World Fine Art Professionals and their Key-Pieces, 56 - Marie Zolamian

Marie Zolamian is recording the history of persons, all the time. She draws and paints them, creates installations, videos and she makes sound art. She connects experiences. Her subjects: identity, integration, memory and uprooting. Zolamian invites us in this way to put our ideas and beliefs into question. The intended result is an expansion of your range of possibilities. Said Nancy Casielles, curator and collaborator of BPS 22, the Art Museum of Hainaut, Belgium.

Recently she created a sculpture for the Biennale “Arts et Métaux” in 2014 in Jehay on request of the Province of Liège. This work, a large iron cage, entitled Château Intérieur, stands in het garden of the Belgian Embassy in The Hague. The design and implementation of the cage is by Alain de Clerck. That Château Intérieur refers to Teresa of Avila, a Spanish Saint and religious reformer of the 16th century. She was a leading figure of the Christian mystical spirituality and the first woman who was recognized as a Doctor of the Church. Her books are one of the highlights of Spanish literature. One of them, written in 1577, has the title Château Intérieur, Inner Castle.

The soul

Marie Zolamian: ‘Teresa of Avila is an extraordinary woman, whom I find very modern. I have read the Inner Castle, a mystical book. My project for Jehay, my cage, which raises questions about the stolen heritage , is actually that Inner Castle: “Regarding our soul as a castle, entirely made out of one diamond or very clear crystal”.

“Let us return to our beautiful and delightful castle, and see how we can get into it. It seems as if I say something stupid: since this castle is the soul, you do not push in it, because it is already there; just as it would be foolish to say to somebody to enter a room where he already is. But you must understand that there are different ways to be in (…)”

Chosen exiles

Asked about the central theme in het work, Zolamian says: ‘My work can be seen as a series of successive events that ulimately result in an experimental record of a fictional folklore. The world is globalized, there is uprooting that influences the lifestyle, thoughts and stories from both the Western and Eastern world. Marie Zolamian herself was born in Beirut, Lebanon, but she has been living for a long time in Belgium. There, she took her art courses.

She chooses un unknown community and then goes in search of the heritage of that community. What does it mean that you belong to a community? What connects you with a territory? Zolamian: ‘The “chosen exiles” all have their story. That’s very important for them and for the community. The personal connection with a place or an inherited object is captured in it.’

‘It ultimately comes down to trying to achieve integration. Major components are identity, tradition and authenticity as well as place bondage and culture. This is implemented by means of a serial production of portraits and of connections between a personal and a collective history and the environment. It is a visual journey which is properly archived. It starts at an unknown place and ends in another unfamiliar place.’

Lost family network

Why has she chosen precisely this theme? Zolamian: ‘I do not know. Topics and themes come by on a global scale. Maybe it’s just a pretext to understand my environment and the way of life in it, so that I can make a connection – with a new language.’

Her key work is ‘nous partout’ (we everywhere), made in 2008. It is a cycle of thirteen oil paintings on canvas. Marie Zolamian: ‘It is the result of a family nucleus in thirteen settings I obtained from black/white photographs from the sixties and seventies of that family. The family group is a triangular composition in which you see four kids around a woman (mother or grandmother). That composition is the same in all thirteen settings. The characters seem immutable, there is only variation in the color of their clothing. Although the places in which the family is depicted do not seem to bother them , you get more and more the idea that it is not just about the persons depicted, but that they are the creators. In this view the work takes on a new meaning. Nous partout thus becomes the symbol of a hybrid identity, a cultural mix. The search for a lost family network and its reconstruction through fragmented and ‘worthless’ information gets thus its crystallization.’

All over the world

The series is shown at this moment in a group exhibition in Istanbul. At the time I spoke with her she had already started sending the series. Marie Zolamian, it can be seen already from the name, is an Armenian by origin. Her family lives all over the world, as is the case with many Armenians. Zolamian: ‘Therefore I send each work in the series to another country. One is already in Beirut (Lebanon), while others will go to Los Angeles, Jerusalem, Denmark, Athens …’

She has been artist from the moment she woke up one day and found that she had to do what she considered the most important: make art. Marie Zolamian: ‘Before that moment I woke up and got up to go doing commercial jobs. Those were bad days, they lasted a long ………….. long, long time. One I decided to do what I wanted to do, I decided to opt for the visual arts. I graduated at the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts de Liège, department of painting, and then joined in Group exhibitions. I also got a gallery, Galerie Nadja Vilenne. I then never stopped. I will never stop.’

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