Jean Boghossian was invited by the Monte-Carlo Societé des Bains de Mer to create a series of exhibitions on the theme of the sea, as part of the island’s efforts to raise more awareness about the environment and in particular, the sea. The sea holds a special place for Boghossian, as a source of artistic and personal inspiration, and he has long supported marine preservation. He writes, “The sea and ecology, the ocean with all its animal and plant marine life, [is] ultimately a source of life.”
“The Sea is Green” includes three individual exhibitions; “Incandescent Sea”, at Les Allées et Jardins des Bouligrins, which features a series of triangular aluminium sculptural-paintings installed across the green lawn of the famous garden, “Ceramics and Shells”, an exhibition that mixes ceramics with real and fake shells, presented at the Hôtel Hermitage, and “Sails” a series of flags made from decommissioned sails, installed along Avenue Monte-Carlo.
Born in Armenia and raised in Lebanon before moving to Brussels in the 1980s to flee the civil war, Jean Boghossian worked as a jeweller with his family business for decades before turning to art. In the early 1990s, he bought his young son a set of paints and brushes for a gift. While the son was not interested, Boghossian himself found an immediate connection. He had always loved drawing and art through his work with jewellery design, but this was different. From this moment, he sought to dedicate himself to painting and art. He attended the School of Fine Arts in Brussels to study art history and fine art and began a new career as an artist. Abstraction and action-based painting was where he first found his voice, and then in the early 2000s, he began experimenting with fire, an element that he had known not only from living through intense civil war and displacement, but also in the precise process of jewellery making. Using a blowtorch, Boghossian transforms the surface of canvas, metal or wood, creating colours and textures that are layered and multifaceted, in many ways like the gems he once worked with. For the artist, fire is not a destroyer but can also be something that gives life. “The world may be in disarray, but art has the power to unify and heal. Through my work, I strive to create a sense of regulated chaos that serves as a reflection of our complex and unpredictable world,” writes Boghossian.
For “Incandescent Sea”, 42 large metal triangles are installed across the grass lawn of the Les Allées et Jardins des Bouligrins. Twelve of the metal plaques are from the Atomium monument in Brussels. When this historic landmark, originally installed in 1956 for the World’s Fair, needed restoration, Boghossian was offered some of the old metal plaques, which he saved for the right moment. Inspired by watching a sailing regatta outside of his window in Monte Carlo, where he often spends time, he knew they would be perfect to capture this dynamic movement, with the triangular form of the sails perfectly mirroring the form of these large plaques. Wrapping the metal in canvas and using fire, smoke, burning, scorching and collage, he creates swirling, abstract surfaces, each one unique. The process is quite physical, moving quickly around the support as the fire does it dance. Some are more saturated with deep greens and browns, while others focus on forms and shapes that reflect details of the marine life. The flags installed along Avenue de Monte Carlo were made with the same process of fire and smoke, using decommissioned sails as the surface, an important aspect in his work is reusing and repurposing as much as possible,
“Ceramics and Shells”, installed at the Hôtel Hermitage, blends rare and precious shells with his handmade ceramics made during an intensive 4-month residency with a ceramicist. Baroque-like forms that recall fantastical corals or magical creatures are placed on pedestals across the space. Many years ago, Boghossian received a collection of shells from an important collector. Some were donated to the Musée des Coquillages in Cap Ferrat, a small museum the artist has long loved visiting, and some have been used in this new body of work. “Everything is a way or reason for me to do art”.
Fire is one of Boghossian’s main artistic mediums, but his work weaves in the four elements in a very natural and fluid way including wind, which affects the fire’s movements, the swirling forms of the sea and the use of water in his process, as well as his use of earth and clay, all combine to define an body of work that is grounded in nature and connected to the environment.
“The Sea is Green” is on view in various locations across Monte Carlo through May 10, 2023.