Karen Sargsyan was born in Yerevan, capital of Armenia, in 1973 and studied martial arts at a sports college. Owing to the unstable political and economic situation in Armenia, he moved, with his family, to the Netherlands in 1998 where he began working in drawing and sculpture and was accepted to the prestigious Rijksakademie in Amsterdam. Sargsyan is regarded as one of the leading paper artists in the world.

The technique of his unique work, which Sargsyan developed, rests on inner intuition and on master artistry of slicing paper with scissors or a utility knife. Without sketching the figure beforehand, Sargsyan uses the quick, sharp movements of his hand to create three-dimensional, multi-layered figures, full of depth and understanding, humor and dynamics. Indicative signs of his work include the face mask which is common to all his figures, and an object which accompanies the figure, tugging at the imagination and inviting one to investigate the complete story. Even though they are made of paper, Sargsyan’s statues have a surprising presence which is full of life, and occasionally, seem as if at any moment they will burst out of their paper shell and spring to life.

The exhibition at the Tower of David Museum posed a new challenge for Karen Sargsyan. This was the first time that the artist presented his works outdoors, in the open air, beside the walls of the ancient citadel of Jerusalem. These conditions forced him to search for materials which would survive the weather. Additionally, the material had to yield to Sargsyan’s utility knife with a similar flexibility to paper. These two considerations led the artist to create almost all of the figures in the exhibition using very thin sheets of colored aluminum, cutting them either before or during his work.

The towers and impressive structures of the citadel of Jerusalem express the long history of Jerusalem. Sargsyan chose to integrate his work specifically in the archaeological garden and bring several personalities from the long history of the city “to life”.

There were nine varied, spectacular figures featured within the museum spaces including King David, King Solomon, the Queen of Sheba, Cyrus of Persia, Herod the Great, Queen Melisende, and Suleiman the Magnificent as well as the modern personages of Anna Ticho and Eliezer Ben Yehuda. The meeting between the figures themselves and their interaction with the citadel almost appeared as a trick of history, invited you to connect to the figures with a less academically rigorous, methodical or serious outlook. It is as if these figures only existed as legends or parables, and their stories are cut from paper or colorful aluminum which stand for a moment between the eternal stone walls.

Artist: Karen Sargsyan

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