The Lost Drawings of Nagorno-Karabakh
The devastating effect of the 2nd Karabakh War in 2020 left traces to last for years. Life goes on, those memories haunt people like shadows, and the consequences deepen day by day. During the forty-four-day war, the world’s attention was again focused on our region, both in political and public spheres and in the press. Not long after the end of the war, two correspondents of the French weekly newspaper “La Croix”, Pierre Sautreuil and Thomas Guichard, visited Karabakh.
They saw the devastating face of war up closer: destroyed Armenian settlements, destroyed, dispossessed houses and no people around; they have been deported. Passing through one of the villages, they stopped in one of the yards of an abandoned house: all around was a desolation, no sign of life and suddenly they noticed sketches of portraits on the floor. The residents of the house fled in panic, the paintings fell and remained on the floor. The village was located in the immediate vicinity of the Armenian-Azerbaijani contact line. French reporters took the pictures and noticed the author’s signature in the corner. At the beginning of April 2021, the same reporters visited Armenia again, travelled through the border settlements, went to Tavush, met and talked with people and suddenly they noticed some similarity between one of the people they were talking to and the portrait they found in the yard of an abandoned house in Charektar village, showed it to him and asked whether it was him who was depicted in the picture. The boy confirmed that it was him.
The latest incidents of 2023, the blockade of Lachin Corridor by the Azerbaijanis, which turned into a humanitarian disaster, were in the centre of attention of the international community and the press. In those days, Pierre Sautreuil and Thomas Guichard again touched upon the theme of Karabakh, the traces of their previous visits, the paintings they found in Charektar, and tried to find the artist. Fortunately, the paintings and the author’s signature remained unharmed and it said- Karapet Haji Aslanyan. The searches reach the goal, the artist confirms that he is the author of these paintings and that he is currently in France studying at the Ecole Superieure d’art et de design de Marseille.
Through 2017-18, Karapet Haji Aslanyan was on military service in Karabakh, mostly in Charektar. In his contacts with the local residents, Karapet got closer to the Amiryan family, and repaid their kindness and care towards him with his artistic talent; painting portraits of the family members. He finished his military service, returned to Yerevan, and entered the State Academy of Fine Arts of Armenia, having previously graduated from the Panos Terlemezyan State College of Fine Arts.
Mary Patvakanyan, the head of International relations department of the State Academy of Fine Arts of Armenia, said that Karapet turned to her at the end of the 2nd year of his studies with a request to support in continuing his studies at the Ecole Superieure d’art et de design de Marseille within the framework of the exchange program. The exchange was successfully actualized and he is now in his 3rd year and has recorded considerable success during this time. French reporters, having learned about this via the Internet, went to Marseille and met Karapet. An article was highlighted from their conversation, which was published in “La Croix” weekly newspaper.
It was either by chance or by providence, Charektar, Yerevan and the State Academy of Fine Arts of Armenia; Marseille, Paris and the local weekly “La Croix” were linked to each other.
A rather lengthy article was published entitled “Traces of an Armenian Family in Exile”, “The Lost Drawings of Nagorno-Karabakh” and of course, the pencil and charcoal portraits of Karapet Haji Aslanyan found in the yard of an abandoned house in Charektar, as well as several pictures of him studying at the Marseille School. The title of the article spoke for itself: journalists told about their impressions of the post-war trip to Karabakh, described the settlements, told about the fates of the people they met there. The hero of the other part of the article was Karapet Haji Aslanyan, a student of the State Academy of Fine Arts of Armenia, currently studying in Marseille, a black-haired Armenian young man with a soft smile, who told about himself, his character, the local people, his military service there, the Amiryan family, his portraits, his educational experience in France and about his interest for art and museum culture.
– Are you aware of the fate of that family? – asks the French reporters.
– No,- the young man answers.
– We are aware and we shall tell you now – Pierre Sautreuil and Thomas Guichard continue the conversation…
Find the full article from the Paris “La Croix” weekly here.