Interview with Ruben Arutchyan

Interview-with-Ruben-ArutchyanDear reader, the opening of a website I want to start with an interesting and instructive conversation with Ruben Arutchyan. The artist, who has a very important and interesting way that enriched the Armenian art and will enrich it. Our  generation  needs to listen to the opinions of these people, talk to them, exchange views and learn, learn endlessly. With Mr. Arutchyan we talked about contemporary art, architecture and the problems on it and about its future, we discussed today’s architecture of Yerevan, talked about the galleries and their functions, and we also discussed  Picasso and Rembrandt.

Before interview I would like to present to you a short biography of the family of Arutchyan and Ruben Arutchyan.

Mikael Arutchyan, Ruben Arutchyan’s uncle, was born in 1897 in Shushi, he got his professional education at Fine arts academy in Berlin (1921-1923) and at “Kolarrosi” Fine arts academy in Paris (19124-1925). From 1925 to 1929 he taught at the art school in Yerevan (now Terlemezyan Fine arts college). He was the chief of the “Goskino” of Armenia from 1925 to 1929, and also a chief artist of the Opera and ballet academic theatre after Al.Spendiaryan. Mikael Arutchyan designed many books, he was an art director of opera and theatre performances, and also art director of many movies.

In 1958 he was awarded the title of People’s Artist of Armenia.

Sergey Arutchyan, Ruben Arutchyan’s father, was born in 1912 in Baku. In 1937 he graduated from the department of architecture of the Yerevan Polytechnic institute, and published  cartoons in Russian and Armenian mass media. From 1939 to 1948 he was the chief artist of State academic theatre named after Sundukyan, worked at the theatre after Mravyan in Leninakan. From 1954 to 1964 he was the chief artist and founder of the Republican satirical magazine “Vozni”.  He was the art director of the theatre and opera performances, as well as art director of many movies.

In 1956 Sergey Arutchyan awarded the title of Honored Art worker of Armenia.


Ruben Arutchyan was born in 1947 in Yerevan. In 1964 he graduated from Yerevan Fine arts college after P.Terlemezyan and in 1970 he graduated from Yerevan Polytechnic institute (architecture department). In 1974 he was a member of the Union of architects of Armenia and member of the Artists Union of Armenia. From 1978 to 1982 he worked as a lecturer in Yerevan academy of arts. In different years he was the chairman of the section of graphics and of the posters of the Union of artists of Armenia. Fromm 1990 to 1992 he was the chief artist of the city of Yerevan. Since 2011 he is a member of the world Armenian painters. His works has been shown in various exhibitions of the world; in Indian, Canada, USA, Russia, etc. He has numerous awards, prizes and encouragements. Ruben Arutchyan is the author of the emblem, new orders and medals of Ministry of Defence of Armenia, author of the new coat of arms of Shushi and not only.

Now he works as a lecturer in Yerevan Polytechnic Institute.



Mr. Arutchian, what is the Armenian art?

The Armenian art is something, that have made by Armenian.

In that case, why Ayvazovsky considered as Russian painter?

Aside from Ayvazovsky’s works and his art, he was an Armenian, wasn’t he? Russian convient to say he was Russian because of his surname. Aznavour is not Aznavourian, but he is Armenian by nationality. Yes we are a small nation and we have lived in many countries and we have changed our surnames. I think it’s very bad, but I can’t be responsible for all Armenians. Surname changed, but the nationality no. Verno is Armenian, but he is Verno…

 I don’t paint in the style of miniature or in style of Sarian’s bright colors, is it means that it’s not Armenian? For example, Arshile Gorky, that considered as one of the founders of abstract art in the world, or Jansem, Garzou, they are all Armenians.

Aznavour sings one song in Armenian, Sayat-Nova’s song, but he is Armenian. It doesn’t matter for me where are you living. Every person must feel who is he or she…


What do you think about contemporary art? What is the state of it now?

Today art is in confusion, not only in Armenia, but also in the world. Now we have reached the point of the spiral, where everything is mixed. We are in eclectism, it is a new  trend in architecture and painting. But I think it will rise and reach the point of the spiral, where everything will  cleared. New “Picassos” will born, new “Tamanians” will come, “Sarians” will be. But now, it is impossimble. Although, there are few names in abstractionism like Pollock or Benshan, who created the “weather of the time”.

Today, the artist must be honest, it is very important, otherwise nothing will happen. I am who I am. Of course, we absorb various influences, but… there are many fraudulent artists, who draw “a’la”, imitiaiting other artists.

There is no need to be an art historian to understand that all directions in art have been exhausted. Empty canvases have been hanged or only the surnames have been written…

All of this has been settled in, and totally elapsed. Today art is in a difficult position: there is a man and the whole experience of the world in his head. Now you must draw as you draw. And if you succeed, then you well done!


In these difficult times, when art is in confusion, and as you said, there is no “isms”, how to distinguish between true and false in art, roughly speaking, the bad and good art? Is there such a scale of values?

In London there is a very famous Saatchi gallery. In my presentation of what they are doing is not art. But in their presentation it is art. It is the question of taste and how human growing and formirating.

The world got lost and it has lost the way in art too. It’s difficult to assess, I can estimate architecture but not painting. There are no priorities. That are our times…

Lets talk about your first speciality, about architecture?

Architecture is the mother of the arts. If there would’nt be a wall, there was’nt be an art. Wall creats an architecture, architect an atmosphere in which artist works, by hanging painting on nails, or painting entire wall, decorating ceiling. In the architecture are the same processes as in the art in general. We need to recover to the end, we must suffer with postmodernism, go all the way to end of eclectism, the path of error and we will clear.

Interview-with-Ruben-Arutchyan-004You talked about the errors and I have a question, can today’s architecture in a few years become the “face of Yerevan”?

I don’t speak about anything definitely. Of course, at first there were a very hurtful things, many monuments had been destroyed, I have counted 47 monuments in the territory of the Northern avenue and not only there. This is our life and our times. All the cities in the world had been suffered through similar. We did not invent bicycle.  It is bad or good, but that is the seal of our present day. What our life is, the same is architecture, the other it couldn’t be. Life can’t go separately from architecture.

But now I want to see more good things than bad. I’m a little bit optimist, sad optimist. For example, remember the unsanitary condition of the center, etc. It’s difficult to answer this question, but I see good things. For example, unbuttoned of the Northern avenue. Started to feel the spirit of the capital, it was cleared.

One more example, when Corbusier wanted to reconstruct Paris, he was not allowed, because there have been established the public life and it was’nt impossible to ignore the opinion of the public, which is not present in Armenia. They thought differently, they were great, the French had another values.

We must admit that we didn’t have the city. We, Armenians, have built Tbilisi, Baku, but we didn’t live here and because of it the city was in a such state. I remember Yerevan, when “Nairi” cinema have been started to built, and trees were planting on Mashtots avenue.

Visitors of Yerevan sees the building of the 60s on the Mashtots street and think that they were  built in late 19th century, it is difficult to understand. I have growth and I realized that Tamanian created a legend, a great legend. It affects many people. We know when these buildings built, but the most don’t even realize. They look at Opera and think that it has more than a century history. Tamanian created a legend of an ancient city. This is very important.

Now people complain about high-rise buildings, but they should be, this is our life.


Interview-with-Ruben-Arutchyan-002And who created a legend in the painting?


He was very unusual. There were very incomparable things in his early works, he was great. Then the galaxy of “Sarians” went. His personality was very strong and he has followers. Zardarian, Abeghian, Minas, Galents began to use bright colors.

I believe that Sarian is one of our best best portraitists, but then other artists began to paint portraits in his style and all became the same.

Portrait is a person. We are long-suffering nation, we didn’t have paintings on canvas.We had a miniature, a great miniature, and we had frescoes in churches.

All began, we can say, from Hovnatanians, when we are looking at portrait and we can say this is that man. Roman and Greek portraits are drawing until now, they are so powerful. But we, unfortunetly, don’t know how Mashtots looked like…

Thankfully, now we have paintings on canvas, but it had been formed when photography formed, and it began to capture.

I have  drawn Komitas a lot, naturally I couldn’t see him, but the photo gives me the features of his face, and physically he became clear to me.


At first you went to Terlemezyan college, then you have chosen to become an architect, and then again returned to painting. Why did it happen like this?

After Terlemezyan I drawned to architecture, it was a time of architectural boom. Architecture flourished. Then, maybe, I wanted to study sopromat, mathematics, which were not taught in Terlemzyan. When I entered the first year, I thought that one day I will understand that it is good architecture or it is not.

One of the reasons I came back was a distortion of the architect’s plan. I did the building project, which would be completely different than my project. I, probably, want to be guilty on to myself. I have painted bad painting, I will tear the canvas, or turn it to the wall, I will answer for it.

I have worked as an architect. And probably I would have been a normal expert, but my life turned me in the other direction, and I am very happy to be back to painting…

Interview-with-Ruben-Arutchyan-006And you took architecture with you, right?

Architecture is all my menatality. Just as I am thinking. And it is good, when person knows that the foundation of building is in the bottom, not on the top. I know it and understand how it has built. Of course, I don’t know all of the today’s requirements, but I know. Actually, I love to learn. I spend a lot of time on the internet, I wonder who is the one and what have done the other. It’s never too late to learn.

This year I want to take a risk, to make an exhibition of portraits only.


Your art prevail portraits …

I have a lot of portraits in recent years, I loved this genre, I started to love it… I almost didn’t draw landscapes, still life very little.

Does not matter how portrait has done, with one line, such as Picassos Ehrenburg, but it is Ehrenburg. I set a requirement for me, which way I draw: point, line or large strocks, it must be like nature, must not come to me and ask who is it and that’s the hard part. If you emphasize its expressions, some features, yes, but it have to be similar. In this respect, excellent, in my opinion, our underestimate sculptor Hakob Gyurdjian. You look from distance 3 metres and realize that he had embodied Balzac.With two lines he made it look like Balzac.So, we need to understand that the process doesn’t matter.

I can’t be a abstractionist, I like to rotate somewhere in the middle.

Among your paintings occupying a special place the portraits of Picasso and Rembrandt. They are very surprising in these portraits and they are full of sense of humor and at the same time they are serious, they are basing on your portraits and not only portraits. Can we say that for you these two artists are the points of reference in art?

Of course they are…always… from an early age. Until one day I saw a picture of Rembrandt in a museum in Helsinki. The museum is situated among the embasses. I was so fascinated by this pictures, that I haven’t heard the signal of the car that waiting for me. Last year in the gallery of Uffizi I saw his 3 self-portraits. He loved to fix himself in different ages, he was studying himself. At one point almost insane expression, the other traces of poverty (he died in poverty). The impressionists felt Delacroix as their Godfather, but Delacroix, maybe, had many things from Rembrandt: the light, the emphasizing something, his approach.

About Picasso we can speak endless. He is an example for following, he is very interesting person. He had such an academic education, that he could allow himself everything. And he allowed himself to all. When he quarreled with a woman he mutilated her portrait, one eye painted on her head and said goodbye.

He lived a life, a great life. He passed the way of century. Arts developed and he with a flag in his hands ran ahead.

Guernica, whatever anti-war you imagine, everyone will draw Guernica. Crazy man… crazy people twirl the world. There is nothing worse than a normal person.

In addition, Picasso throughout his life was a rich. I don’t think that artist must be with a scarf around his neck and poor. This is legend, yes, it happened, but he proved the opposite. He convinced people that he is Picasso and his paintings have a high value.


Interview-with-Ruben-Arutchyan-005We are talking about the selling of paintings, about estimating  artists, and do you think is there in Armenia the concept “artdiller” or is there a gallery that working on it, like other galleries throughout the world?

We don’t have a concept og gallery, we have a trading center. Gallery is an institution. Gallery should have a art historian, gallery should select its artists, it must advertise them, do tv transfers about them,gallery should attract people, it must impact on them and in the end they will buy paintings.

Gallery shouln’t be a store, the store is in the end.

I dream to have an art gallery.

You also do design, you are a author of various logos and emblems, such as Armed forces of Armenia. What can you say about this direction of art? Is it developed in Armenia and how is it important?

First of all, design developing in those countries that have production and products that need to submitte. In Armenia can be only interior design and other same things.

The word design abroad has a different meaning: there are architectural design, urban design, etc.

In Armenia there is a logo design. We, unfortunetaly, only hope in computer. Everyone think that it has a brain, but it is only a good pen, which is painting straight line, but the brain is yours. I taught myself many programs, only because I’m an artist.

You are working as a lecturer now, what can you say about today’s youth?

Students are many, 150 people on the course, in our time we were 20. Not all graduates and then it was difficult to find a job. I don’t know where the young people get a job now. I have 7-8 good students, who really want to learn. As my father always told, you can teach a bear to draw, in the end it will learn. But one thing is hard to study, the composition. It is very difficult, I can’t teach it, it is either given or not.



In the end, a question to yourself …

If I had started the life over again, would I have lived the same life? (in sense of specialization)

No! I would have chosen a different environment, I would try myself.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *