Unlike painters of her generation, Annie Kurkdjian does not portray literal representations of conflict, nor does she resort to idyllic escapism. Instead, her oeuvre is defined by a gentle, whimsical, painterly voice that unexpectedly and uncannily captures the full force and brutality of war and violence. As quoted by Kurkdjian: “I’m trying to express all that anger in paintings, because it’s the most peaceful way to express anger, I think, art. It’s like Post Traumatic Disorder, but I’m managing it in artistic ways. It’s the best therapy.”
Informed by academic studies on psychosis, Kurkdjian’s paintings are playful yet darkly provocative, shrewdly embodying the fragility of humanity. The painterly voice that Kurkdjian found for herself consists of a dark, acrid world softened by warm earth colours. The despair sits beside a constant search for mercy and dignity, at times sensuous, at others exposing shame. Above all, Kurkdjian takes inspiration from life and its instabilities, carving out a world through her art even as she tries to fathom and make sense of it.
“Surfaces become concave, legs stretch into arms and the eyes become fixed inwards, extending beyond the canvas, into unforeseeable places that are forbidding yet tempting and sensuous. The destination could be redemption, but might as well be loss and darkness.”
What is the fondest memory of your childhood?
My father. His smell, his hands, his smile. He was brutally murdered when I was 12. Everything that comes from him is the fondest memory of my childhood. I keep all the objects he used, all the gifts he gave me, everything I was able to save related to him. Enough to create a museum.
How did art find you?
I could not have a very normal childhood because in my country there was war, my family was devastated. Too often I only had the white space of a paper to draw the things I dreamed of and couldn't have. I managed my frustrations this way and my friendship with white spaces has become very solid over the years. The white canvas became a refuge, a family, a shelter where I hid to protect and rebuild myself.
What does it mean to be free?
To be free is to have a reason to live which is also having a reason to die. To have something for which you are ready to give everything and from which you are ready to receive everything. This opens up space in front of us to spread our wings. Because we all have wings, but they need wide spaces.
Can anger be a positive feeling, in your opinion?
Anger cannot be a positive feeling, it can destroy us. But we can also use it as an engine to rebuild something better. One must have received a lot of love, have a healthy soul, to be able to use anger positively.
What gives you hope?
What gives me hope is the sense of duty, the desire to complete the task entrusted to me. The idea of bringing my part in this world, something that only I can and must do... and the love of doing it as well as possible.
What is the antidote to violence, in your opinion?
Beauty, Truth, and Goodness are the antidotes of violence. All three can be extremely violent too, terrifying if the soul is not prepared. But they liberate and heal. When Truth is out, lies enter a horrible agony. When Beauty puts its hand on disorder, there's also pain – just like in Botticelli's painting "Pallas and the Centaur". Beauty getting the horrified centaur by the hair. Just to establish harmony and peace in the end.
Courtesy of Firetty Contemporary