Armenian Culture, Science and Education Development Foundation

A Tribute to Artist Archak Karnikian (J. M. Carnie, 1934-2014)



My friend just passed away.
I met him over 40 years ago, in my early twenties, when I was still an art student at the National Academy of Fine Arts in Paris and he was a mature artist in his early forties. I went to see an exhibit of his paintings in a Paris art gallery, in 1973 as I recall, then I wrote an article for the daily Haratch newspaper about his work. He telephoned me when he read the published article and asked to come and see me in my studio. It was quite an intimidating visit. Archak was a man who would speak his mind in no uncertain words. One would love him or hate him for that reason. Looking at my sketches and academic paintings with his critical eye, he asked: “Now that you have proven to yourself that you can draw, what are you planning on doing next?” Frankly, I was expecting the question knowing his work, but I had no answer. “How about abstract painting” he said. I told him that I wouldn’t even know where to start.
Archak showed me where to start. This first encounter was the beginning of our four-decade long friendship, and mutual respect, with interminable visits in our studios that lasted until the early hours of the morning, and telephone conversations after my leaving France, never less than an hour long, all spent at analyzing, even dissecting our own work or the works of other artists. He was not the teacher who would tell you how to do things, he was the one who would tell you how to think your work.

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