Prominent Artist Rubik Kocharian Passes Away

Rubik Kocharian feat photo
Rubik Kocharian in front of his Unfinished Work, oil on linen, (Photo Nov. 13, 2019)

Rubik Kocharian in front of his Unfinished Work, oil on linen, (Photo Nov. 13, 2019)

A prolific Armenian artist, Rubik Kocharian passed away on Friday, November 29, 2019. The community lost an individual who had the deepest compassion and love of his roots, his Armenian heritage, its history, and cultural treasures. His objective in life was to preserve these values and share them with generations to come through his artwork.

Born in Yerevan, Armenia in 1940, like many Armenian families during the Soviet years, Kocharian was exiled with his parents to Siberia from 1946 to 1953. They landed in Bashkiria, where, under very difficult living conditions, young Rubik decided to become a painter. Here, an exiled Russian painter Ivan Pavlov became his art teacher. The family was allowed to return to Armenia in 1953.

An avid student of history and ancient civilizations, Kocharian, merged several styles of the Masters while preparing his own paints and colors to express his artistry.

Once exiled with his parents to Siberia (1946-1953) Rubik Kocharian, pictured lower right at renowned artist Ivan Pavlov's art class, became a prolific artist creating more than 1,000 artworks in different genres that are part of private collections worldwide

Once exiled with his parents to Siberia (1946-1953) Rubik Kocharian, pictured lower right at renowned artist Ivan Pavlov’s art class, became a prolific artist creating more than 1,000 artworks in different genres that are part of private collections worldwide

According to critics, while in New York he was known as a major exponent of a new art movement called “Magic Realism.” Upon his move to Los Angeles from New York, Kocharian’s subject matters changed from depicting urban squalor to nature studies and still lifes, preserving the spirit, joy, and bright colors.

“His meticulously rendered nature studies and still lifes reflect his interest in Italian Renaissance art. Technically advanced, almost Pre-Raphaelite in their obsessive attention to detail, Kocharian’s repetitious array of flowers, fruit and gnarled tree trunks exalt representational realism as if the 20th-Century Modernist experiment had never existed,” reported the Los Angeles Times in August 1987.

“Ruben Kocharian’s paintings are dense, detail-packed still lifes and pictures of everyday life. Rich with the descriptive texture of blistered paint, papery onion skins and crisply folded cloth, these genre scenes have a closely observed intensity,” reported the L.A. Times in April 1989.

Rubik Kocharian with the artist Rubik Kocharian, "Mona-Lisa" and Rubik Kocharian Self Portrait, 12"x16" (2011) -  "La Giaconda Print with Broken Glass, 54"x45" (1989)  - Self Portrait, 9"x11" (2003)

Rubik Kocharian with the artist Rubik Kocharian, “Mona-Lisa” and Rubik Kocharian
Self Portrait, 12″x16″ (2011) – “La Giaconda Print with Broken Glass, 54″x45″ (1989) – Self Portrait, 9″x11″ (2003)

Kocharian, who may be considered a classical-naturalist in his style of painting, was one of the few Armenian artists who took on the challenge of creating some of the significant traditional historical events of Armenian history through his paintings.

Kocharian migrated to the United States in 1974. He arrived with no money, having to leave behind all of his paintings in the Soviet Union. During the early years in the United States, the artist’s life was very challenging to say the least. He established his studio called, “Rabutwo Gallery” on 126 Madison Avenue (between 30th and 31st St) in New York. In a short time, Kocharian came up with a completely new series of artwork that were exhibited in well-known galleries in New York and Washington, D.C. In 1980, he was invited to Greece where he created a series of paintings and drawings of “Armenian Village” on Greek island Crete.

The artist Rubik Kocharian, 2018 preparing his Conceptual Still Lifes exhibition with Varoujan Der Simonian  -  Lipton Tea Box, Oil on Linen, 37 x 44, (1976)

The artist Rubik Kocharian, 2018 preparing his Conceptual Still Lifes exhibition with Varoujan Der Simonian – Lipton Tea Box, Oil on Linen, 37 x 44, (1976)

Two significant events in his life provided direction to Kocharian’s artistry and talent. The first was in 1967, when he was introduced to Boris Borisovich Piotrovskiy – director of Hermitage museum of Leningrad at the time – who was conducting archaeological work in Armenia. Piotrovkiy visited his studio in Yerevan, Armenia and was very pleased to see his paintings. He posed for his portrait, during which Kocharian asked questions about the history of ancient Armenia.

In Kocharian’s words: “I was working on a composition ‘King Argishti visiting the temple of God Teishebaini.’ That temple was in [the] Yerevan region and Boris Borisovich was conducting archaeological work there, too. His answers to all my questions stood in my mind since then, and my first historical composition ‘King Argishti visiting the temple of God Teishebaini’ was accepted to the juried exhibition at Artist Union of Armenia and was bought by Ministry of Culture of Arm SSR. Since then, I dedicated to painting compositions presenting Armenian history.”

Rubik Kocharian, "King Argishti visiting the temple of God Teishebaini." Oil on Linen (1968)

Rubik Kocharian, “King Argishti visiting the temple of God Teishebaini.” Oil on Linen (1968)

The year 1984 was the second crucial point in his profession and life. He married Anahit Yesayan, who was once his art student in Yerevan. Rubik found the support, comfort, and motivation to flourish. Anahit brought stability to his life, providing him the opportunity to further develop himself and his creative, artistic talent. In 1986, he moved to Los Angeles where he exhibited his work at the Heritage Gallery and other exhibition halls. In 1996, the artist and his family moved to Fresno /Clovis, California where he was active in art circles and had held numerous exhibitions over the years.

Kocharian continues: “After emigrating to U.S., I kept working on that subject matter. For the past 20 years, I am painting compositions on Armenian history from B.C. to Christian history periods.”

His last three solo exhibitions were held at the Armenian Museum of Fresno. The opening night reception of his world premier exhibition titled, “Armenia: From BC to Christianity” was on Friday, September 2, 2016 on the 25th anniversary celebration of Independence of Artsakh. The following year, his exhibited was opened on September 21, 2017 titled, “All Things Pomegranate” – a symbol of fertility and rebirth dedicated to the independence of Armenia from then Soviet system. In 2018, his series on “Conceptual Still Lifes” depicting ever changing traditions and values of our lifestyle dominated the show.

Rubik Kocharian, "All Things Pomegranate." Oil on Linen

Rubik Kocharian, “All Things Pomegranate.” Oil on Linen

Kocharian’s art is based on his lifetime devotion in studying the history, traditions, and culture of the Armenian people and other ancient civilizations. During the past few years, he had created several new paintings that the Armenian Museum of Fresno was in the process of compiling in an upcoming 122 pages 12×12 monograph, composed of some 40 original oil-on-linen paintings, which will be accompanied with bilingual captions providing their historic significance in the Armenian heritage and culture. Kocharian was working on a new composition when he unexpectedly passed, on November 29, 2019 at 3 a.m. at a local hospital.

The family requests that In Lieu of flowers, donations be made in memory of Rubik Kocharian to the Armenian Museum of Fresno and mailed to P. O. Box 5921 Fresno, CA 93755. The funds will be used to publish his artwork. Heartfelt condolences to his wife Anahit, son Mourad, and all his relatives. May he rest in peace.

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2 Comments

  1. sylva portoian,MD said:

    I was lucky to have communication with the great Armenian artist Rubik Kocharian,
    I always wanted to cover my poetry books with paintings by Armenian artists …
    as I have observed that many counties don’t know about them as others …
    By luck, I found Rubik’s painting which matched with the title of my book,
    “Carve Poetry Into your Psyche” The title of Rubik’s Painting
    “Urartian Sculptor (Urartu: Ararat) oil on linen, 16×20 inch, 2008″
    I asked if he can send me a copy to cover my poetry book, he was kind enough to agree…and we had interesting communication with each other. After I published the book in the USA by Xlibris, I forwarded many copies to him… he was very thankful, and in the same book, I wrote this verse about him on p.125.

    Rubik Kocharian (1940-2019)

    Rubik’s paintings
    Carves . . . Chants . . . Cranes . . .
    From its Genius Brushes.
    From its Rocks
    About unattended* ancient art

    Armenian History
    Armenian Domes
    Armenian Kings and their Temples…
    Armenian Khachkars
    &
    Every art, made by
    Ancient Araratian hands

    The spirit of his painting carved itself in my retinas
    To-be the cover of my poetry book and its title
    “Carve Poetry into Your Psyche”

    Sylva Portoian, MD
    February 25, 2014
    _______________
    *Unattended . . . neglected: what has been neglected is the credit that should be given to
    Armenians instead of attributing ‘Armenian Ancient Art’ to Turks and others.
    ________________
    Rubik forwarded to me, his portrait which is included in the book and another painting which I loved,
    “Mithradates Greeted at Temple of Armenian Goddess Anahid”.

    Kocharian’s artistic paintings are historical, should be included in the history books in schools …
    Rubik is immortal by his dedicated paintings especially his BC paintings…
    I never like to use RIP… because his paintings will breathe always, will never rest…

    Sylva Portoian,MD,MSc,MFPHM,FRCP.CH (UK) (Pediatrician & Poet)
    Winner of The Carnegie Poetry Prize, Spring 2009
    Twenty Historical Poetry Books in three languages globally.
    and 10 medical articles in international journals including “The Lancet”.

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