Hearing Art Seeing Sound, or HASS FEST, an international arts festival featuring collaborative work from Armenian painters and international composers, takes place this week.
After months of art-sharing and conversations with music composers, Armenian artists prepare for their exhibitions on July 7 and July 9 at the Museum of Modern Art. Each artist was paired with a composer who composed a piece of music inspired by a painting. The festival is organized by Progressive Art Agency, which aims to provide a platform for the creation of new work through collaborative art between Armenian and internationally-renowned artists and composers.
Artist Garik Karapetyan was partnered with two composers, Ben Lunn from Lithuania and Yiran Zhao from China. Karapetyan is from Davtashen in the Aragatsotn region, but he also spends time in France and the U.K. His work has been exhibited extensively in France and Armenia as well as in Lebanon, Germany, the United States, and Russia.
Because Zhao was unable to stay for the duration of the festival, her piece “Touch II” was performed early on Monday at a “pre-fest concert” at the Modern Art Museum, just hours prior to the opening ceremony at the Armenian Center for Contemporary Experimental Art (ACCEA).
Zhao choose Karapetyan’s paintings to base her musical response, though both Zhao and Karapetyan agreed that one cannot compose music about a painting.
Yiran Zhao rehearses “Touch II”, which involves dampening the strings on the piano as it is played. The piece is composed for grand piano, flute, clarinet, guitar, and viola.
“Music is about music,” Karapetyan said. Or as Zhao explained, the piece, titled “Touch II” “is not special for one painting, but for Garik’s style,” she said. “It’s more like an abstract concept, which I tried to make similar, under my own understanding.”
Collaboration for Zhao and Karapetyan is about providing a meeting ground where two art forms meet at equal level. “Only when art engages at the same high level can collaboration be possible,” said Karapetyan.
A recording of “Touch II” will be played on July 9 at the Armenian Center for Contemporary Experimental Art, while Ben Lunn’s composition, “For Garik,” is scheduled to be performed on Thursday, July 7 at the Museum of Modern Art.
Another artistic combination is with Yerevan-based painter Vahag Hamalbashyan and Maja Palasar, a composer from the U.K.
Hambalbashyan has exhibited his art widely in Armenia, as well as in Georgia, the United Kingdom, and Lithuania. His work often consists of acrylic paints, ink illustrations, oil paint prints, and the use of stencils. Influenced by street artists such as Banksy and Blek de Rat, Hamalbashyan said art should have a message and also be beautiful. “If you use beauty to give a message to someone, it’s twice as beautiful,” he said.
Hamalbashyan using the Soviet printer that belonged to his father, artist Sargis Hamalbashyan, who also likes to use stencils.
The message in Hamalbashyan’s art work is often about the combination of the mundane and the tragic or monumental. Like much street art, Hamalbashyan is interested in politics, whether it be Brexit or the bombings in Turkey. “Gravitation,” the work Palasar used to compose her piece, considers waiting for a bus at the same time that a war wages in Syria.
Before Hamalbashyan heard Palasar’s finished piece, he said he knew he would be happy with the results. Hamalbashyan listened to different clips during the composition stage and said he thought Palasar was successfully creating the soundtrack of the work. “It’s a musical illustration,” he said. “I’m really happy that we could understand each other very quickly.”
The process of working with a composer also helped Hamalbashyan think about his work in new ways. “For me, collaboration is one of the most important things for artists,” he said. “An artist must grow,” he said, explaining that collaboration is an important artistic influence.
Maja Palasar’s composition will be performed Thursday, July 7 at the Museum of Modern Art.
Other Armenian artists participating in the festival include Vahe Berberian (USA), Diana Hakobyan, Sam Grigorian (Germany), Gagik Babayan (Germany), Sonia Balassanian (USA), Nana Aramyan, Viola Bittl (Germany), Saro Galentz, and Arthur Sarkissian.
Other participating composers include Bofan Ma (China), Andrey Rubtsov (Russia), Justina Repeckaite (Lithuania), Evan Kassof (UK), Kristina Arakelyan (UK), Alex McGery (UK), Elischa Kaminer (Germany), Thanakarn Henry Schofield (UK/Thailand), and Van Sarkissian (Switzerland).
The festival also includes a concert series and masterclasses for musicians. See their Facebook page for a complete list of events.
Text and Photos by Heather Momyer
HASS FEST WEBSITE: http://hassfest.com/hass-fest
HASS FEST FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/hassfest/
To hear a different recording of Zhao’s “Touch II,” see her YOUTUBE link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v7COTRg2_pQ