Jean Boghossian is an artist on a mission to make the world a better place
“Fire is my language,” says Jean Boghossian, an artist to whom blow torches have as great a potential as painter’s brushes. His focus on using the power of flames to create art is something that deeply inspires him to continue being. “It is something that has been done by many artists, but it’s not controlled as much as I control it,” he explains. “It’s about control of a medium that is uncontrollable.”
Books, chairs, paintings and other items have been transformed through Boghossian’s diverse techniques that manipulate fire, flame and smoke. Among many things, he is currently working on a movie of a building that he owns being burned. His work with fire has also been selected to represent Armenia, his ancestral homeland, at the Armenian Pavilion at this year’s Venice Biennale. “The Venice Biennale is a great challenge. Something happens and you’ve never even dreamt of it happening and all of a sudden it unfolds and you have a chance to be there,” he says.
In fact, Boghossian is much more than an artist; he is a sculptor, painter, jeweller and president of the Boghossian Foundation, founded in 1992. Of all his activities, his art is what he strives to focus on most. As a child, he began by learning jewellery design. It was only in his late 30s that he began experimenting as an artist, after he began using a painting set he bought for his son, which his son never used. Art lessons and years at two art academies followed, but it was an invitation from a Lebanese friend in the 1990s that moved his art to the next level.
This humanitarian approach takes many guises, a recent example of which was an auction where art was collected to raise money for Syrian refugees in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley and in Aleppo. Although art is Boghossian’s passion and priority, his purpose, he says, is the message of the foundation and its contribution to the world.
“We think art can help new visions, discussions and approach, which religion doesn’t and politics doesn’t,” he says. “And so my purpose today is that this foundation is sustained, remains, and goes beyond me and my brother and my children and my grandchildren.”
Jean Boghossian will be showing with Ayyam Gallery at Art Dubai 2018 and is currently representing Armenia at the 57th Venice Biennale.
Interview by Rima Nasser
A version of this article appeared in print in Selections, The Biennial & Museum Acquisitions #41, pages 36-39.