(Image: Kevork Mourad- Facebook)
North Syrian born visual artist, Kevork Mourad, received his Master of Fine Arts from the Yerevan Institute of Fine Art. Currently living in New York, he is a visual artist of the Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble and has performed in the States, Canada, Japan, Germany, the Netherlands, France and Qatar, among others.
Kevork will do multi-media collaborative work on the upcoming Well Wish Ya production with the Ombetja Yehinga Organisation (OYO) Dance Troupe at the National Theatre of Namibia on 27 and 28 March.
Here is our interview with him:
Talk to us about your collaboration with OYO for Well Wish Ya.
I am very excited about this collaboration. The group is new to me, so I’ve prepared work based on what I’ve imagined of them. I will complete the piece on the ground with them, incorporating ideas and lines based on their movements and energy. I want to be a vehicle to transmit the history we are talking about.
This exhibition explores the meaning of the first genocide of the twentieth century and you are known to use printmaking, animation, and collaborative performance to bear witness to tell painful histories. Is there a particular conception of genocide your work will address?
The Herero-Nama genocide and the Armenian genocide are just a few years apart. For me, it’s interesting because all the artists are descendants of people who suffered in similar ways, and it will not be hard to find a common voice with which to talk about the subject. The ideas I like to work with are those of the importance of remembrance and how to honour and use the stories and pain of our ancestors.
Was there a pivotal moment when you decided to follow your path as an artist?
I knew from the age of six that drawing was my biggest passion. When I realized that people were moved by what I had created, I knew that this was my path. Perhaps the pivotal moment for me was when I had my first solo show in Aleppo at the age of 18, where I sold three pieces; without consulting my parents, I used that income to get myself to Armenia to study art, which was the beginning of my professional career.
Can you tell us about the process of making your work?
For my performance pieces, once I know the storyline, I divide the piece into sections and try to create unexpected moments for the audience. I also keep several moments of improvisation in which I can respond to what is happening on stage. In terms of technicality, I use acrylic paint on paper, mostly, and I use my own technique to create lines. I pre-create animations and also project live pieces created in real-time during the performance.
Do you have any artistic passions other than visual art? If so, how do you feel that your creative passions overlap?
I’m very inspired by music and literature, the ideas and rhythms of which find their way into my art. I’ve always created my art with music in mind if not played during creation. My performance art is indeed linear in the way of music. I use the stories and narratives I derive from literature to inform my pieces and my ideas on the world.
Does connecting with your inner self play a role in your creative process and success as an artist?
I feel that while my art strives to address things about the society around me, it is also intensely personal derived from my experiences as a person. I know that I’ve always been able to escape into my work and that creation becomes a way of exploring what is in my mind and heart as well as a way of processing what I observe around me.
You currently live and work in New York. Does New York’s culture in any way inspire or influence your art?
I think I have become more politicized and aware of things since coming to New York. The wealth of culture—museums, theatres, concert halls—and the energy of the place that is created by the incredible gathering of amazing minds and talents in one place has pushed me to create more and has helped me develop my voice. My art is very much informed by my being a Syrian-Armenian immigrant, but it is by being in New York that I have solidified my identity and pushed myself to express what I am meant to.
Do you believe that true creative expression can exist in the digital world?
Of course. The digital world is just a new form of preserving culture. It doesn’t matter if the work is on paper or in a digital format. It’s a medium like others, and if used well, it can help you share work instantaneously with people around the world, which creates a different rhythm, and therefore, shape to the work.
Do you believe in the concept of formal training for aspiring artists?
Absolutely. You need formal training. You can’t underestimate the audience who will see if your work is devoid of training. You must know your art and its history fully before you can bend the rules and create your own voice, which might seem, overtly, to have nothing to do with your schooling, but knowing your history and the history of your art is crucial to having a strong voice.
What is your greatest indulgence in life?
To be with my family, to bake bread and listen to a beautiful piece of music.
Besides Kevork and the OYO dance troupe, Well Wish Ya will feature guest performers, West Uarije, Nikhita Winkler, Monray Garoeb, Daniel Kuhlmann and LeClue Job. Tickets are available at Computicket for N$120 and N$150 at the door.