“The Mystic Temple” by Vatche Geuvdjelian

Vatche Geuvdjelian: The Artist with Universalist Viewpoint


YEREVAN/PATZCUARO, MICHOACAN, MEXICO — Vatche Geuvdjelian (born 1956, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia) is a painter and poet, who divides his time between Canada and Mexico. In 1978, he moved to Ontario, Canada.  At age 5, he had moved to Beirut, Lebanon, with his family, where he attended primary and secondary schools. Later he studied at Kingswood School (England) and Haigazian College (Beirut), before continuing his undergraduate studies at New England College (England). He graduated the US campus of the same learning institute at Henniker, NH. From 1978 to 1982, he resided in Toronto, attending art classes at The Three Schools in Toronto.  By 1981 he became a Canadian Citizen and in 1982 he established his permanent studio in Mexico.

Geuvdjelian has exhibited his art at galleries in Toronto and Los Angeles as well as in various art institutes in Mexico.

Dear Vatche for several years I have followed your creations and admired the expressive richness of your art. You have lived in different countries and studied and absorbed their cultures. Do you feel yourself a cosmopolitan artist or otherwise?

Mine is a universalist viewpoint. Yes, my roots are in Ethiopia, Lebanon and the western European urban cultures, but my experiences have branched out into North America and have juxtaposed with Mexican mestizo and native cultures. I am a human voice, expressing a human experience.

But my Armenian roots and genes are always there like a filter to all my perceptions. Haik Nahabed, Vahagn and Anahid are always bringing their archetypal messages into my thoughts, mixed together with Quetzalcoatl and Huitzilopotchli. Siamanto and Daniel Varoujan are here with me as I branch out and experience Jorge Luis Borges and Gabriel Garcia Marques. The native Huichol perceiving a magical world mixes with Anoushavan Sos and Ara Keghetzig. But ultimately, I am only stardust taking human form, only for a short stay.

Vatche Geuvdjelian

You live in Pátzcuaro, where people speak the indigenous language, Purépecha. Do you speak that language?

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Patzcuaro is my home today and has been for the last 40 years, I speak only a few words of Purépecha, but have learnt a lot from the people here. As the years pass and I age, the word “home” takes on a new meaning: a place to always create and start letting go of youthful illusions and restlessness. The Artsakh war and the loss that it has meant to my original nation has been a disillusionment and a source of great sadness.

 Pátzcuaro is famous with its Day of the Dead celebration. Does this unusual fest and other uncommon tradition of locals have influenced on your art somehow?

The native American cosmo-vision and ceremonies have been a surprising source of spiritual stimulation and growth. I did not expect this slice of a truly ancestral tradition to become part of my thinking and lifestyle. I consider it a true privilege that as an outsider in Mexico I managed to view into some of the secret wisdoms that the elder leaders possess here and are ready to share.

How much are you acquainted with Armenian painting? I know you knew brilliant Lebanese-Armenian artist Paul Guiragossian.

I have always paid close attention to the better-known Armenian painters and poets from Armenia, but my artistic formation was in Italy, England and the United states, finally maturing in Mexico.

“Searching for my lost Ancestors” by Vatche Geuvdjelian

 Are there some Armenian motives in your painting and poetry?

The loss of my homeland appears in various forms in my paintings and poetry. The faith of my ancestors in the teachings of Jesus Christ and the loss that it meant in political terms to the political entity that is historical Armenia has etched a code that can be erased from my inner language.

I assume your father was from the Armenian orphans’ choir known as the “Arba Lijoch” (“40 children”)?

My father, Benon Geuvdelian, was born in Darson to Panos Geuvdjelian and Rebeca Sakajian. He was not one of the “Arba Lijoch” from Jerusalem, but came to Ethiopia with the second wave of orphans from Cyprus, who were encouraged by the adoption of the first wave. The details of his early life in Ethiopia are vague; I do not have much information about his early years in Addis Ababa. But he did find favorable conditions in order to prosper and branch out. He supported me and my siblings throughout our formative years through university educations.

My mother, Nouritza Sinanian, was born in Beirut to Sahag Sinanian from Bursa and Emma Ardzivian from Mersin, (both survivors of a pogrom and the Genocide). After spending the first 16 years in Beirut, she married my father and moved to Ethiopia. She encouraged my tendency towards the arts, and constantly supported my education and artistic formation.

You have traveled a lot. Have you visited Armenia?

I traveled to Armenia in 2004 and stayed there for almost two months, including a trip to Artsakh. I loved my visit there, which was truly inspiring, but the realities of my life brought me back to Mexico and to my responsibilities as a family man and to my career.

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