11 Jan ANNIE IN WONDERLAND, by Christiane Waked
When our Arts and Culture contributor, Christiane Waked gets cozy with the sensitive painter, Annie Kurkdjian, the talk goes as smooth as a running river.
C.W: Your sensitivity pops into my eyes straight away, so I am curious to know, as a child, how did you develop your artistic seeds.
A.K: My parents are Syrian Armenian who later became Lebanese, they unfortunately didn’t predict that a war will explode in Lebanon and will force us to live, most of that period, hidden in shelters.
It all started with me fantasizing over the deprived normal childhood. Sometimes, I used to hide in the haute couture atelier of my mother and aunts where I grabbed some papers and pencils. It started with me painting a girl on a bicycle or in a swimming pool or doing any activity that I was not able to do back then.
I only started painting in a more professional and academic way when I turned 22, I was looking for an activity that fills my time so instead of going to the gym, I went towards painting.
I started taking classes in the school of fine Arts of the Lebanese University and I instantly fell in love with the sensation of touching the canvas and feeling their vibrations.
(C.W: In a way, you were having a conversation with these canvas)
Exactly, it was a true, genuine communication.
C.W: Annie I know that you initially graduated in business and that before becoming a painter you were working in a bank, tell me about the transition?
A.K: You did your diligence well. Let’s say that I simply didn’t fit. You know Christiane, I felt like I was dying spiritually and I was becoming a robot. When I decided to quit my job, my ex boyfriend and my mother came hard on me as I was leaving behind a perfectly fit and comfortable life but I didn’t hesitate for a second.
I mean, can you imagine me in a costume, dressed like a business woman, expressing myself accordingly? (C.W: hardly (laughs))
C.W: we both suffer from Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD), I heal through writing, you heal through painting, enlight us about your process.
A.K: Before painting, I was searching for any kind of solution that might give me some kind of peace.
I am not ashamed to say, I was into a self destruction phase as I had so much anger in me especially after my father was brutally murdered.
I had to find a way to turn this anger against something external. When I started painting, it felt like I was exorcising my demons and I was taking them out on canvas, plus I was getting paid for it (laughs).
To be honest, I still haven’t found peace. (CW: of course, life is a constant battle )
Yes, Chris, peace is utopia, I am indeed in a war and my weapons are my brushes. What comforts me is this promise that I will always have this weapon to protect me.
I know that my imagination will never fail me and this brings me a sort of grounding.
Maybe my imagination is a gift that my father is sending me from heaven. Yes, that’s it, my father is my muse.
C.W: Tell us more about Annie in her wonderland.
A.K: About Annie in wonderland, I like my art to be raw, I took a training at the Cross Covent (Deir El Salib) where people with mental illnesses are treated.
I was introduced to the raw artistic mind of what the society labels as crazy people. (C.W: Society forsakes people whose hearts are not corrupted).
Since my encounter with them, I have the deep conviction that each one of us have an unlimited source of imagination that has its seeds from childhood.
I love everything that the French philosopher, Gilles Deleuze says in that regard. (C.W: my dear, it looks like we have many things in common).
C.W: Are you more oil than acrylic?
A.K: I use both but I prefer oil as its texture is more sensual and alive. You can smell and touch it (C.W: just like a lover) (laughs).
Such a naughty girl, but yes a bit like that. Acrylic is much easier to use, it is more dry, it has less poetry in it but its also intense just like a one night stand (C.W: now, who is naughtier? (laughs))
C.W: Do you think that art can still help fix torn societies, like the Lebanese one?
A.K: If the artist is authentic, yes, art could be useful. Lebanese society is hypocrit, we need genuine people who speak the truth like the composer Ziad Al Rahbani.
We need people who break the taboos but mostly we need people who are able to be themselves.
I agree that certain taboos are necessary but it’s the conformity that I am having problems with.
I look at Lebanese women these days, they all look the same because of the cosmetic surgeries. Their identities are lost and this is sad because they don’t realize that difference is a sacred thing.
Subjective leads us to sublime and nothing is more useful than genuine.
C.W: How is your relation with art galleries and curators?
A.K: It s not a love or hate relation, just a very professional one.
I am working since 5 years now with Albareh gallery, over the years, we developed a relation based on trust and friendship. There was never a case of abuse. Unfortunately, I hear that some galleries are taking some of their artists for granted.
C.W: Your paintings show that you treat sensuality and lust with much care and sensitivity.
A.K: So true, as I mention end before, authenticity is very important to me, I take pleasure of being myself.
I believe that eroticism is being deformed these days by societies, the sexual organs are being used as insults, especially in Lebanon.
I love what Georges Bataille wrote about eroticism. It talks about it as something divine, pure, spiritual and aesthetic. Fuck is no longer an insult. (C.W: you need a refined mind to understand how powerful the word fuck can be, all creations depend on that word)
Quoting Bataille: ” “Poetry leads to the same place as all forms of eroticism — to the blending and fusion of separate objects. It leads us to eternity, it leads us to death, and through death to continuity. Poetry is eternity; the sun matched with the sea.”
I mean instead using our sexual organs as insults, let us replace them with words like wars, corruption, pollution, politicians etc.
Eroticism is a culture, it is the humanity heritage, it is a source of inspiration and not pornography.
I like to go erotic museums to see how women dressed up to seduce their lovers in the XV century for example.
C.W: What is your most controversial painting?
A.K: There is one about patriarchy where I painted men putting their penises on a table as if their weaknesses or power depend on that organ.
My family reaction was intense, they didn’t want me to use this painting in any exhibition but I am happy that I did it and it was bought by the French Tesse Museum.
So my family understood that this painting had a big value.
C.W: Are There any artists that continue to inspire you these days?
A.K: Jean Rustin is one of the artist that inspires me the most, I love how sensitive his soul is. He exposes the fragile side of humanity. He draws old people with their weak bodies in obscene scenes. (C.W: lust defies time (smile))
On internet, I get inspiration from many artists and I would love to inspire others too.
C.W: Any last words?
A.K: yes, I would love to continue seeing you on a personal level, I feel we can be good friends. (C.W: I am touched and honored dear Annie. It is a wrap then, let’s go grab a drink).
Christiane Waked is a columnist, Risk and political analyst, Arts & Culture contributor. She is the former Press Attaché of the French Embassy to the UAE and former analyst and linguist of the French Interior Ministry.