The exemplary artistic journey of Paul Guiragossian is one of the most unique expressionistic experiences in the Arab modern art scene. His inspiration derives from the reality that surrounds him, the outcome is his own visual interpretation of these events.
This dramatic and aesthetic reservoir of imageries, together with an ongoing harsh reality evolved to take a new form of expression on most of his canvases. His form allowed for a very successful marriage between the 'humanity' of the contents and the huge residue of 'agony' through the human struggle; finally reaching a utopian winning state of 'Love, goodness, and beauty'.
This winning result is what we are left with when we contemplate the oeuvre of Paul Guiragossian.
Paul Guiragossian was a conscious human being who tried, through sharing the combined vision and accomplishment of his personal and private experiences to reach a visual vocabulary that represents a wider expression of an ultimate human reality; visual evidence that expands beyond his alter-ego to another place and time.
Some critics labelled Paul Guiragossian as 'artist of the family', maybe for his endless visits to certain subject matters like the child, the girl, the mother, and the family. But truth lies beneath the many layers of his masterly usage of thick impasto, the multi layers of the life of the contemporary man of the 20th century, with his heavy suffering, his misery, his sadness, his happiness, his reality, his modest dream and his future...presenting a dimension that reflects in a semi-abstracted form of human unity, where a social act of being is artfully and aesthetically supreme.
In the present lot, one can trace imageries of the land of the Mediterranean, historical elongated figures of condensed old cities and mostly of a strong bonding to one another, a great sense of belonging and a real patrimony.
This composition is dominated by his signature vertical lines, separating these figures from one another with the slender lines of their bodies even within this limited tight space that each figure is occupying, in order to emphasize their individuality. This geometry is broken by a vivid rhythm of softly curved lines within the composition. The mother and child in the centre of the painting, as in most of his oeuvres, is Paul Guiragossian's favorite subject and obsession, which transcended from his own eternal longing for his own mother, to all the merciful angelic worldly mothers. This figure became the symbol of hope, of continuity and of freedom in his hardest days. She was there like a saint with a glowing light, coming out from many facets. Here the belly 'bearer of life' is prominent in her posture to her right and left, touching contours of the figures creating a restless dynamism on which the exuberant vitality of this painting thrives.
It is a highly dynamic presentation and a spontaneous outcome, yet clearly structured and composed. One could sense the impulsive, impromptu strong strokes, a fast crescendo of musical rhythm to this painting. But, no sound is stronger than the screaming colours, accentuated by the use of the lime yellow, lime green and small areas of light blues.
This is set in motion by the arms that are reaching for one another, by the smaller children tucked between the long robes of the adults, and by the closeness of the touching feet. These many feet that appear so fully and largely in the lower strip of the composition are reminiscent of the 'workers' series that Paul Guiragossian would paint in the 1950s, contemplating the workers going back and forth in Burj Hammoud, Lebanon. All of this is wrapped elegantly by a surrounding painted 'light red' space, an inner frame that defines the edges of this 'Family' group as suggested by the title of this work and pushes them further together. Exactly like a window which must resist wind, rain and protect from the storms, the strength of the group comes with this protection from within.
When the war started in Lebanon, Paul Guiragossian did not want to leave and resisted with his family until the end of 1980s when he had to move temporarily to Paris where he stayed until 1991.
'During the war, some artists ran away and some stayed. The ones that remained in Lebanon evolved and their work became deeper because these artists lived through the sounds of the explosions, fires, fear, death, destruction, illness and life. When an artist painted a flower, it was a horror and a symbol of a war. Every day I used to see rubble; everyday things were exploding in front of me. I was dying of fear, I would go to bed without sleeping, would lift the colors and brushes to the basements, attack the white surfaces of the canvas exploding in lines and colour. Everything in the painting was yearning to protect the children, for I was not fearing for myself, but for those children around me. I would fall into tears and between the confusion I discovered that painting is the best therapy for me and my soul. Some were not able to produce any art during the war, but I was painting without stop. My war was my painting, my revenge was my colours, and my biggest revenge was always love, beauty and nature even in the darkest of times.' (Paul Guiragossian, in an interview with Khalil Safieh, La vie de l'art plastique, 1984)
Paul painted this work between the mid to late 1980s /early 1990s and is the greatest example by the artist to appear at auction to date. It is known that in these years he painted his largest and most complex masterpieces. In 1992, he had his 4th solo exhibition in Paris.
Before that, Paul Guiragossian had his first exhibition in 1962 at the Mouffe gallery, followed by another one in 1967 at the Angle du Faubourg gallery. After being knighted by the French Government with the 'Chevalier de l'Ordre, des Arts et des Lettres' in 1984, his third show was organized at Unesco in 1989 and the final one was at the I.M.A., (Institut du Monde Arabe) where this work was exhibited and also illustrated in the exhibition catalogue, along with 8 other masterpieces. Paul returned to Lebanon, and he passed away a year later.
Paul Guiragossian remained loyal to his vocation as an expressionist artist from the 1940s until the 1990s.