Testimonies of Existence

Paul Guiragossian on Ponte Vecchio in Florence, Italy, 1958. Photo courtesy of Paul Guiragossian Foundation. 

Co-organisers: Maisa Al Qassimi, Mandy Merzaban, Manuella Guiragossian, Paul Guiragossian Foundation
Dates: 24 February - 28 April 2018
Location: Maraya Art Centre, Sharjah, UAE

Publication contributors: Maisa Al Qassimi, Mandy Merzaban, Manuella Guiragossian, Zaki Nusseibeh and Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi

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In collaboration with the Paul Guiragossian Foundation and its archive, we organised a commemorative exhibition Testimonies of Existence that featured paintings produced between the late 1950s to the early 1990s from local collectors. Interspersed with elements drawn from the foundation’s archive that document his life and prolific career, the exhibition explored key moments in the artist’s practice during this period and Guiragossian’s pivotal position in the history of modernism in the Arab world as well as among his generational peers.

By drawing on a range of influences and interests from ancient and modern art histories to philosophy in his practice, Guiragossian developed an approach that has become immediately recognisable. Driven by an early curiosity with the human form, the artist spent his career investigating the realm between figuration and abstraction. Acutely aware of the physical and psychological effects of exile and displacement, his personal experience as a refugee played a role in his nuanced awareness of the body. Born in Jerusalem in 1926 to Armenian parents, survivors of the Armenian Genocide, Guiragossian and his family migrated to Jaffa and eventually to Beirut by boat in the years leading up to the creation of the state of Israel in 1948.

The exhibition’s title is drawn from a quote from the artist's own reflections where he described a work of art as being “sealed for eternity” and absorbing the time and place of its creation. “They are testimony to our existence, and we will always find something new in them,” he said, upon winning a prize at the first edition of the Paris Biennale in 1959.

Installation view of Paul Guiragossian: Testimonies of Existence. Photo courtesy of the Barjeel Art Foundation.

Paul Guiragossian Group with flowers, 1963. Photo courtesy of Barjeel Art Foundation.

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Related material:
Book: Paul Guiragossian: Testimonies of Existence, 2018


_ Video: Opening promo, Vimeo, 2018 _ Review: Seaman, Anna. Curtain Call, Canvas, May/Jun 2018
_ Review: Paul Guiragossian mis à l’honneur pour la dernière exposition de la fondation Art Barjeel, Agenda culturel, 2018
_ Review: Gronlund, Melissa. The UAE pays homage to Beiruti modernist Paul Guiragossian, The National, 2018
_ e-flux: Testimonies of Existence, 2018