Leo Leo Vardanyan
Image, Picture and Imagination - At Your Own Discretion

While being minimalistic, the previous works of Leo were mainly two-dimensional, although one of the leading results of minimalism is the elimination of the substantive difference between the plane and the volume. Turning to performance, Leo not only overcomes the plane but involves the fourth dimension of time. This refers not only to the performance being within a chronological timeframe but also to the rendering and perception phases of the ongoing performance. 

An image can appear to each of us, at all times, in the dark, when we close our eyes for a moment. It can become a picture right at the moment when we are willing to see it and open our eyes. Herein lies the poetry of Leo’s performance: each moment of it reveals a new image in such a way that his art exists not only in the final image but also in its variations existing up until that moment. 

In terms of narrative, the viewer is invited to witness a blind painting session. Painting from the reverse side of the canvas, the paint is absorbed from one face and slowly released to the frontal surface. The artist shows us the creation of the painting by eliminating the fundamental act of painting. Thus, simultaneously, he also gives the viewer a chance to witness the resurrection of the image. 

At first glance, it may seem that this proposal is an illusionist trick. The performance does not actually refer to the mastery of hand by which the illusionist presents a visual wonder to the audience. It rather focuses on more essential elements of painting, like how we imagine something and how an image emerges as a visual phenomenon. Not as an expression of something or a picture but as an appearance/apparition. The expression is secondary, or, as the French philosopher Jacques Derrida would say, deferred (différé), therefore different from what we have previously encountered visually as an appearance. 

By this deconstruction of an image’s visualisation, Leo continues in the path of minimalism. He refuses expression that focuses only on the infinity of colour. This refusal is fundamental, as it also implies a rejection of the illustration of the artist’s emotional flow. It is pushed back to exhaust its energy in the inner turbulence of the artist and to ease, allowing his mind to focus on contemplation and meditation. Thus Leo concedes the right to transfer his subjectivity to the viewer. This creates a new framework for relationships between the viewer, the artist, and material as a medium that interacts with one another through interrogative discourse. 

How are we supposed to perceive Leo’s blind performance? The Armenian term for discretion, or հայեցողություն, contains many nuances. Eduard Aghayan’s modern Armenian dictionary highlights three elements to the act of discretion: glance, internal/mental examination, and reason. These three components come together in Leo’s performance as we observe, reflect, and assess according to our reason, and hence at our own discretion. 

Subjective gesture, thus, is not excluded, but reaffirms with all its might on the other side of the picture, in the environment where the performance takes place. By Leo’s proposal, an artwork comes to strengthen mine, yours, and everyone’s sense of freedom. The precondition for which is explicit: the free imagination of colour at our own discretion. 

Nazareth Karoyan