The exhibition, currently on show at The Mosaic Rooms, brings together previously unseen photographs and new video work. Sarkissian’s practice typically explores one theme or place through an extended body of work. The subjects of his photographs are often unpopulated spaces that evoke the traces of history and memory, simultaneously exploring what is seen and what is not seen. During this artists talk Sarkissian and Mavlian will discuss the ways in which the artist uses photography to re-evaluate larger historical, religious or socio-political narratives.
This event will also see the launch of Sarkissian’s new artist book entitled Background. The book was selected as part of Art Basel Crowdfunding Initiative which raised funds to make the publication possible. Reflecting on the disappearing tradition of studio portraiture in the Middle East, this important publication features Sarkissian’s photographs of empty, staged studio backdrops across six Middle Eastern cities: Alexandria, Amman, Beirut, Byblos, Cairo and Istanbul. These backdrops, absent of their sitters, become symbols of lost traditions, cultural identity and time; eulogies to a certain period within a society and celebrations of portraiture as an art form, and of these spaces, which can no longer be found.
Shoair Mavlian works on exhibitions, acquisitions and displays at Tate Modern focusing primarily on photography. She has curated the major exhibition Conflict, Time, Photography (2014), which includes Sarkissian’s work, and Project Space: A Chronicle of Interventions (2014). She has also worked on many of the photography displays of the permanent collection across Tate Modern including Harry Callahan (2013) and New Documentary Forms (2011). She also researches photography acquisitions for the international collection.
Hrair Sarkissian (b. 1973, Damascus, Syria) has exhibited widely internationally in both group and solo shows including Tate Modern (London); New Museum (New York); Darat Al Funun (Amman); Mori Art Museum (Tokyo); SALT Beyoglu (Istanbul); Thessaloniki Biennale; Sharjah Biennial; Istanbul Biennial; Asia Pacific Triennial (Brisbane) among many others. In 2013 the artist won the Abraaj Group Art Prize. Hrair Sarkissian is represented by Kalfayan Galleries, Athens – Thessaloniki.