Jean Boghossian

The poetry of life

Sculptor and painter Jean Boghossian has made fire a major subject of his work. This spring he is installing his painted sails in outdoor locations throughout the resort, with a focus on the theme “The Sea is Green”.

Jean Boghossian is exhibiting around thirty marine ceramics until May 10 at the Hotel Hermitage Monte-Carlo. © Anna Van Durme

Water, air, earth: the elements have been explored in depth by artists, and Jean Boghossian has chosen to activate flames in his own work. “I initially thought about burning things for a few months, then this fire tamed me and developed in all my practice,” explains the Belgian-Lebanese artist of Armenian descent, who, like Alberto Burri, Yves Klein and Claudio Parmiggiani before him, is fascinated by the traces and ambivalence intrinsic to this medium. 

The alchemy of fire on color, an art tamed by Jean Boghossian. © Lisa De Boeck

It should be noted that in an earlier life, Boghossian began working with a blowtorch at the age of 17 in order to make rings: “We’ve been in the jewellery business for six generations. In this profession, you have to know how to draw, so my father made me take drawing lessons when I was six years old in Aleppo. Then I moved to Lebanon and travelled around the world to source stones for the biggest jewellery houses in Place Vendôme.” From Square Beaumarchais to the Jardins des Boulingrins, Avenue de Monte-Carlo and the Carré d’Or, the artist has installed a “regatta” of colourful canvases inspired by the sailboats he sees passing by from his balcony, which seem to dance, sometimes in harmony, sometimes in separate bursts, in the waters of Monaco. Some of the works were made using recycled materials steeped in history. “Diane Hennebert, the director of our Boghossian Foundation in Brussels, gave me plaques from the Atomium. She led the restoration of this Belgian symbol of the Exposition Universelle of 1958,” Boghossian explains. The plaques were left in a corner of his studio and painted over the years, reflecting the evolution of Boghossisan’s work, from gestural expressionist painting to the use of smoke, burning, collage and later, tearing. 

Ink painting by Jean Boghassian, exhibited at Hôtel Hermitage Monte-Carlo as part of The Sea is Green. © Anna Van Durme
Transformed by the artist, the plaques from the Atomium float like sailboats across a green sea in the Jardins des Boulingrins. © Gilles Libert

The sea, source of artistic creativity
“Although my painting was figurative to begin with, I made the jump to abstraction in 2005. I started to study how fire reacted to colour, and to introduce pigments to smoke. You have to know when to stop burning, before reaching a hole, a third dimension. I needed this strong sense of engagement of mind and body in my practice. Fire burns buildings and is found in wars, but it is also a symbol of redemption and purification,” the artist continues.  In addition to the plaques from the Atomium that float like sailboats across the resort, Jean Boghossian also pays tribute to the ecology of the ocean and its diverse marine wildlife in a series of ceramics presented at the Hôtel Hermitage Monte-Carlo.
“When I heard that the Seashells Museum in St-Jean-Cap-Ferrat was closing in 2016, and that its collection was going to be sold, I bought it so it could continue to be displayed, and I created sculptures based on pieces from the collection that were not exhibited,” adds the artist. In line with this ethos of conservation, reclamation and recycling, Jean Boghossian celebrates the poetry of the seas and oceans in this exhibition.

By Tanja Stojanov