A painting by Serge Rouben

Serge Rouben: The Man and the Creator


By Tamara Hovhannisyan

“The content of thought is the seed of the artist. Dreams form the bristles of the artist’s brush.” – Arshile Gorky

Armenia, a nation whose cultural heritage runs deep in time, has played a pivotal role in the shift of many movements in art and literature. This is a nation whose existential journey is based on art and language with notable representatives of this ancient culture participating in transforming periods such as twentieth century art movements, bridging Surrealism and Abstract Expressionism by experimenting with inner feelings and historical ruins together.

If one considers that suffering is universal, then, the ability to dream and create is also universal. This universality bridges generations and forges the uniqueness of a national creative identity. Such is the case with Armenia, where many generations of this undeniably creative nation have come together to form a type of kinship that unifies them emotionally and creatively.

The Armenian-born Serge Rouben is one of those artists that has managed to choreograph those feelings into shapes and colors. In his works one can touch forgotten lands, stolen valleys, and butchered innocence of the nation that became a victim of human brutality in the early 1900s.

Rouben’s art carries a profusion of colors leaving touchable shapes where the dreams of forgotten times, crying hopes for survival, and sparking illusions of happiness materialize. When he paints, his brush follows the dance of his own spirit and that spirit has an open wing that brushes to stay and be part of its own existential time allowance.

Painting by Serge Rouben

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By understanding that all things are delicately interconnected, Rouben is bringing the remainder of Old to remind the New that they are indeed the renaissance of the Old.

If we consider that every successful artist has his or her own magic tricks, then, Serge Rouben’s masterful hands manage to make these tricks visible but never conjurable. He is unique with his fantastical deception of forms and colors that carry his creative personality, making the viewer understand that beauty has a spiritual drive and without that drive creativity is a fruitless struggle.

Serge Rouben moved to Moscow at the time when Armenia was struggling to regain its independence and while many of its sons and daughters were trying to be part of the struggle, some from home and some from abroad.

In his compositions, Rouben is not only focusing on gestural appreciation of paint, but he dictates lead figures by making them relate to one another, creating genuine spiritual motions on canvas that are nothing but fragments of life itself.

In the divide between imagination and reality lies a fruitful heaven of creativity. Serge Rouben surrounds himself with a harmonious dance of the two, reality and the dream. He intuitively knows that none of the active harvesters and explorers of the blessings of creativity can have it forever. So he experiments, searches and tries to find his own visible path.

Despite the diversity of styles and motivations, Serge has a near-mythical communication of symbols, colors and visual effects, making these the players of his creative universe. And he orchestrates all of them with love, care, and deep admiration. His canvases burst with energetic brushstrokes, suggestive shapes, and a fresh color palette. By bringing all of them together with undeniable creative honesty, he makes his artworks reflections of his unique personality. One can think that he aims to paint the indescribable, making his loving brush capture the moments of life, immortal beauty of nature, always making human struggle such as pleasure, pain, and conflictive reality part of his own personal feelings. By doing that, he manages to always remain soulfully connected to his own artworks.

Topics: art, painting
People: Serge Rouben

His abstractions drive the viewer to be in creative unity with the artist, giving a calming sense of existential harmony that is departing from the artist and slowly becomes part of the collector’s emotional and aesthetical universe.

Serge Rouben’s art can be representational at times, capturing the moments of perplexities that can lead the eye of the art lover to dynamic exchanges of moods and feelings.  In the same canvas, representational fragments of the artworks contain moments of innocent surprises, shining bursts of joy and kindness, making the viewer feel closer to the artist’s ethnic maturity and painful struggles to survive in this very conflictive and cynical time of ours.

We all know that creativity starts from the embryonic seeds of suddenly discovered thoughts unifying their arrows of ecstasy of living and creating. Their aim is to merge together the wonderful world of humanity as an input of the creative process. Process that begins with splendid colors that somehow find their way to orchestrate forms, ideas, messages.  The content of all fountaining colors of creative energy, full of life, and full of dreams that are capable to flourish in the virgin fields of a white canvas, making all of us in the end to understand that creativity is you without you.

Painting by Serge Rouben

Strategic balancing of shapes and colors takes huge professionalism and an emotionally overactive personality. The fruits of unifying shapes and colors establish the personality of the artist, putting him/her in the path of international recognition and Serge Rouben is an avid traveler of that path.

Good artists act somewhat like photographers of their own inner mind who are experiencing universal perception of their time and environment with the off context, lines, shapes, and colors. Yet, everything can be visible in that somewhat distorted reality. “The Silence of Starry Nights,” “The Scent of Fresh Baskets of Wild Berries,” and “The Sleepless Nights of Dreamers and Creators,” are exhausted bodies of searchers for love that carry the heavy loads of harvested mixed impressions, converting them into a deeply personal mixture of shapes and colors somewhat forming fluctuated panoramic views that are being lit with their own inner lights.

Serge Rouben is a master of showing his inner light.  The sensual spiral lead takes the viewer deeper and closer to the fruits of artists creativity by giving suddenly generated surprises and serendipity at the same time. By using the old school masters’ techniques, Serge painlessly optimizes the creative process of art from variations of sudden flashes of memories and fresh impressions that can perfectly match with those memories and marries the Old and New on the same canvas. With that, the artist manages to keep his identity by also avoiding being a stranger in the new environment.

Serge is an Armenian literatus-artist, always surrounded by a large entourage of friends, collectors, and students and lavishly sharing knowledge, love, and experience. The world is his field for harvesting emotions. Under his creative browsers, East meets West, putting their best cultural offerings peacefully, next to another, without any sharp edges, conflicts, or complexions.

Rouben finds in art a space for liberation, where he explores the edges of realism by gradually landing them into abstraction; and just like great clouds, Serge Rouben’s abstract paintings invite us to see what we want to see.

Parsing an artist’s biography or his ideology can be a framework where the image, with all its complexity, can talk about the person who creates it. Self-awareness that sometimes is being covered with intentionally murky confusion, creates shadows that tell a lot about the individual whose magic hand rendered them into being.

Using lush swatches of colors Rouben softly lands them into each other’s territory and captures the perfect world of impossible dreams far away from his roots and beginnings by using the leftovers of overused nostalgias.

Serge Rouben

Generational impact from strict Soviet school blended intensity of the various artistic practices makes a challenging task for any art observant or art professional makes it difficult to categorize Rouben’s style under a certain movement.

Between the conflict of his mastery of realism and cognitive dissonance that manifests in his abstract and representational works, one can definitely feel the substantiality of Rouben’s visible ritualistic, somewhat eternal atmosphere of his works. They capture and create fragments of unusual life performances that happen between very sophisticated and sensual places when the reality meets the dream.

When the colors hide definite fire in them, characters are eager to intervene, making the viewer lose and after losing, rediscover them in the deformed woods of an existential symphony of abstraction.

Even though we want to assure the reader that it was not our intention to share the biographical details of the artist’s life, we also admit that the influence of Soviet times’ strict educational offerings and losses had a critical role on the artist’s professional maturity, teaching him what to abandon, what to treasure.

After the fading Avant-Garde art of the 1960s and ’70s, towards the start of the Soviet art of the 1980, Armenia was in the turmoil of political and economic crisis that led many gifted sons and daughters of the nation to seek a refuge elsewhere in the world to be able to survive. Many of them lost their creative identity.

Serge Rouben survived. His creative period in Moscow was a time for hard-earned victories and many unexpected disappointments. The cultural atmosphere of Moscow praised and reminded the artist about his status of being a cultural step-son, leading him to start dreaming of a journey to the Free World. Knowing that it is not easy to create, especially when you are an unsupported, inexperienced visitor struggling to establish your professional presence in a new environment, Rouben managed to convert his third encore of professional journey with utmost professional dignity and courage.

Today, Serge Rouben is one of the most notable names of Armenian art, who is also part of the artistic circle of this continent and whose professional future is ready for unstoppable flights here in his new home in Southern California.

Sharing the generational duality of the destiny of emigrated intellectuals makes Rouben have a double task; to overcome the shadows of the past as a professional in a new environment and be always ready to adapt artistic offerings to his new home. His dignified brush does not permit traditional art critics to undervalue his presence in the contemporary art of this continent, carrying the pride of a survival of this multicultural, brave and experienced professional.

Examining almost four decades of the artist’s career, comparing the old and new, one can be shocked by Rouben’s diverse oeuvre. A wide range of oil paintings, water colors, figurative studies, still lives and collages are material coverage of numerous exhibits despite a huge archive of the brightest of artistic varieties, constant technical experimentation and captured impressions.

Now, when the majority of us are e-dreamers, when valleys of love and beauty changed their existential touchability by becoming floating images in a virtual world, we are all somewhat universally crazy and loneliness itself inhabits in us, making us understand that we have everyone and at the same time no one. That is when art becomes our faithful companion and emotional and spiritual necessity.

For some, creativity blossoms when there is proper space and harmony around us, making us search for novelties to have a second chance of professional visibility.

To be professionally notable is never an easy task, and Serge Rouben understands that. He also knows that the search for it can sometimes lead to a total deterioration of one’s creative honesty, separating your own shadow from you.

Rouben is maintaining his own identity and his new environment seems to be respecting that. The proof of it is in a forthcoming catalogue bearing the artist’s name, from the Moscow publisher Prestige Book LLC, which intertwines nostalgia with impressions and improvisations of the magical roots of Armenian art, making the artist proudly call himself an Armenian-American artist.

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