Assadour Retrospective at the Osthaus Museum Hagen in Germany

HAGEN, Germany—The renowned Osthaus Museum is currently showing a retrospective of the works of Paris-based Armenian-French graphic artist and painter Assadour entitled “Spuren Und Wege.” Opened in 1902 in the industrial city of Hagen, the Osthaus Museum was the first museum in Germany dedicated exclusively to the collection and exhibition of contemporary art. To this day, it is one of the most renowned and important exhibition venues for modern and contemporary art in Germany and Europe.

In this venerable house, the Assadour retrospective was opened on March 5, 2022, in the presence of the artist by Osthaus Museum director Dr. Tayfun Belgin and Dr. Kristin Platt, director of the Institute for Diaspora Research and Genocide Studies/University of Bochum.

The vernissage was attended by around 100 people, including numerous connoisseurs and friends of Assadour’s work from Germany, France, Italy, and Belgium. Among the guests were also Archbishop Norvan Zakarian (Paris) and Prof. Dr. Krikor Beledian (Paris), Prof. Dr. Mihran Dabag (Bochum), and Shogher Margossian (Brussels) from the Gulbenkian Foundation, which sponsored the exhibition catalog. 

The exhibition focuses on Assadour’s recent works (oil and acrylic on canvas) but also includes gouaches, prints, and other works on paper, some of which date back to the early 1970s. “Assadour’s pictorial aesthetic refers, on the one hand, to a pictorial interior – through actual or implied framing. On the other hand, extra-pictorial associations are inevitable, as our eyes recognize the sometimes machine-like human images,” said Dr. Belgin in his opening address.

Born in Beirut in 1943, the well-traveled artist is not only aware of his origins as a member of an Armenian family with roots in the territory of former Western Armenia, but also of the diverse traditions of a wide variety of countries – from the Orient to the Latin world. In his works, however, the experience of destruction and annihilation finds a reflection: “In my ancestral memory,” Assadour said about his work, “there is more than ever a feeling of uprooting as if the world was sliding towards an abyss.

This is why my works are scattered with fragments, from which one can, however, begin to rebuild.” Thus, many of his works map landscapes of rubble, which shines through even in the warmer works, down to the smallest detail.

Scattered throughout them, people hold small cones of light over the rubble. In doing so, Assadour’s images make no references and seek no new meanings. They do not want to preserve but want to accept witnesses. They show a presence and leave uncertain whether that presence is understood, and we can report on it.

It is the ambivalence between holding on and withdrawing that keeps Assadour’s creations on their unstable ropes. In her opening address, Dr. Platt said, “Assadour’s works testify to a certain obsession with time. In this, his paintings have a disturbing aspect. They make it clear that time stops forever over the ruins. The war stops time.”

It is a stroke of luck to be able to experience Assadour’s impressive works, suffused with dark radiance, in the magnificent exhibition rooms of the Osthaus Museum. The exhibition runs until May 5.

It is accompanied by an extensive catalog in German and English with contributions to Assadour’s life and work, which can be purchased at the Osthaus Museum.

By Dr. Medardus Brehl

Dr. Medardus Brehl is a Postdoctoral Researcher at the Institute for Diaspora Research and Genocide Studies/University of Bochum.

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