Believing that (positive) destruction creates construction: Artist Jean Boghossian uses fire as a tool to express transformation in his works. Equally comfortable with paintbrush or blowtorch in hand, his latest exhibition ‘Cessez Le Feu’ is currently on view at no less a place than the United Nation’s second largest Headquarters building in Geneva.
The impressive artworks Jean Boghossian brings to this exhibition are meaningful, not only in terms of their artistic creativity and performance, but also in relation to the United Nations itself.
"Cessez Le Feu" by Jean Boghossian Exhibition inside the Palace of Nations at United Nations Geneva
He understands the role of the UN as it promotes the 17 Global Goals to make a better world by 2030. Of course, the objectives to achieve this outcome are ambitious and wide-ranging as they encompass poverty, inequality, climate change, pollution, education and health plus opportunity for all, better food security and cleaner, plastic-free seas.
“Cessez Le Feu” by Jean Boghossian Exhibition inside the Palace of Nations at United Nations Geneva
Making the necessary changes will take time and effort and requires global co-operation. However, responding to the challenge will impact global well-being and Jean Boghossian wants this exhibition to be a key part of that process. By creating a series of works ranging from burnt books to paintings created with fire and larger than life installations, he entwines his artistic skill with the UN’s cultural, social and humanitarian mission.
The name of Boghossian’s birthplace of Aleppo in Syria is enough to create instant images of current difficulties happening in the world. It’s here that an artist could follow the more predictable path of using their work for the explicit exposition of their ideals and political principles. Instead, Boghossian wants his art to stimulate our conscience, question our surroundings and look anew at our individual interactions with art. He believes that, ultimately, such an approach can influence our behavior and affirm our spiritual values.
The exhibition opens with a display of books burnt at various levels of intensity. There is charring and smoke damage but the idea of books remains intact even as the display reminds the visitor of some of the darkest periods in European history.
Untitled 2017, Burnt Book Sculpture by Jean Boghossian
For Boghossian, these books are a reference to his Armenian heritage where the sanctity of ancient manuscripts and books is integral to the culture. Despite persecution and genocide, these texts are indeed the true survivors. He also wants to highlight that books still have resonance and meaning in a digital age. Although charred and damaged, they still invite us to discover what lies inside.
Close Up, Double World, 2018, Burnt Wood Sculpture by Jean Boghossian
The large burnt canvases displayed act like an open invitation to enter the paintings themselves. The scorched centers with their intensity of color bear stark witness to the power of fire. Furthermore, the use of perspective reminds the viewer that these works are very much alive and worthy of closer inspection. For the artist, it is especially apt that a theme of destruction can sit within the confines of an organisation so focused on peace, reconstruction and opportunity.
Close Up of “Untitled” United Nations 2018, Burnt Stamps on Paper by Jean Boghossian
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