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Arts and Crafts
January 25, 2019
Education is More Than Instruction
January 29, 2019
 

Lizzy Vartanian Collier is a London-based writer and curator. Lizzy recently curated Perpetual Movement as part of Arab Women Artists Now (AWAN) Festival 2018 in London, which was featured in Vogue Arabia and The Art Newspaper.

Lizzy, you were a curator at this year's Armenian art fair and it was a major success! Please tell us who were the artists and why did you decide to work with them? Please include their Instagrams so we can follow them.

LIZZY: The artists I worked with were Nadia Gohar, Shaikha Fahd Al Ketbi, Thana Faroq, Yumna Al Arashi, Najd Al Taher, and Araz Farra. The works actually all came from an exhibition I curated earlier this year called Perpetual Movement as part of Arab Women Artists Now Festival. I was asked to curate the exhibition as a Lebanese Armenian, and as it was an Arab festival and I am not an Arab, I wanted to think about my own relationship to the Arab region, my mum is from Lebanon and my grandmother from Syria, everything I knew about the Middle East was from what my mother told me, through memories that I had inherited, which traveled to me from Lebanon to London through my mother. Therefore all of the work was focused on memory and movement in some way. Their Instagrams are: nadiagohar, shaikhasees, thanafaroq, yumnaaa, pandorajay, and arazfarra.

You are the gallery girl, you’ve been writing about art for major magazines like Canvas Magazine, Harper's Bazaar Arabia, and your own blog Gallerygirl.co. Can you please share with us one of your favorite articles (that you wrote) or interviews and tell us why you chose that one?

LIZZY: This is a really hard question because there are so many to choose from! As a rule, I only write about what I like and am inspired by. Since this article is about Armenians, I will share this piece I wrote about Armenian curators for EVN Report, this is important to me, as these young women are supporting young artists in Armenia, and I believe they have the power to put Armenia art on the map.

Lizzy, you collaborate a lot with photographers. Can you please share with us a few of your favorite photos? Could you tell us about the photo shoot that you did in Armenia when you were there?

LIZZY: I love photography. It is a medium that is accessible to so many people now thanks to advances in technology. You may not be able to afford a fancy camera but there is so much you can do on a phone now. One of my all-time favorite photographs is Ghaya by Shaikha Fahd Al-Ketbi, which was the lead image in an exhibition I curated earlier this year called Perpetual Movement. I am also a big fan of Ziad Antar and I love Alia Ali’s BORDERLAND series.

I used to model, and right before I went to Yerevan earlier this year a friend of mine told me about some of her favorite photographers from Armenia. I quickly became obsessed with them, and I messaged both Damian Hovanissyan and Aram Kirakosyan directly on Instagram to tell them I loved there work and asked them if they were interested in shooting together. Amazingly both said yes. With Damian, we drove to Lake Sevan and took photos on the rocks and on abandoned boats. Meanwhile, with Aram Kirakosyan we shot inside, using mirrors and lace, replicating scenes from The Colour of Pomegranates but also playing with textures and reflections.

Who are some of the Armenian artists that you follow on Instagram?

LIZZY: Luska! I also follow Narek Barseghyan, Hrair Sarkissian, Ripsy May, Armine Harutyunyan, Narnur, Katia Boyadjian, Araz Farra and many more! I also think its important to mention young Armenian curators too, who are supporting the artists, namely Ella Kanegarian, Tereze Davtyan, Suzana Poghosyan, Anna Kamay and Anna Gargarian.

 

"I think the work of Armenian artists from Armenia is incredibly strong and I really want to promote it as much as I can."

 

You’re planning to curate again at the next year’s Armenian art fair. How are you going to surprise us? How is next year's vision going to be different than this year's?

LIZZY: This year I took an exhibition that had already taken place in London to Armenia. It was an incredible experience, but next year I really want to exhibit new work, and especially to work with Armenian artists (the work this year was predominantly Arab). I always knew about Armenian artists from the diaspora, but until I properly came to Yerevan and made an effort to meet with artists in Armenia, I didn’t know anything about the local art scene. I think the work of Armenian artists from Armenia is incredibly strong and I really want to promote it as much as I can.

In one of the interviews, you mention in your question that once someone said that you were too young and pretty to be a curator. How did you respond to that?

LIZZY: It was actually an artist that I ended up working with who said this to me. We had been communicating via email for about a month before the meeting, and when we finally met it turned out that we had both been sitting in the same café for about half an hour because we didn’t know what the other looked like. I mean it was flattering, but also a surprise. I do understand though, in the UK, it takes many people until they are quite a bit older before becoming a curator. The artist probably didn’t expect to be meeting with a 24-year-old (at the time).

 
 

Favorite Armenian album, or a song?

LIZZY: Sirusho’s version of Zartonk

Favorite Armenian food and where to find it in London?

LIZZY: My all-time favorite Armenian food is Jingalov Hats, and as far as I know, the only place you can get it in London is a restaurant called Erebuni (London’s only Armenian restaurant) by Barbican tube station

Favorite movies?

LIZZY: Probably two of my favorite films are Caramel and Where Do We Go Now by Lebanese director Nadine Labaki. I also love Audrey Hepburn, especially in Funny Face.

Favorite fashion designers?

LIZZY: I love Sarah’s Bag, a Lebanese handbag line that is a social enterprise, teaching women in Lebanese prisons embroidery skills to make the bags, thus providing them with the means of getting a job once they are released.

Favorite books?

LIZZY: Lump: The Dog Who Ate a Picasso by David Douglas Duncan and The Nose by Nikolai Gogol

Favorite Blog or Magazine?

LIZZY: Online I love Halo Zine, Banat Collective, Jdeed and Anahit of Erebuni. In print, I am a girly girl at heart and I am a sucker for the Arab, French and Russian editions of Vogue.

Favorite neighborhood in London?:

LIZZY: Westbourne Grove

Favorite “London’s best-kept secret?” Maybe a speakeasy or this crazy good taco truck. Spill the beans.

LIZZY: I have a number of “secret” spots, that probably aren’t secret. Most of these are church gardens that a lot of people don’t know about, which are great places to be when you need some alone time. The first of these is at St Luke’s in Chelsea, and the other is St-Dunstan-in-the-East in the city, that was badly damaged during the blitz, but flowers have been allowed to grow in the ruins and it is truly stunning.

What’s your favorite coffee and how do you drink it?

LIZZY: Armenian coffee! But it tastes the best in Yerevan so I don’t really recreate it in London. I normally have my coffee almost black with just a drop of almond milk.

What do you think is Armenian’s biggest asset right now? And how would you like to see Armenia in ten years?

LIZZY: I think Armenia’s biggest asset is its youth. The people doing everything they can to bring change in the country, whether politically, culturally or creatively, so much is happening right now and Armenia’s young people are a big part of this.

What would you import to Yerevan and what would you export from Yerevan?

LIZZY: I would import direct flights from London. And in terms of export, it’s all about the food: jingalov hats, lavash, halva, I want it all!

If you could start a business/ startup in Armenia what would it be? The important question is: do you have a dream project to do in Armenia?

LIZZY: I think one day it would be really cool to have a Biennale in Armenia, but for now I think it is great that there is an Armenian Art Fair, and I am also really excited by ARTsakh Fest.

What do you like about Yerevan and what you don't like?

LIZZY: The best thing about Yerevan is the people. I have never felt so welcome and had as much fun as I did this May. What I don’t like?! I don’t like when I have to come home to London.

Cover Photograph by Aram Kirakosyan

Luska (b. 1987, Yerevan, Armenia) is a graffiti and mixed media artist, as well as a rapper and film-maker, currently based in London, UK