Artist Interviews 2022

Made of Hagop  
By Julia Siedenburg

Made of Hagop is an exceptionally talented artist who makes enchanting artworks. He brings a bit more beauty and mysticism to the world one art piece at a time. These mixed media creations were made with the help of found materials from hundreds of years ago. His dedication to his work especially shows as each piece he makes is completely unique. Not two originals are the same.

Spirituality, humanity, and guiding animal figures are his strongest themes and he is a true master of capturing their essence. His works stole my heart immediately when I saw them and I knew I had to learn more about him and share his thoughts and inspirations with you all. So please enjoy this interview below, dear reader.

You are an amazingly talented self-taught artist. What does creating art mean to you?

Creating art is a form of transcendence. Art is my my healer, my sanity, my liberation, my exodus but most of all, it is my mentor - reflecting back to me, my authenticity- showing me exactly where I am at in life. It is my way of showing up for myself and working things out, processing my feelings and understanding life experiences more than words can. Creating art is my frequency broadcasting into the world.

What is your fascination with mixed media art and was that what you started with when you begun making art?

I started my creative journey by doing abstract paintings and that developed into assemblage/found object work. From there I wanted to step away from the 3-dimensional art form in order to explore a flatter 2-dimensional collage format. I worked with collage for many years and it has been the basis of my art practice. Mixed media came about when I was ready to push the boundaries of my collage creations to the next level. The medium is limitless with possibility, and there is a lot of room for experimentation with inventive techniques that give my work a recognizable style. It is important for the final artwork to include at least one element I do with my hands. As an example, I include embroidery as a medium in some of my works. Sumi ink and watercolor are also some components I often use. The imprint these materials leave on the work is the recorded impression of my hands at that moment- and that to me is essential.

Your gold leaf detailing and your embossed name stamped on your pieces are elements found in all of your works, with the usage of all your materials together, every piece stays completely unique. Is keeping each of these pieces unique something that is very important to you?

Absolutely!! I aim for every piece to be telling a story and emoting a feeling but keeping cohesion. Having a DNA, in the crowded realm of creativity, is a hard thing to find and establish. My goal is for my work to truly unique within my realm, like a snow flake.

What is the story behind the special edition Fedayi piece you did?

Fedayi in Armenian is the name given to civilians who voluntarily left their families to form self-defense units in reaction to the mass murder of Armenians and the raid of Armenian villages by criminals. As a child, I looked up to the “Fedayi” as a superhero, I resonated with the idea and had dreams of becoming one when I grew up. As an adult, I do not subscribe to violence and I approach solutions in my life through my artwork. I wanted to create the totem of a Fedayi - to honor and celebrate all those selfless beings. Two wings cover his eyes to symbolize the ability to conjure freedom. He is pictured in front of an ancient page of an Armenian bible dating to the 15th century, with the words embellished with 24K gold leaf, to resemble the backbone of his journey. He has a herd of crows across his chest to remind him to always believe in his magic and stay true to his path.

What caught my eye when I first saw your beautiful delicate fairytale pieces were the “ Across the Universe” artworks. Later I learned that all your inspiration roots “ from books and materials dated from the early 1500s to 1800s, and are retrieved from public domains and libraries from around the world” as mentioned on your Website. How did you get the idea to base your work on those materials and what did it take to get your hands on the right books?

My work is about synergy, specific parts of wood carvings, engravings, illustrations from different eras of human history come together to create a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. The main theme of my creations is humans meeting their spirit animals. I want people to recognize their source connection, their own potential and strength of character reflected back to them with the power of the animal kingdom. Before humankind learned to read we depended on word of mouth or on visual symbols to express meaning, to learn, and to communicate ideas. By using images from different centuries, the dialogue of communication is deeper and more elaborate because it has spanned a multitude of generations and has the prospective to resonate with more people and cultures. When I use parts of an artist’s work from a few hundred years ago, it feels like a natural exchange. The artist gets to be seen again and communicate their work with newer generations and have an opportunity to have their work placed in a new context: what you could call a “recycling of history.” Libraries from around the world have digitized many of their books that have started to deteriorate in the efforts to save the information and images they contained. Once digitized the libraries have made these files public domain for artists and designers to work with and remix. I spend excessive hours researching and digging through images to find the right ones that I resonate with in order for the creative process to begin.

Every series of yours is so unique, yet they always stay true to the theme of spirituality, humanity, and guiding animal figures. What inspired you to create the Chroma series as well as the newer work with handmade paper that you exhibit at The Other Art Fair?

The Chroma series started during the first lockdown of the pandemic. I had been wanting to push my creative practice for sometime and needed a moment to brainstorm about what is next. I found the window of opportunity to dive deep into this exploration. I knew the body of work was going to be in color. I was coming from the black and white world and I was inspired to see how color played within my creative sphere. I wanted the final artwork to reflect and look like the pages of the books that the images came from. I wanted the overall feel of the work to have an ancient feel but with a modern approach. after a lot of research and some experimenting I sourced the right handmade papers to create the work on.

Tell us a bit more about your upbringing and your background.

I am Armenian but was born and raised in Damascus, Syria. I came to the states in my early teens. I received my Bachelors in Mathematics but always knew that I wanted to live my life as an artist. I am self-taught and no one in my family is in the creative profession. I worked as a waiter for many years and then as a music supervisor making playlists for restaurants and retail spaces around Los Angeles before putting 100% of my energy into my art career.

What stands out right away is that you are not only an amazing artist but you also have a great sense of style. Does the way you dress help you with creating art? Are there certain clothing items you need to wear or rituals you do that get you into the right zone?

Being an artist is not an occupation but a way of life. Creativity does not only have to be expressed with my art but through everything I do. Dressing is and extension of my expression and I find fashion an important aspect in my life. Looking good always adds to feeling good. Scent is also very important part of living. It creates the aura that foreshadows the experience for the day. I love creating my own oil blends that help me set the mood for creating, or setting a tone. I have always been into scents from a young age and in recent years that passion has developed into a small olfactory offering you can find in my shop. Wearing perfume or fragrance oils creates ritual and is about synthesis - the composition or combination of parts or elements so as to form a whole and creating synergy - a motto that repeats itself through many aspects of my life.

Your biography says that your work is “challenging society’s preconceived notions regarding race, gender, and culture. Those are all topics that are currently heavily challenged due to political and social attacks, revolutions, and wars. The political climate here is constantly being put in question and in Iran and Ukraine, the people are begging for peace and change. How powerful can art be in these situations in your opinion? Could it end a war?

Art can be anything we want it to be. Art can play a role in blurring the line between fantasy and reality. It can be both comforting and then very uncomfortable; it can push the muscle of imagination to help people break down the walls of separation and gain new perspective on life. The intention behind the art plays a big role because art can be like planting seeds, we do not see the seed until it has fully grown from the dirt. That is the beauty of art, the work is not always visible but the outcome is loud and clear allowing the synthesis to create a new vision for a better and diverse world. So in short, yes. Art could be an agent to end war.

What is next for you? Are any new shows or series planned yet?

I just released a small series of new works available through my shop. The butterfly is an animal I love working with and is the main theme in these works. We are always in a state of change and transformation and my aim with these pieces is to reflect on how we can navigate these transitions with ease. 2023 will be the year where I will be exhibiting at many fairs. For now I am confirmed to do The other art fair in LA in March 2023 and Superfine Art Fair in October.

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