An exquisite and large chef d'oeuvre from Paul Guiragossian's later works, Automne painted in the mid-1980s reveals the artist's unequalled mastery of colour. With thick and elongated brushstrokes in various nuances of yellow, the composition reflects every facet of the human condition with radiant complexity through multiple figurative references, while simultaneously revealing the artist's appeal for abstraction.
Born in Jerusalem in 1926 to Armenian parents who survived the Genocide, Paul Guiragossian started painting at an early age as he watched from the window children flying their kites and was often asked to paint on them. In an attempt to support his loving mother, he also painted various portraits, which he then sold for small amounts of money. In the early 1940s, the artist attended Studio Yarkon in Jaffa to improve his passion for painting and a few years later, his life would be changed forever as he emigrated alongside his family to Lebanon, fleeing the Arab-Israeli conflict. In the late 1950s, Guiragossian was granted a scholarship and travelled to Florence and Paris to pursue his studies in painting. He soon discarded the academicism of his peers and fought for abstraction, liberating himself from the confines of the discernable human figure. Experiencing exile since a very tender age, his background undoubtedly highly influenced his body of work as he responded, through art, to the region's historical context, while engaging with the postmodern notions of identity and the Other.
The thick impasto applied on the canvas in Automne offers a sculptural and Expressionist quality that allow the figures to leap out of the canvas, thus captivating the viewer. The robust figures stand side by side, with strength and pride. Although physical features such as faces and hands are present throughout the composition, the work is utterly abstracted, its emphasis on the play with infinite and vibrant hues of yellow. The colour palette in the present work, reminiscent of the autumnal leaves, is exceptional and brings to light Guiragossian's skilfulness as he meticulously and effectively combines pigments that are arduous to manipulate, as a drop less or more might impair the colour tone. The patches of colour are adjacent, but never overlap and they become themselves a metaphor for the human condition that the artist often alludes to.
The symbolism of the colour is not to be dismissed and yellow is said to have been Guiragossian's favourite colour. It alludes to happiness, optimism and enlightenment; it evokes the new day that comes along with the new season, the warmth and comfort of one's home as the summer light fades. But sources of the yellow pigment are toxic metals - cadmium and chrome - and as such, the colour yellow can equally disguise a sense of betrayal, despair and anguish, as if to refer to the upheaval and chaos that the artist witnessed during the years of a ravaging civil war.
With his captivating painting, Guiragossian represents an authentic human reality, flowing amidst the pain shared by his people and their struggle for unity, goodness and love. The figures interact as they march together and extract their strength from one another. The duality that is often explored in Guiragossian's paintings is here conquered through form and colour and the textural quality of the present composition creates a tangible sense of depth. The result is a visually arresting and impulsive work of art. It is an extraordinary example from Guiragossian's later series of works, one of his rare monochromatic compositions. It oscillates between happiness and sadness, expressing hope for a brighter future while alluding to an everlasting sense of melancholy. Undeniably a masterpiece, Automne reveals the infinite manifestations of the human condition.