Maps To The Stars
Pierre Aghaikian has an obvious tropism for large formats, which are those of historical painting, whose spectacular and grandiloquent nature continues to inspire the young artist. However, the references which cross his painting could not stick only to this tradition.
Here, in fact, the company of the classical masters does not turn its back from the more unexpected and more contemporary ones : Walt Disney and Kanye West are also part of it, playing their roles in the middle of the Primordial Chaos, which is agitated by a painter's gesture to bring out the icons devoted to sacrifice. In one corner of the scene, a pack of wolves darded with spears thus seems to replay Paolo Uccello's Battle of San Romano in the middle of a night zebra with lightning and glitches (KyloRen, 2018) ; elsewhere, a severed head is served to us on a luminous tray, while in the sky the rottweilers have replaced the angels (Maps To The Stars, 2018).
This astonishing syncretism then reveals an unexpected filiation, from the great epic frescos to the Hollywood odysseys, setting the scene for a shady tale that Pierre Aghaikian - this storyteller - intends to tell us about modern man: "My approach to painting is tragic, brutal, selfish and existentialist. I paint my culture, its medals and their lapels."
The mythology that Pierre Aghaikian reveals however surprises by its eminently personal and willingly anecdotal character. In this sense, it reminds us more of storytelling than of the great historical frescoes. If classical painting is a starting point it is because it cannot be otherwise (one never creates from nothing). But be not mistaken, it is less a matter of simply "updating" a tradition than of subordinating its characteristics to the expression of a singular and extremely contemporary vision of our world.
Smaller formats, more recent, draw on other sources. Not Genesis and Science Fiction, but those of childhood and the artist's fascination for cowboys. The story he offers us, developed from canvas to canvas by the recurrence of a character crowned with stars, is here more of a quest. It's a crusade to the Wild West, under the electric sky of a video game Eldorado. And if the pioneers of our time are no longer those of back then (the artist would tell you about Steve Jobs), this myth of conquest still carries within it the same promise of social ascension and evolution towards a higher level of existence.
For at last, Pierre Aghaikian's work can be seen as a spiritual journey, an initiatory journey into Neverland: who refuses to believe in it cannot approach the shores of the Island where Peter Pan and Darth Vader reign as masters, amused and threatening.
Thibault Bissirier, June 2018.