?

Tigran Tsitoghdzyan: No, there are a lot of things I don’t understand. For instance, women and ladies in Muslim countries post photos of actresses on social media websites and associate those actresses with them. A Muslim woman or lady can’t show her face, and this is why she posts 230 photos of Monica Bellucci, and at a certain point, she starts believing that she is Bellucci. If she is sad, she posts a photo of “a sad Bellucci”, if she is happy — “a happy Bellucci”. It is phenomenal. The same goes for girls who use filters. She will write letters to you, but she won’t meet you. The photos show that they are processed well. In the emotional sense, this is similar to a man hurting for a team, and when that team wins, he considers himself the strongest man in the world. It is almost the same feeling. STYLE: Don’t you take selfies?

Tigran Tsitoghdzyan: I have never taken a selfie, but in essence, isn’t this the same self-portrait? There was a time when this was only available to some artists who could draw themselves. Now it has become something that you can do in a second. It is an easy way of expressing yourself. I must admit that I started drawing pictures of women just recently. The people around me thought I was gay (laughing-ed.). Later, I started drawing pictures of women, and then people thought I was a playboy. In reality, a woman is a big riddle, and every day, I become convinced that I don’t understand women. However, I have great respect for that riddle, even when I don’t understand girls who want people to see them from three perspectives — in the car, at work or on the way home or from home.

A couple of years ago, I had subscribed to the websites of 2,000 girls who would post a tremendous amount of filtered photos every day. I would write to them, and I came to the conclusion that they themselves can’t explain why they do what they do. STYLE: But your pictures are also filtered, right?

Tigran Tsitoghdzyan: You can’t look at a person for a whole hour. This is why the image in my pictures is a couple of times bigger than the height of the person. I give people the chance to look at everything in detail. This is the filter that draws the line beyond which it will be hard for you to look and you don’t even have to look. STYLE: Is it a hard technique?

Tigran Tsitoghdzyan: Well, yes, for those who don’t have command of the technique. However, for me, technique is a tool that I don’t think about. I have drawn for so many hours that my eyes and hands have become fully synchronized. What I see and imagine turns out to be the way it has to be. People ask me if it is harder to draw an ear or eye. That is the same as asking me if it is harder to look at the ear or the eye. You look at them the same way everywhere. There is nothing that is more difficult. A particular episode might take more time.

It is much easier to draw an old person with wrinkles than a child because the mastery is to vivify the flatness of the face and get volume…Rafael could portray a child, and it turned out to look alive. However, when you are painting a large still life painting, it is three times more difficult. You need a relief because without it, the face will be flat and lifeless. STYLE: Are you ever in a crisis or do you ever search for something during the process of creating?

Tigran Tsitoghdzyan: There is always a crisis during the process of creating. If there is no crisis, I have to lay everything aside and not do anything. I always feel that I am at the beginning of the road. I am always in search of something. When I finish a work, I can be content for a little while. The next day, I might not like what I have created. It is like a past stage, and I tell myself I could have done better. I have never been self-conceited. STYLE: Are you ambitious?

Tigran Tsitoghdzyan: Each person needs to have a love for something. As for a creator, he has to feel that what he is doing is important and necessary. It is hard to create for nothing. You have to be very self-devoted in order to do that. Positive criticism inspires me, but no matter how strange it may sound, I never read what people write about me, neither interviews nor responses…I am not too interested in reading what I have said, and if they do not correspond to the original, it is more than unpleasant. STYLE: Art and business…Are you involved in promoting your paintings?

Tigran Tsitoghdzyan: Today, people in the West say an artist has to spend 50% of his time on business and 50% of his time on art. I don’t know. I have no clue about business. I have never written an e-mail, knocked on doors or addressed any gallery my whole life… STYLE: Don’t you have an agent?

Tigran Tsitoghdzyan: I have an agent/lawyer, but he doesn’t contact anyone. He simply responds to letters. If he receives something unimportant, he doesn’t even send it to me, or he recommends that I pay attention to something in particular. I have always done everything by myself. STYLE: So, you leave it up to coincidence to determine your level of demand.  However, there might not be a coincidence.

Tigran Tsitoghdzyan: Yes, there might not be. There is no guarantee that tomorrow I will be in demand., but I have been living like this for many years, and it seems as though it is working out because I consider myself very lucky. A real creator should not be involved in all that. I don’t have fun or go out to meet with particular people from whom I can gain some kind of benefit. That is not for me. I appear in the public eye when I really want to see someone. I receive invitations to all gala events, but I only attend events organized by Armenians in New York and support them. STYLE: What is your opinion of the cultural events in Armenia, especially after the United States?

Tigran Tsitoghdzyan: I am very optimistic. When you look at the present, it is grave and painful, but when you look at the road, everything is not too dramatic. Cultural life was significantly enriched during the Soviet era, and it was a healthy “blood exchange” with Russian culture. However, alongside that, there was something very bad that became a part of our lives, and that is corruption and passivity, and the meanings of words changed. Being a storekeeper became very prestigious, while serving as a police officer was associated with corruption… The modern-day Armenia is still reaping the fruits of that. When people complain about this or that, I want to ask them if there is any other way…If Armenia was a country like Switzerland and found itself in the situation that it is in now, the criticism could be acceptable…I am glad that the people born in independent Armenia have a different and broader mindset. The old rules are not for them. A lot of things have changed…When I was in Yerevan, I had hair that was a little longer than the ordinary, and I would get into fights every day for that. STYLE: Well, the hair…yes. You won’t amaze anyone with that anymore. Instead, the public is rather frustrated with the LGBT community.

Tigran Tsitoghdzyan: In this sense, I support equal rights for everyone, but at the same time, I support a reasonable balance. For instance, in New York, things have gotten out of hand. People defend minorities to the fullest. Roughly speaking, if there is a gay parade and you don’t place the flag supporting gays on the window of your café or store, you are considered a supporter of Trump and restricted…I believe this is a violation of my rights…I don’t divide people in terms of their stances. They are either interesting or not.

Moreover, I don’t think the LGBT community causes a strong “blow” to our traditions. Why is this even a matter of discussion when police protect transvestites who stand around in parks in Armenia? STYLE: Last year, the film “American Mirror”, which stars Susan Sarandon, wasn’t included in the program of the Golden Apricot International Film Festival. Why?

Tigran Tsitoghdzyan: The film won 8 first prizes and is currently presented at the Melbourne International Film Festival…In the beginning, the organizers of the Golden Apricot International Film Festival had said it wasn’t a pretty good film to be presented for the competition, and later, they said they would show it “on the side”. Well, we said OK. But director Arthur Balder took it out of the list of screenings. They set a working day for us to show the film at the Cinema House, and at 11 in the morning. STYLE: It is a pity. It was definitely a loss for the audience of Yerevan and the Golden Apricot International Film Festival. However, in this sense, Tigran Tsitoghdzyan isn’t concerned about this. He is busy as it is. There are so many things that remained unsaid during the interview. As they say behind the scenes, this is mainly due to the modesty and restraint of the artist who is frustrated with the expression “this happened to me one time”. However, he did tell about some events. But that’s off record...

Anna Satyan

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