Shant Avedissian

Egyptian-Armenian painter. Works in Cairo and rests in Yerevan.

Avedissian takes pictures of well-known political and pop cultural figures – Gamal Abdel Nasser, King Farouk, Umm Kulthoum, Abdel Halim Hafez, Asmahan, Farid al-Atrash, Fairouz, Hind Rostom – and turns them into stencils.

Avedissian's art comes in two sizes: small horizontal stencils measuring 50 centimeters by 70 centimeters and made from pigments and gum arabic on recycled cardboard, and large vertical stencils measuring 150 centimeters by 250 centimeters and made from pigments and gum arabic on corrugated cardboard.

Avedissian has published a book in 2005 titled “Cairo Stencils,” edited by Rose Issa (a London-based curator of Lebanese and Iranian descent) and by Saqi Books. The book offers a comprehensive exploration of Avedissian's work from the early 1990s until now.

Avedissian's grandparents came to Cairo to seek refuge from the Armenian genocide. Born in 1951, he grew up after the golden age of Egyptian cinema and the glamorous era of King Farouk, the last King of Egypt who was dethroned by the Free Officers' Coup in 1952 and exiled to Italy. He came of age during at a time when Nasser's charisma, along with his tough blend of Arab nationalism and socialism, was galvanizing public opinion all over the world.

In the 1970s, Avedissian studied fine art in Montreal and printmaking in Paris. He returned to Cairo in 1980 and took a job working with the groundbreaking Egyptian architect Hassan Fathy.

Avedissian started working with stencils in 1991. Before that he was doing more traditional paintings.

Avedissian's treatment of Nasser, Arab nationalism, the High Dam, the Cairene cosmopolitanism of Farouk, the sexiness of screen sirens, or the sensitivity of Halim Hafez is not without nostalgia. But it is at the same time intimately aware of that the political strength of these historic moments cannot mask human fragility or the ways in which time, in the end, will render them all as delicate as crumbling paper.

Reed article at Daily Star on exhibition of Shant Avedissian in Beirut.

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