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  • Madeleine Burnell and Evelyn Earl

Krikor Momdjian on life, philosophy and Salt Room Wanderings.

On Monday afternoon Krikor sat with us in the gallery, with the iconic ‘Seasons come seasons go (Always in love)’ as his backdrop and the rainbow road of ‘When Night Falls’, Dinner is ready in the Salt Room, starting to form at our feet. Over the next half hour, he gave us an insight into his life; his inspirations, philosophies and experiences; all of which have contributed to the creation of the exhibition Salt Room Wanderings.

Krikor began his life in the working-world as an architect and designer in Paris, doing this for four days a week and painting for the other three. He ended up in Paris after winning a prestigious art scholarship in Lebanon through which he received funding to travel and practice art in Europe. The condition of the funding was that he had to return to Lebanon to teach at their request. He lent forward in his seat as he told us of his near return to Lebanon - his family were waiting and had prepared a feast of all of his favourite foods, but news had just broken that the war was starting. His friend told him to wait a week before returning, and sure enough, the first bomb fell within the week and Krikor remained in Paris. He describes it as being his “destiny”. In Paris, he met his wife with whom he moved to Holland and began his life as a professional artist in his early thirties.

The idea of unity appears frequently within his work and so we asked Krikor from where this stems and whether it’s linked to the diaspora of the Armenian people following the 1915 genocide. He responded “It is more than that. That would be too limited. Then I would only be concerned with my own problems… I see unity as a very broad, global issue… We all have to think that this planet is ours, but what do we do with it? … I don’t want to stick to the idea of only your own kind united... No, we have to deal with each other. That is why this table is symbolic of the idea that we all sit together at the table; it is a metaphor for communication as people sit next to each other.’ He emphasises how he responds to the tragedies and hate in the world with compassion and humility for each other.

His philosophies are predominately concerned with the link between nature and man, particularly the way in which everything undergoes constant change. He comments that the title, ‘Seasons Come Seasons Go’, “has the very broad idea that sometimes you feel good and sometimes you feel bad. These are the seasons.” He went on to talk specifically about his ‘Seasons come seasons go (Always in love)’ which he refers to as “My Mondrian”. He says that, in this work, “you have everything, you have all of the colours; it means the whole world is complete… It is based on structure, the four seasons and the 12 months… Not literally, but in the middle you have sun, you have light, you have life, the pleasure of life.”

Salt Room Wanderings explores some of the largest themes known to man; nature, the cosmos, compassion, love, unity and life itself. Yet, as indicated by the title of the exhibition, much of these ideas were born during Krikor’s time here in Oxford, specifically in the Salt Room in Pembroke. Krikor explained to us the connection he feels: “The Salt room for me is a very exciting, very inspiring room. I don’t know why but I don’t sleep when I go there.” In the central installation, entitled 'When Night Falls', Dinner is ready in the Salt Room, we see the muses, the colours, the seasons, different races, different nations all arriving to dinner, sitting side by side in unity with Krikor in the Salt Room.

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