Husik Stepanyan

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Living for Color: Kapan artist takes a lonely journey through abstraction

By Marianna Grigoryan
ArmeniaNow Reporter (used with permission)

With a careless walk, wearing shoes that are too big and shabby patched clothes, 43-year-old Husik Stepanyan is the most unpopular artist in Kapan.

Like him, his paintings have always been odd. Besides traditional painting, Husik does abstract work that is not easily accepted in a town where art is usually limited to landscapes of Syunik’s most famous mountain, Khustup.

“I don’t even bother explaining to them what abstraction is for here there are few who understand true art,” says Husik carefully arranging the paintings. “Those who understand can’t afford to buy paintings, so they tap me on my shoulder, say that it’s very nice and go.”

His studio in the basement of a multistory building on Lernagortsnery Street is a feast of color and emotions despite the dreadful cold: Husik lives for his paintings and colors, passing his thoughts onto canvas.

The blue, the yellow, the red, the white and the black differ at times according to his mood. Yellow is the color of overcoming difficult stressful situations, blue the color of comfort, and red of crisis, not a rare thing in the painter’s life.

Living in extreme social conditions, he cares only for his workshop and the world of color that he has been creating for three decades. On the blackened walls there is “The Loneliness”, “The Chess Thoughts” and abstract works that have numbers as if continuing one another.

Some of the paintings have no signature. Husik says they are not finished in his soul.

Between the spiritual and the necessary the painter has always chosen the former. Though he says material questions have never been important to him, he sometimes tries to conform to people’s demands and accepts orders.

“The demand for the spiritual is very small in this town. Rather there is a demand for simplistic works. I need to paint things that are in demand from time to time and if in the capital the most often sold pictures are of Ararat, in Kapan it is the church in front of Mount Khustup.”

“Most of the people in Kapan have a curious way of thinking,” smiles the painter. “I sometimes hardly keep from laughing; those who buy pictures here pay attention not to the essence and the depth of the painting but to the beauty of the frame. And I don’t have any opportunity to buy gorgeous frames. That is I can’t provide what people are interested in.”

Husik, understood by few, goes on living, forgetting and having no opportunity to repair his workshop. There are no windows as such; neither there are glasses or isolation every other one being covered with paper.

The walls of the workshop are black with the smoke from plastic bottles that Husik gathers in the streets and burns, having no opportunity to buy fuel and trying to protect his paintings and warming the creating hands.

The most Husik has got for a painting is $300, an exceptional sum for a town like Kapan. The buyer, a foreigner who was fascinated by Husik’s art, bought the painting without haggling and left Kapan happy.

Artists in Kapan say Husik has always incited interest among specialists. His works were recently included in an exhibition in Yerevan.

“I had no opportunity to be present there (for financial reasons), but the organizers and those who were present said all the famous artists were interested in me and my paintings. But there is no opportunity to present oneself to anyone, that has been the way for me,” says the painter. “There have been offers that I rejected because of the lack of means.”

Husik also rejects all those who try to take advantage of his hardship and buy unique paintings for a very low price, either to resell in Yerevan or to give as presents.

“My paintings cost a lot,” he says. “I know that some day this will be known to many. Art that is created in one’s soul and has power cannot have a price.”