The Inner World of
A Retrospective Exhibition
William P. Carl
This retrospective exhibition of the art of
Martin Barooshian brings together many notable works from as early as
1952 to his latest visionary paintings of 1982-83. In the printmaking field, the artist’s early successes were
with the woodcut technique which he concentrated on during the 1950s.
Inspired by anonymous miniature book illustrations of the early
Christian era, Albrecht Dürer, the mystical art of William Blake, and
in particular Paul Gauguin’s woodcuts, Barooshian developed his own
special approach to the medium. Termed
the “elimination process,” this technique is highly successful yet
risky, and does not allow for many mistakes. In his own words, the artist describes the procedure:
start with the lightest color after white, and print your entire
edition first with yellow, then you cut away all the areas you
wish to preserve yellow, and then print the next darker color, etc.,
thus continuously cutting away areas until you reach the master black
and white image. This technique guarantees perfect registration each time the
block is over-printed. Other
artists prefer multiple blocks for printing, but this can cause possible
misregistration in the printing.”
|Since about 1956,
Barooshian has been fascinated by fantastic art and surrealism. He cites the work of Miró, Matta, Dali, and in particular
Arshile Gorky, as contributing to the development of his mature style.
Barooshian shares with them an artistic commitment to exploring
the subconscious mind. Imagination,
fantasy, and freedom of thought are of paramount importance to this
philosophy. And at a time
when Barooshian’s aesthetic philosophy was emerging and taking shape,
his technical skills as a graphic artist received new impetus. In Paris, in 1956, he studied intaglio printmaking with
Stanley W. Hayter at Atelier 17. This
experience was profoundly important for Barooshian and for many other
artists, including Picasso, who came to know and work with this
important innovator and teacher. In
his own words, Barooshian describes some of the technical procedures
which emerged from the Atelier 17 experience: 111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111
viscosity technique of printing on metal etching plates was developed in
an international collaborative venture with Krishna Reddy, Kaiko Moti,
Shirley Wales, Dadi Wirtz, and S.W. Hayter in his Atelier 17 Workshop in
Paris. It was introduced to
me by Shirley Wales who very patiently helped me work out various ways
of cutting and biting (with acid) various levels of the metal
structure so that after one inks the basic plate, the colors that roll
over the metal will effect only the areas the roller is adapted to go
over, i.e. a soft roller will effect all the grooves in the metal plate,
whereas a very hard roller of color going over the surface of an etching
plate will only effect the surface.
I have modified this technique for my own needs since
non-objective, pure abstract art is more suitable for this technique.
My method is called ‘color intaglio etching’…many of my
plates incorporated softground and aquatint along with deep bite etching
to create my imagery along with surface rolling.”
With his technical expertise firmly established,
Barooshian has created over the last decade many fine and compelling
works in printmaking as well as in oils.
The Alice in Wonderland series, a particularly successful
venture, recreates several memorable scenes and characters from the
Lewis Carroll classic. In
these works, a natural rapport is evident between the author’s
light-hearted, imaginative, lyrical style, and Barooshian’s interest
in symbolism, color and calligraphic line.
The results are far more than illustrative, as Barooshian has
stylishly translated Carroll’s masterpiece of fantasy into his own
personal visual language.
Martin Barooshian’s visual vocabulary is a complexity of means.
With regard to the prints, it is not uncommon for Barooshian to
select several different types of printing papers and emboss patterns
into the paper as part of the total concept.
Such embossments can become quite complex, particularly when
combined with decorative, ornamental borders and brilliant, jewel-like
coloration. Furthermore, he
will frequently impress round, symbolic medallions into the design
itself, thus creating, in effect, a print within a print.
The medallions are thoughtfully chosen and compliment the theme
under consideration. This
device is pure Barooshian and a further confirmation of the artist as a
skillful technician and craftsman.
This aspect of his work is evocative of the decorative artisanry
of Persian miniatures or intricate medieval illuminated manuscripts.
In the European tradition, Barooshian considers
himself a “peintre-graveur”, which is to say,
commitment to oil painting is equivalent to and concurrent with his
efforts in the printmaking field:
“To me, painting in oil on canvas and printmaking go hand in hand.
Frequently, a print image will trigger off a painting idea and
vice versa. But, there is
no doubt that painting for me has the greater amount of problems
necessary to solve than printmaking.
I try to be good in both, also when one tires of painting for a
few days one can switch to prints.”
The oil paintings of Martin Barooshian convey effectively the artist’s
preoccupations with subconscious imagery and the unexplored realms of
the mind. Brilliant colors
and amorphous shapes merge in a visceral and organic way; suggesting, on
occasion, the work of Francis Bacon, Yves Tangy, and Joan Miró.
And yet like the work of these various other painters who,
themselves, are trained on the inner world, the work of Martin
Barooshian eludes a precise, rational, simplified definition.
Multiple ideas merge on the canvas even though clearly
recognizable images appear for us to see.
Rendering a passage from Alice in Wonderland is not only
an end in itself but a means; we are invited to look beyond the surface
of things. In the words of
Joan Miró, “What really counts is to strip the soul naked,” and in
the words of the Mad Hatter, “We’re all mad!” 111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111
Mystery, humor, romance, eroticism, lyricism, line, color and the
subconscious mind are all part of the artistic concerns of Martin
Barooshian. He is a
technician and a thinker. He
acknowledges the work of others and yet has innumerable ideas of his own
to contend with and make visible. His
art is not voguish or predictable.
His art invites us and encourages a contemplative spirit as we
peer more closely and carefully. In
the graphic arts as well as in oils, Martin Barooshian delights in the
known and the unknown, and he explores both worlds with inspired
Originally published for the retrospective exhibit at the
Duxbury Art Complex Museum, 1983