Evidently an expression of the personal and social conflicts that the artist encountered during his life, Mother and Child in Mandorla by Modern master Paul Guiragossian represents the artist's quest to find harmony in both his works and his life. Seeking a balance between an expressionist touch that references reality and chromatic elements that express emotional movement and a new reality, the present work shows a deep precision in his brushstroke and composition, serving to highlight the underlying theme of childhood and maternity.
From the 1970s onwards, Guiragossian applied thick brushstrokes to depict elongated abstract figures and multiple layers of paint of vibrant hues that are reminiscent of the tones used by the Fauves artists. In the present work from the early 1980s, Guiragossian combines figurative depictions with broad and flat brushstrokes that highlight his transition into what was to become completely reduced abstract vertical lines. Creating an intricate sense of depth and dynamism, the composition focuses on a central mother figure who cradles her newborn child while female members of her social circle gather around her to see the new arrival. A common theme in many of his works, the mother and child transcend from the artist's personal and eternal longing for his own mother.
In Mother and Child in Mandorla, Guiragossian adopts a vibrant colour palette, the directness, luminosity and density of which produce a visually arresting, multi-layered and emotionally captivating composition. Using rich and intense reds that contrast with the deep blue he employs for the figures' robes and outlines, he highlights the central figure with intricate patterning of her robe and veil. The other figures in jewel-like tones of lime, burnt yellow and turquoise against a dark green background create a wonderfully dynamic effect. Guiragossian's work is about contemplating art as a self-reflection of his own journey. He uses it as an autobiographical act about confronting his own imagination fused with his heavy memory of his Armenian origins, his Palestinian ties and the Lebanese life he had.
These bright colours suggest an undertone of positivity, a sense of hope and unity that is expected in such a joyous occasion. However on closer inspection, the viewer comes to realise there is in an underlying tone of sadness and mourning that in fact permeates all of Guiragossian's canvases. The single dark veil upon the head of the mother figure hints at a sense of torment and impending sorrow.
It is interesting that there is a clear influence of religious artistic traditions, which Guiragossian studied intensively, in the present work. It is revealed through two ways; firstly, the luminous effect rendered in the work, coupled with the curvature of the lines with the non-overlapping passages of colour is almost akin to stained glass. Secondly, the composition itself, where the curves Guiragossian has chosen to frame the central figure and her baby come together to form a protective mandorla, an almond-shaped aureola often used in religious iconography. The mandorla is used to depict sacred moments which transcend time and space, in this sense, Guiragossian has clearly used this to highlight the sanctity of the arrival of a new born in society. He also uses this symbolism to imply the holiness of the mother figure, cementing the woman as a figure who should be appreciated and respected.
Through his use of strong symbolism and effervescent colour palette, in Mother and Child in Mandorla, Guiragossian shares his ultimate personal journey combined with his creative vision that leaves the viewer with a vocabulary that represents an authentic human reality, stretching in the wide spectrum between the pain shared by people and the struggle for unity, goodness and love.