Minas Halaj: "I’m waging war in my art and don’t get involved in other wars"
It demands much time and effort to converse with an artist over the internet.
The distance to be breached often does not allow one the opportunity to really dig deep and reveal the roots and ideas underlying the samples of an artist’s work. Then again, the artists cannot fully explain their paintings.
31 year-old Los Angeles artist Minas Halaj (Halajyan) writes, “I make art to find out who I am”, as a way of self-introduction. Halaj relocated to the United States in 2002.
Viewing Halaj’s paintings, you clearly see the artist’s constant searching and non-interruption.
As an artist, don’t you think that art isn’t exhaustive and that you cannot express yourself in the medium?
Yes, you have noted this correctly. The thing I hate most in art is repeating myself. Frequently, when creating, I contradict myself, since art is born out of contradiction. Even if I have a new idea in my head and paint with a new signature, it is not because it is by design. It comes from inside.
So, contradictions are internal. Do you reject certain things that are expressed in your works?
There are certain issues of concern that constantly spin in my brain. One is the latest collage series. Usually I try to work till I finis each series that incorporates a certain problem linked to politics, art, human relations, the positions of the superpowers, etc.
During my time in the States, I have noticed that things happen so quickly that it is hard for an artist to seize the moment. When you create, aren’t you overwhelmed by such large amounts of information?
Information is plentiful here and it both helps and hinders. What is important is to seize the moment in all the turmoil and put it in your art. In this light, politics impacts me and frequently I set myself the task of understanding what is going on in the world and making it breathe in my art.
But politics is a predetermined process. Thus, could it be that art is a predetermined allegory?
Living and creating in one country, like it or not, you are influenced by the present. For this very reason, I have named one of the series “American Rebirth”, because this country has no past and you are obliged to mix certain old elements with the present to obtain a picture of the situation that dominates. When creating, you are already led by emotion.
But emotion is also a product of living...In other words, if you live in a cold climate you know what cold is, and you can only imagine about what heat is. What results is that when depicting something, as a consequence of reliving emotion, you must paint one step ahead. Is that one step ahead understandable?
I don’t think about being understood. That’s why I noted that I don't repeat myself. That might be possible in Armenia.
Because in Armenia artists have a problem of establishing themselves. If one of your paintings looks like another, they think you follow just one line. But having a “signature” is firstly an emotional factor and not shaped by the process. It’s like watching the same film or eating the same sandwich every day. In this way, the painter becomes a prisoner of the painting and ceases from looking at issues from various angles.
In all your portraitures, there’s a diversity of “I’s”. Are they your “I’s” or those that you see in people?
I believe that in each individual there lives another person. That’s why my art is based on the idea of “I make art to find out who I am”. Each moment seized is a supreme joy and helps develop that idea.
Do you interact why people very much?
Almost not at all. I start each day by going to the art studio and finding out what’s going on by reading the internet news sites.
Frequently, however, a majority of the information can become an extra burden.
You’re correct...That’s why I pick one photo, one development and get an abstract image.
In other words, being understood, is placed on the backburner?
The road I’ve chosen has nothing to do with being understood. And who is the one doing the understanding? A person? It’s all the same. People will understand based on what they feel.
So you create art just as a means of self-satisfaction?
Yes. The issue isn’t making someone understand something but rather to constantly create. I can’t do it any other way. If you think about being understood when painting, you’ll begin to deceive.
Nevertheless, the main protagonist in your paintings remains man.
Yes, because the sun rises for man. Wars are incited by men, and even at the pinnacle of the most massive developments sits the individual. I’m waging war in my art and don’t get involved in other wars.