Nigaryan, Kamo

b1950 lives and works in Yerevan, Armenia

Kamo Nigaryan is a representative of the so-called ‘dissident’ group of Armenian artists that came to the fore during the 1970s. Graduating from the design faculty of Yerevan Institute of Fine Arts and Drama Nigaryan was often employed as a poster and furniture designer. Living and creating on the margins of the Armenia’s art world, Nigaryan was assiduously working on his numerous creative projects, almost none of which came to the public’s attention until the early 1990s.

His reputation as one of the most significant contemporary Armenian painters is well established, particularly after his first one man show at the Artist’s House in Yerevan in 2000. But his practice as a photographer remains little known.

Taking up the camera in the 1990s, Nigaryan created a suit of portraits and figurative studies that are completely unique in the annals of Armenian photography. Bringing the same, neo-expressionist approach utilised in his paintings, Nigaryan’s photographs aim to completely transform the indexical nature of the image. Photographed exclusively in black and white, the subjects are almost always artists and intellectuals within Nigaryan’s immediate circle.

Often the negative has been thoroughly reworked by scratching or with the addition of paint, sometimes completely obscuring the faces of those who are being photographed. Thus freed from the burden of being a mere ‘likeness’ or a reflection of reality, Nigaryan’s photographs operate on the level of allegory and existential questioning of self, identity, gender and soul.

By 2005, Nigaryan largely ceased his photographic activity due in part to lack of his favoured analogue printing materials and also in order to focus more on his large scale paintings. His brief and compact legacy as a photographer, however, marks a watershed in the history of Armenian art. In 2011, the Museum of Modern Art in Yerevan, recognised this significant contribution by organising Nigaryan’s second solo show, which was exclusively devoted to his photography.