Armen Eloyan

Galerie Bob van Orsouw

A large-format narrative conveyed through extreme gestures: the next chapter in the story of figurative painting. Armen Eloyan turns up the volume and directs his own spotlights. TV Room (all works 2006): In the middle of a painterly maelstrom stuffed with props in a very wide landscape format, as if in the midst of a wide-screen movie, two gnomes sit in front of the TV set, staring silently into space, smoking joints, motionless, side by side on a garishly colored sofa, like the gang from South Park. No surprise, then, that this exhibition is titled “Comic-Related Paintings.” One wearing a top hat, the other a protective peaked cap, both with long, skinny noses, matchstick legs, and oversize shoes, the two clownlike dwarfs sink into some wild painting, composed of rapid brushstrokes dragged over the canvas. The tempo and the pathos of the impasto texture only initially divert the viewer from the strict composition of the work, which is actually based on tangles of color and emerges subliminally from pure gesture. At the edges of the painting, the chaos ends in an approximate geometry: The painting is defined by this sudden emptiness; it is only interrupted by the diagrammatic white cube of the TV screen, which brings new light into the dark scene—an open window. The word grotesque comes from the Italian grotta, a cave, a place where the fantastic and bizarre might occur; this is an exact description of the internal landscape of a TV-cave, where two hermits telecommunicate. Eloyan puts an end to the harmless world of comics and toys with Disaster: After a sort of “Déjeuner sur l’herbe,” Mickey Mouse stands exhausted in the shrill yellow light of a battle scene, in front of a charred body, next to a white bunny rabbit. The latter, pierced by an arrow, lies in a heap on the ground. Another tragic legacy left behind by Cupid’s bow, to be collected by what seems to be a stylized ambulance on the horizon.

“The sleep of reason produces monsters:” Goya’s precept echoes through this wild painting, whose volume silences all narrative and freezes its wan heroes in film-still postures. In this childlike world, painting has cast off all innocence, lost all naïveté. When everything is possible, then the question of what can be said about the set pieces evoked here becomes even more urgent. Eloyan has made a powerful entrance into the arena of gesture. A series of his pencil drawings were on show in the spring in “Villa Jelmini,” an exhibition in memory of Harald Szeemann at the Kunsthalle in Berne. Masked by distinctive sunglasses that mirror flashes of light, the diverse faces in those drawings show that it is all over. These are icons for rock-and-rollers. The next installment may show how this pandemonium can be shaped into an image of our Zeitgeist.

Hans Rudolf Reust

Translated from German by Jane Brodie.