'Facts of existence are the main source of my artistic experience. Art for me starts from the "real". At the beginning, an artist paints his surroundings, and like a child, the artist would ask many questions, a true devoted artist never stops questioning. The reality of everything is a question in itself. An artist, who has no answer, stops at limited borders, he will not move forward, does not evolve. I was born in a very modest place, therefore, I paint children, mothers, families, I paint misery, birth, death, and I paint the noise. I paint the tight-knitted groups that are lost, scarred, expelled, not knowing where is their next destination, I paint the neighbourhoods which witnessed war, and hunger. Fear, genocide, siege, illness and death, from all of these ingredients I explode and I paint'
(The artist quoted).
Christie's is proud to offer the present outstanding composition, La Lutte de l'Existence painted in the late 1980s by the Lebanese Modern master Paul Guiragossian. La Lutte de l'Existence reveals the strong expressionist imagery and the warm palette of Mediterranean colours that define Guiragossian's aesthetic exploration.
Paul Guiragossian's works convey an evolution of an abstract practice that originate in the figurative paintings that he discovered in his younger years. His background as a Armenian-origin Lebanese, born in Jerusalem, influenced his body of work that engages with the Post-Modern notions of identity and displacement.
When Paul Guiragossian painted the present work, the Middle East was in upheaval and Lebanon was witnessing the last years of a ravaging civil war; violent confrontations flared up in Beirut in 1988 and the artist, through painting, exorcised his sentiments of suffering, misery and depression that had resulted from the unfortunate events that occurred in his city as well as in his personal life.
From the 1970s onwards, Guiragossian applied thick brushstrokes to depict elongated abstract figures and through the multiple layers of paint of vibrant hues that are reminiscent of the tones used by the Fauves artists a few decades earlier, emanates an intricate sense of depth and dynamism. The figures' heads are slightly bowed as if to reveal a sense of resignation or mourning, but they are standing still in a condensed and tight frame and thus appear united. The bright colours used in his paintings also suggest an undertone of positivity, a sense of hope and unity. Thus, La Lutte de l'Existence is evidently an expression of the personal and social conflicts that the artist encountered during the last years of his life.
The spontaneity of Guiragossian's brushstrokes reveal his urge to express himself, to let go of his personal demons through the surface of the canvas. By painting, he sought to express the human condition in its most difficult as well as his most wonderful state. He carefully put together a composition that moves beyond its striking beauty to express a sentiment shared by his people, an existential fight for freedom and liberation.
La Lutte de l'Existence is one of the largest and most outstanding works by Paul Guiragossian to ever appear at auction and is undeniably a collector's piece. The proceeds from the sale of La Lutte de l'Existence will benefit the Paul Guiragossian Foundation's projects and help in furthering the public's awareness of the brilliance of Paul Guiragossian.
The Paul Guiragossian Foundation was established in 2011 to preserve and promote the legacy of the painter and thinker Paul Guiragossian. Upon the initiative of the late artist's wife and five children, a board was formed that consisted of a selected number of distinguished art historians and critics, some of whom were contemporaries of the artist who knew him and his work very closely.
Since its inception, the Foundation has embarked on a rigorous research journey throughout the world in order to locate, catalogue, acquire and restore artworks and archival documents by and about Paul Guiragossian. Today, the Foundation boats an extensive database comprising images of hundreds of artworks along with comprehensive information on their provenance and present location, that is available for those who wish to learn more about the life and work of the artist. All of these achievements will now form a stepping-stone for the next phase in the Foundation's life: the publication of an extensive Catalogue raisonné covering the entire opus of Paul Guiragossian.
To mark the twentieth anniversary of Paul Guiragossian's passing, the Foundation has invited acclaimed curators Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath, the co-founders of the curatorial platform Art Reoriented, to organise a major retrospective that will place the life and work of Paul Guiragossian within a contemporary context. The exhibition will open to the public at the Beirut Exhibition Center in Lebanon on November 15th, 2013. The curators are simultaneously working on a book that is scheduled to be published and distributed internationally in 2014.