The Life, Works and Death of Sculptor Benik Petrosian
When he died in early May, just a few years shy of age 60,
Benik Petrosian was already known as a sculptor who was
consistently unpredictable, bold and refined.
THE BIOGRAPHY OF B. PETROSIAN
His first work - a clay snake made before he began to attend school - made it clear he would choose sculpting as his creative medium. And he did. From his first show in Holland in 1957, where he displayed works of wood, to his last years, when his home had become a studio-workshop-museum, and the open spaces of Ijevan, had become a kind of school and gallery, Petrosian's work was never one-dimensional.
He was one of Armenia's few sculptors able to use different styles and functions of sculpting to express his creativity. There is a formal simplicity to his multi-faceted sculpture. For him, sculpting was both a public and private display, a communal and an intimate experience, at the same time.
A prime example of his public and communal sculptures are the works done in stone at the Annual Symposium in Ijevan, northeast of Yerevan, where for several summers young sculptors from throughout Armenia and elsewhere would congregate to live and create in the same environment. Petrosian was not only one of the driving forces and inspirational elements behind the symposium, he was also one of its most productive participants.
Petrosian's public works also manifest his love of nature, regardless of the size or medium of the work. In his early works in basalt, granite or tufa, and his later pieces in metal, Petrosian's figures were the foxes, snakes and lions of Armenia's forests.
The sculptor had never seen the forests of his parents' Gogth region, but he loved to hunt and he knew the forests and mountains of Armenia well.
Since the 1980s, he was at his most prolific, concentrating largely on miniature sculptures, which were the works that presented the intimate and private side of his creative output.
The forms were such that they could be displayed in private dwellings or even buried by ancient civilizations as the most cherished mementos of one's life. In all cases, there was a duality to Petrosian's work - the public and private, the stone and metal. And yet, in both style and function there is a compactness and self-sufficiency in his sculpture. He was able to turn them into timeless symbols, reduced to their most basic shape and essence.
He was among the few lucky artists whose work was appreciated and commended. For six years running, from 1985 to 1991, he received the USSR's "Best Sculpture" award for the work he loved most - miniature sculptures in metal, marble, basalt and his favorites, tufa and onyx.
Petrosian's work was exhibited throughout the former Soviet Union, as well as Belgrade, New York, Los Angeles, Boston, Paris, Canada, Japan, Italy and Switzerland. Now, more than 500 of his works in Yerevan will serve as the basis for what he had hoped would become a school of miniature sculpture. Even before his death, during the many months of illness, Petrosian had begun to plan. Now, his wife and greatest fan, Alice Adamian, will pursue his dream. A Petrosian Fund has been established to make possible a museum and workshop as Petrosian's legacy.
Artashes Hovannisian, a great sculptor in his own right, whose statues of Alexander Tamanian and Armen Tigranian grace Yerevan's public spaces, commented that "Monumentalism is, first of all, idea and form, not just the size of the sculpture. Beno can do the things I do but I cannot do the things he does."
BY GOHAR SAHAKIAN
38 (AIM MAY) JUNE 1996