Artour Sarkissian-Oshakantsi born in Oshakan, Armenia on 5th October 1953,is widely recognized as a greatest Armenian artist to have come from the USSR. Artour started painting at the very young and by the age of thirteen he has had his first solo exhibition before receiving any formal education.
He adopted pseudonym “Oshakantsi”, after his birthplace, which holds a sacred meaning in Armenian culture.
Oshakan is a pre-historical site of human habitation in the mountains of Caucasus. It is where Saint Mesrop Mashtots. Armenian theologian, linguist, and hymnologist is buried In the fourth century AD, Mashtots have created Armenian alphabet, still used today in its original form, and that moment has created a unique cultural identity of Armenians and saved it from assimilation from Greek, Ottoman and Russian influences in difficult centuries that were to come.
Artour has completed his formal education by 1976, and whilst greatly influenced by Arshile Gorky and later by European surrealists such as Miro and Masson he has continually evolved in his opus finding his original form of expression.
By 1980’s Artour became the greatest Armenian Abstract painter in the Soviet Union. During 1990’s he moves to United Kingdom and there in London, a decade of experimentation led Oshakantsi to an iconographic synthetic style, which ironically only a precise and analytical mind could achieve, creating a breakthrough new school of Painting which was labeled ABSTRACT NATURALISM, founded on a profound spiritual and mythical symbolism as to encode almost heraldic medieval allegories.
Oshakantsi is the abstract naturalist par excellence, and its Founder.
FROM METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART
"...Meanwhile, in the Caucasus, nationalist movements arise as the Ottoman and Russian empires begin to collapse in the early twentieth century. Attempts to create independent republics are quashed and lands in this region are absorbed into the Soviet Union. They gain their independence only after the collapse of that state in 1991, and are then divided into the republics of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Russia. During this period, painters are trained in traditional European-style academies, either in Moscow or on the Continent.
Martiros Saryan (1880 – 1972), for example, works in a post impressionistic style and experiments with capturing the essence of light in his landscape and still-life paintings. One of the world-renowned painters to come out these schools is Arshile Gorky (Vosdanik Adoian, 1904–1948), who was born in Armenia and moved to New York in 1925. He is considered a progenitor of Abstract Expressionism, although his later works are profoundly affected by European Surrealism particularly the work of Joan Miro, Andre Masson, and Matta.
His disciple in Soviet Armenia, Artour Oshakantsi (born 1953), becomes the greatest Armenian painter in the Soviet Union. He is the founder of Abstract Naturalism and is perhaps the most well-known painter of Independent Armenia. In Soviet Armenia, where abstractionism symbolized the voice of social protest, Oshakantsi is one of the first artists to use abstraction to express his political rage.
Traditional arts, like carpet weaving and embroidery, are practiced, albeit with lesser intensity and vibrancy, geared toward commercial consumption and export. Contemporary artists from the Caucasus grapple with issues of identity, displacement, homeland, political freedom, national self-assertion, and their new position within the global community.”
OLD ARMENIA’S NEW ARTIST
Fast and furious, Artour Oshakantsi is probably the most powerful post - modernist painter of Independent Armenia. While his academic roots were fed by the figurative rigidities of the Socialist Realism in Soviet Armenia. Oshakantsi's generation of angry young men drew comfort and inspiration from the mild abstract expressionism of the much decorated Martiross SARIAN, who seems to have remained the only Great Master of Soviet painting officially sanctioned to be mildly abstract during the worst times of camp Stalinist monumental masonry. While in the West Abstract Art evolved from purely pictorial experimentation (although the Mother of them all, Dadaism, may have had some social content). in Soviet Armenia, Abstractionism symbolised (and manifested) the voice of explosive cork-bottled societal protest. And Artour OSHAKANTSI was one of the first to dare blow his top off, going, nay, racing headlong into a mad, sometimes bad, always wild abstraction, but rooted firmly in powerful colourful Fauvist structures. However, like all true artists (whatever 'true' may mean), OSHAKANTSI, while very learned in the history and traditions of his metier, has no time at all for '-isms', has reached beyond them to 'sheer painting', subtending a wide range of themes, subjects and styles.
Uniquely and single-handedly in post-modern art of today, OSHAKANTSI has hit upon re-inventing here and now in Britain, the almost forgotten Fayyum Portraits of Hellenistic Egypt-highly individualistic character-revelations of modern men and women, haunting readings of their immortal souls, the icon-ic capture of God's breath in action, creating the individual in his own image. Infinitely variable yet somehow mysteriously the same, that is, divinely deeply puzzled pieces of human earth.
Professor H. I. PILIKIAN