Interview with Viktorya Nare Karapetyan
Viktorya Nare Karapetyan is a figurative artist originally from Armenia (Erevan) currently living and working in Barcelona, she considers herself multicultural since she has lived in Russia (Krasnodar), Argentina (Buenos Aires) and Spain (Madrid, Barcelona). Events that in some way has also shaped her personality and therefore her work.
She endeavors to capture in her realistic works the condition of being human, deepening moods and concepts between the dilemma of uncertainty and search of meaning in the presence of the unknown, or the inevitable fear of finitude.
Viktoria wonders over these matters constantly, and as an artist she feels compelled to guide the viewer over those intimate reflections. However she does not reveal a truth, because she believes the truth is improbable. She simply tries to converse with the viewer about these matters, generating a mirror effect between her art and the observer; a symbolic way of connection.
She believes that works of art are endowed with a certain aura or energy, which surrounds each artist and is embedded on their work. That energy is what the viewer can identify with at a certain moment in her life, thus generating a deep empathy. In addition to being an artist, she has been a Fashion Designer since 2006, knowledge that she applies to the production of her works.
Her obsession with the intangible and perfection together with her elegant feminine sensibility yield in artworks with depth and delicacy.
“Nare ́s art has the power to bring your own shadow side to the surface, and at the same instant, moment it transmutes it into light. A light we all carry and through her art she brings it through you. It’s the details, the silences, the treasures and many stories at the same time. Just like that. Her artwork offers you the opportunity to relive a past that you never had but that somehow you recognize. Her art invokes in you a peculiar feeling of familiarity in the midst of a strange life… and quite frankly, all is fine.”
By Efrat Cybylkiewitcz
Artist and Editor in chief in “Artmoire”
Exhibitions and awards
- August 2021: Finalist in the international contest “Beautiful Bizarre Art Prize 2021”. Australia
- July 2021: Semi-finalist in the contest “Figurativas 2021”. Barcelona, Spain
- March 2021: Collective exhibition “Woman Painting” at the MEAM Museum. Barcelona, Spain
- January 2021: Collective exhibition at “AnArteGallery”. San Antonio, Texas.
- December 2020: Finalist in the international contest ModPortrait. Included in the 2020 Catalog.
- November 2020: Semi-Finalist in the international contest ARC. Included in the 2020 Catalog.
- November 2020: Collective exhibition “Human Condition” at AnArteGallery. San Antonio, Texas.
- August, 2020: Participation in the collective online exhibition “Ambivalence”, Artsy, Galleria 33 Contemporary. Chicago, Illinois.
- June 2020: Participation in the collective online exhibition “Shelter”, Artsy, 33Contemporary Gallery. Chicago, Illinois.
- March 2020: Participation in the collective online exhibition “Your best painting”, Arte Libre Gallery. Barcelona, Spain.
- February 2019: Participation in online gallery ClATIA, China.
1. Tell us a little bit about your fascination with realistic in your artwork.
I have a vivid memory of my childhood observing for hours the printed reproduction of Mona Lisa’s portrait by Da Vinci, hanging in one of the bedrooms in my grandparents’ house. Since I was little, I have been attracted and intrigued by art, those intrinsic aspects of human being that even today cannot be explained exactly, why do we feel attracted to certain things and not others since we starting to construct memories?
Perhaps and only perhaps that approach has shaped in me the attraction for realism. A certain search for familiarity, perhaps if it were an abstract painting, would not have been so significant to me.
Figuration is essential to the human being, we can see it in “Cave art” in those first artistic manifestations. It seems that it is in our nature to portray what is visible and try to emulate in some way what is invisible but what somehow we know it’s there, we feel it, but we still cannot explain it. In this quest to represent the invisible, surely abstract art was based or simply in contrast to so many years of figuration as a rebellion. But in my opinion, the invisible can be represented with familiar forms, thereby enabling the spectator to connect and mimetize, taking them to unfamiliar planes.
That is why I am fascinated by realism, but I clarify, not for the perfect reproduction of an object or figure without reason. It is what I want to convey and generate through that familiarity that matters most to me.
For this reason, and naturally, I am prone to creating spaces between the real and the dreamlike. The balance between the visible and invisible.
2. Is it important that your art feels alive in some way?.
If It is important? of course, if the viewer perceives it that way, it is my wish. For me it is essential to be faithful to my intuition and let my subconscious flow, being purely authentic with who I am and what I want to express. And as I evolve and develop as a person, my art in the same way reflect it. To be clear, many times it is not necessary to reach the maximum degree of detail or Hyperrealism to achieve this, since the same could happen in a photograph, it is what is behind the apparent, behind each brushstroke, the human factor, the small or large details that make the painting have the signature and essence of the author. The energy, the yearnings, the love of art embedded in the canvas cm by cm.
3. When did you start showing an interest in painting?
Art has always been present in my life, it has been an innate vocation, I think. Although I have known and felt it constantly, the fears of failure, family and social mandates led me to move away from it and resume it as an adult. In this encounter, my husband, an artist of exceptional quality, Martin Llamedo, has played an extremely important and fundamental role. I can say that art and painting united us, and day by day it feeds our soul and gives meaning to our journey of life together. Although that happened in 2010, it was not until 2014 that the illusion began to throb in me that perhaps it was possible to allow myself to dedicate to what I knew I loved to do. At that time Martín was teaching drawing and painting classes in his atelier and I began to participate in them, starting with drawing and after a year moving on to oil painting.
When working with color and oils, I noticed that it was the medium with which I felt more “Me”. There was very little time I could dedicate to painting, since I had a full-time job (Designer and Product Manager for a men’s clothing firm) that was very demanding and consumed a lot of time and energy. For this reason I was able to finish my first work after a year and a half of completion. I can firmly affirm that every minute of my effort and training, every night in wakefulness and the risk of making the decision to quit a job with a fixed and constant salary, has been worth it to fully dedicate myself to what gives meaning to my life.
4. Your technical proficiency is astounding – what kind of work ethic have you had over the years to get to where you are now? Further to that question, what does an average day look like for you?
Although we know that there is an innate question and certain inclinations towards one subject or another, only the incessant practice and the development of it can lead us to a possible excellence in whatever we are going to do. It is worth clarifying that the parameters of excellence depend on the context, socio-cultural and geographical issues and on individual and collective values and searches.
My case is not very different from this rule “Work day by day and constantly to your maximum potential, in whatever it is that you are passionate about doing.”
Learning for me is constant and fundamental, it is a one way path. While possible “excellence” is desired and achievable, there will always be greater “excellence”. That is why the feeling of achievement, or conformity is usually fleeting in me. I could say that I do not finish the works, I let them go, since I feel that I could improve them eternally not only technically but in this desire to somehow catch that vital energy, a certain essence of myself from that period that I longing that transcends. It is a moment in which I sense that it is the exact moment to let it go.
My days painting are the routine that I always dreamed of having, until a few years ago it was just that, a longing. Now that I can do it and while I can do it, I try to give myself 100% and above all and beyond the natural frustrations in the permanent battle to improve and/but enjoy the process.
The painting takes place, with a lot of coffee in between, sometimes in silence, sometimes with music that accompanies my energy and mood of the day, other times podcast, notes or interesting interviews, mostly on philosophy and art. Most days I struggle between 80% frustration and 20%. of satisfaction.
Now I can affirm that when you work of what you love, you lose the notion of working, it is what you are, it is what gives meaning to your existence.
I who lived for many years in automatic mode (of which I do not deny, every hour of my past has formed the conception of what I am today) I can say that doing what you are passionate about is an awakening, it is really BEING. And I always try to encourage people, to inquire, to introspect what they are really passionate about and do everything possible to carry it out, to wake up.
5. From birds, to flowers, and patterns, how do you choose your subjects & composition? What significance do they have to you?
It is not about choosing, the elements do not come first, then the concept and composition. My creative process is initially intuitive, then its maturation and the analysis of that intuition is what becomes a piece or not. First of all for me it is essential to be authentic and listen to my inner voice, surrender to my subconscious, and then rationally and consciously analyze why. In this maturation process, many ideas fade along the way, for not fulfilling my search in rational analysis, and others are transformed and strengthened. Fundamentally my works are based on the idea of the analysis of the inner world in connection with the whole (the universal), I try to delve into the purest condition of the human being, idealistically prevailing our capacity for empathy, resilience, intuition, connection. The elements that I use are the representative metaphor of the invisible, that is why the game between the real and the illusory (dreamlike) pictorial. To bring the viewer to the level of familiarity but breaking it down to try to expand the barriers of the apparent, to promote deep analysis, the question instead of the answer or simply generate a network of connection that I wish that transcends more than my time on earth.
6. With the amount of time and effort that go into each piece – do you ever find it difficult to part with them when they are complete? As an artist how do you cope with parting of your paintings?
I feel that my paintings, beyond being the product of what I explains in the previous point, are a kind of diary, a testimony of my history, my day to day and a possible future that I long for. There, in the brushstrokes, although not apparent, is my daily state, my definitive mutations due to the entire emotional process that went through during its realization.
An intrinsic relationship is generated, but ultimately it is precisely the “Leitmotif” that drives me to create, from the deepest and most vulnerable of the interior towards the search for the final connection with the viewer.
It is like putting a little piece of me on the canvas and letting it go, it is difficult to explain, but it is a bittersweet feeling and at the same time bareness towards the world. But bareness that I seek for the reason that consciously or unconsciously prompts me to create. Beyond looking pretentious, I clarify these are my wishes, since I consider there is no absolute truth in anything.
7. What do you think is the future of realism in the art world?
What a difficult question, it requires an in-depth analysis of how values and preferences have changed over the last century. But what I can observe is that the general value that is given to art itself is in decline compared to what it was given in the past.
Throughout the last century, paradigms were breaking, generating new concepts and artistic movements, but beyond that the figuration persisted although now it had to share space with its abstracts brothers. And welcome to every art form that pushes and expands the barriers of the mind.
Based on my hypothesis of the search for familiarity and mimesis in representation. As humans continue to preserve the capacity for empathy and deep analysis, we will continue to preserve figurative art. Of course, it is changing with the appearance of new technologies and new tastes. And it does not mean that something is better or but or of greater or less value, as long as there are new proposals that go hand in hand with social evolution and are testimony of the time, welcome. But I try to remain idealistic and romantic in the fact that the “traditional”, will continue to be given value, what is done by hands and the purest human essence.
I hope with illusion to it being so.
8. Apparently you are always on the lookout for new objects to include in your artwork. What makes something special enough to be used in a painting?
This is going to be an expansive response to the answer about my creative process and the elements that I use in my creations. The elements also have a lot to do with the things that inspire me, on a daily basis, which can be a conscious (rational) and unconscious process.
Inspiration is not necessarily a specific thing, it can be the bark of a tree, the rainbow of orchids, the branches of trees drawing veins in the sky, a bee pollinating, there is so much to be inspired by nature. So also an aroma, a book, a dance, a music or a deep talk with a friend or simply delving deeply into human nature and questioning whys.
All this is latent, it is part of my daily experiences and the baggage that makes me who I am, the conception I have of myself, the avatar that I reflect with the desire for them to see me, and appreciate it in my work.
And as the creative process is intrinsic to my experiences and which are evolving, mutating and others disappearing, thus new elements are incorporated and others are discarded. Again it is not a conscious process until the maturing moment of the idea, all the previous thing is to surrender to my intuition and subconscious. In the conscious and rational process, looking for the sense of why the choice of this or that element forms the concept behind each piece. The composition is generally also intuitive, I can modify it according to the parameters of what the “beautiful” represents for me, but it always ends up being a balance between the first intuition and the objective, visual beauty, the attempt to balance the work.
9. For you what has been the most challenging piece to date? What made it so difficult?
Each piece has had its degree of difficulty for different reasons, but I could mention perhaps the two most significant, which have been a hinge in my career.
“Reincarnation” was the first important piece that marked a before and after on a technical and conceptual level. When I started it in 2018 with the illusion of being able to dedicate myself fully to painting, which at that time was only perceived in a distant horizon, I did not imagine that it would definitely be the piece that would propel me to the art market two years later.
The difficulty was that it was the first time I painted a practically entire body, which was maximized since it was a relatively large size. For painters who seek a finish as perfect and fused as possible (without material charge) it becomes very complex, since it is difficult to achieve these subtleties in the different work sessions on the surface of a body, and the more surface the more difficult. It had to be long and consecutive hours of painting to minimize the possible notoriety of the edges, but that at that time I could not afford since I worked full time as Product Manager and could only dedicate myself fully on weekends. For this reason, it took a little more than a year to finish it, but the intensity of the practice and the desire to improve was noticed in the final result, it was an immense and intense learning.
“El Desvelo” was perhaps more difficult due to the emotional aggregate. And here I will have to elaborate trying to be as brief as possible.
When the decision of a drastic change in life is made, even if that decision is the awakening of the real meaning of it, what we usually suffer is a kind of mourning. Somehow we kill our “Being” from the past to transform ourselves into the “Being” of the present, a kind of reincarnation in life. We evaporate our old routines to generate new ones. This happened to me in some way in all the drastic changes that I experienced throughout my life but of less intensity given the degree of importance and / or trauma that this change in my emotional state had or simply because I did not have the emotional maturity or strong enough to get into the analysis and introspection of the events.
As I mentioned before, I lived for many years in an automatic mode and I realized that it was when I made the decision to make the shift. Many times when we are asked “who are you?” we usually define ourselves by our profession, it seems that it is our social representation in the capitalist world in which we live, what is not bad or good is simply a mechanism of adaptability.
But does our profession really define us? Saying that I was a Fashion Designer did not define me, but I can say that I feel completely authentic when I define myself as an artist. And although this does not make the totality of “me”, it encompasses the essence of what gives my life real meaning.
This change, as I said, involved a duel, somehow the avatar that I had created and the consequent routine had created an uncomfortable comfort zone and getting out of it took courage. The inevitable fear of the unknown and the insecurity that it brings in all aspects.
All this added to my historical baggage and traumatic events that I had masked with tasks and more tasks led me to a depression that I had never thought I would suffer, since I addressed with resilience all the difficulties that had presented themselves throughout my life until then.
I thought I had overcome it, since I had been under psychological and psychiatric treatment throughout 2018 but the duel was still ongoing unconsciously which led to a Major Depression at the end of 2019. I never imagine that I could fall into the state in which the idea of living was more difficult than dying. To lose the total meaning of life is to be dead while alive, and again I was in a deep and dark hole from which this time I believed it was almost impossible to get out. This led to many months of inactivity in which recovery was the fundamental task that I struggled to carry out.
I stopped painting because even what I was most passionate about doing was not making sense. I had lost the “me” that represented me, transforming myself into an entity without personality, questioning who I was and without the strength to visualize who I wanted to be.
“El Desvelo” was the pictorial result of the recovery of that depression, of the awakening that gave meaning to my existence. It was the result of stripping myself to my vulnerabilities, surrendering to my subconscious and reflecting the inner chaos that I had suffered. It is where that dark period is conjugated, with the wakefulness of the “Leitmotif” of my life. All this added to the difficulty of painting again after almost half a year of not touching a brush.
I felt that I had captured everything said in the work, but at the same time I was urged by the need to do so through a statement about the work, which I would like to share with you to conclude.
In a timeless environment, undefined between the real and the oneiric, is THE BEING surrounded by an apparent ritual of earthly depersonalization and universal massification. The masked ceremony is the cosmogony where time and space are regenerated, revealing its universal SELF. There, it loses its identity, mutates, questions itself and questions its reality.
Past, present and future merge into an amorphous mass where the multiplicity of internal and external voices cry out for The Wakefulness.
Conscious and unconscious, it hide its apparent identity.
¿Perhaps its also unaware of it? ¿Would THE BEING inhabit its skin. Would you do it?
Its creative limbs abide the amorphous mass of the past, present and future. THE BEING has been discarded and deconstructed in order to recreate itself with eyes that question and challenge the act of existing, perishing, transcending.
10. How would you define a successful art career?
The definition of success is relative and has to do both with the sociocultural and geographical context and with the particular searches of each one. This rule generally applies to all spheres.
My particular prospecting lies in the simple fact of being able to do every day what gives meaning to my existence and enjoying that process. Of course I have aspirations and goals, more than dreams, I am usually realistic and perhaps censorious in what respects the limitlessness of dreams. My goals are concrete and beyond the fact that unforeseen events can take me out of the way, I try every day to work towards meeting them. In the short term, it is the end result of each work since with each I attempt to expand my knowledge and force the barriers of my abilities both conceptually and technically, each one is the manifest of my life and my person at that time. My long-term goal is to sustain this equation throughout my life. The success will lie in that I lived every day of my life with meaning, giving the best of me, learning incessantly and evolving according to my values as an artist and as a person and trying to be of positive impact for the rest. With the hope that perhaps the work that I represent throughout my life will be an impulse so that others can awaken to the meaning of the their lives.
11. When compared to a photograph, what effect would you say your paintings to have over the viewer?
Clearly I cannot give an accurate answer to the impact my works have on viewers. But yes, I can affirm the one that I seek and wish to achieve.
Before moving on, I would like to clarify from my perspective the difference between a photograph (which is still a work of art if the photographer is an “artist”) and a painting. The concept or the idea behind the work can be carried out both in photography and in painting, the difference is that in the case of the former it is carried out by means of a mechanical device and printed by another mechanical device. So in the realization itself, the human factor and all that it entails is lost. With this I do not give more or less value to photography or painting, but I mark the obvious differences that sometimes are not seen as such.
As I had mentioned in a previous answer, I consider that my works are the manifesto of my daily experiences imbued with all the emotions and everything that life itself entails cm by cm on the canvas during its realization. Therefore, beyond the fact of being a resulting object that represents an idea, it contains part of my essence, the human factor that characterizes me as a perfectly imperfect being. That is what gives each piece and in general each artist unique character and is the main difference between photography and painting.
What do I seek to generate with my works?, Connection, sisterhood, empathy, an instant of the feeling of familiarity that is found in the not apparent, a paradigm break, a reflection, an introspection, a mimesis, a tear, a smile, a wakening.
12. The world around you has changed a lot over the years. Today painters and art stand for a different thing than they did 30 years ago.
Of course, as I had mentioned before, for me, art is the purest manifestation of the human essence that is reflected in a unique and different way in each era and is inherent to the experiences and the historical and social context.
I believe that a paradigm shift has been perceived first with the appearance of the internet and then with the boom of social networks and the over-exposure of images and visual information.
Overexposure generates a vicious circle that is fed with more overexposure, which becomes an acceleration that leads to visual anxiety. The positive aspects of connecting with every corner of the world are contrasted with this anxiety-generating machine.
Unfortunately, this acceleration has kept us from a careful and deep appreciation of things. In current generations even language tends to be shortened, it seems that having a rhythm that until now was considered normal and human is now synonymous of scarcity of social intelligence.
So of course, how does spending months painting with almost no exposure fit into this devouring equation?
What happens is that the artists; painters, figurative draftsmen, especially realists, we began to feel a little out of the system. And in this search for adaptability to the environment and the market, the essence and “leitmotif” of each artist can be lost.
This is reflected in the appearance of other art media that are faster to execute, for example digital art and recently the NFT’s.
This means that there is an artistic ecosystem rooted between traditional art (real, physical object) and fighting to maintain positions against the technological and accelerated (immaterial). This is the current artistic manifestation, this juxtaposition and battle. We will see in the near future what will prevail. Although I try to remain idealistic and believe that traditional art is always going to have value, due to the fact that I previously explained (the purest human factor, its non-apparent fundamental essence) and of our capabilities of empathizing with the subject and object.
13. What is your next big challenge to tackle?
The practice of maintaining a balanced life with constant goals is a challenge enough to tackle on a day-to-day basis. I have not yet set a higher goal than to be authentic and faithful to that ideology. Based on that, each piece is an important challenge for me and in each one I give myself to the maximum and try to expand my capacities. I cannot affirm that in the future I will propose or not the challenge of painting the “masterpiece” of my life, I respect that term but I do not feel it as something natural for me. If there will be a “masterpiece” at some point, it will not be because I planned it to be one but because that moment of my life and the events that I seek to experience based on my actions came together in a need to manifest it in such a way so that the result was masterful. And that could only be achieved by taking each day, each work as the challenge it deserves to be.