Darat al Funun-The Khalid Shoman Foundation presents the first solo exhibition in the Arab world by photographer Hrair Sarkissian.
Hrair Sarkissian presents a series of photographic works made in Armenia, Syria, Turkey, as well as a new series made in Jordan during his residency at Darat al Funun last summer. In this last work, Transparencies (2012), Sarkissian depicts unfinished and abandoned housing developments, representing a vision of modern living that is now ghostly and decaying. Execution Squares (2008) show public squares in three Syrian cities where criminals are publicly hanged. Taken in the early morning at the time the executions usually take place, the quiet images reveal the fragile paradox between the beauty of the public space and its underlying reality. In Unexposed (2012) Sarkissian looks at the descendants of Armenians who converted to Islam to escape the genocide that took place in the Ottoman Empire in 1915. Today in Turkey, having rediscovered their roots and reconverted into Christianity, these descendants are forced to conceal their newfound Armenian-ness. In Sarkissian Photo Center/My Father and I (2010) Sarkissian documented his father’s photographic studio in Damascus. Confronted by its almost unavoidable upcoming closure, he was afraid to lose something he helped construct, and that constructed him. City Fabric (No. 1) shows the fading fabric covering unsold apartment buildings in Yerevan, Armenia, ghostly remnants of a superficial dream world.
Hrair Sarkissian earned his foundational training at his father’s photographic studio, where he spent all his childhood vacations and where he worked full-time for twelve years after high school. He pursued his studies at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam. Sarkissian was awarded the 2013 Abraaj Group Art Prize.
Using traditional documentary techniques, his photographic series consist of austere, large-scale images. The constancy and beauty of the settings, however, are at odds with the socio-historical realities that they conceal. “I use photography as a way to tell stories that are not immediately visible on the surface. Photography is my tool to search for answers related to my personal memories and background, and I use this subjectivity as a way to navigate larger stories that official histories are unable or unwilling to tell.”