In this episode of the podcast I am joined by Armenian artist Maral Matig, who is based in Montreal, Canada. Her paintings explore existentialism, duality and what it means to be a diasporan Armenian living outside the homeland. All of her subjects share traditional Middle Eastern features in some form or another and each tell their own story, often mirroring her own feelings and experiences.
Maral started drawing when she was very young. “I would draw those barbie dolls…I was always interested in trying to replicate reality even if its in an amateur way, I always wanted to replicate what i saw in real life”, she says, adding, “Now I allow myself to use it as a form of a self expression, to release any emotions that I feel.”
If you are familiar with Maral’s work you will notice that they are heavily inspired by historical Armenia, yet Maral says her journey to accepting her Armenian-ness took its time. “For the longest time I suppressed my Armenian identity. But then I kind of felt lost without it so I found my way back”, she says, “I find a lot of peace within my culture, so now I feel I’m at a better place.” And, while Maral did go to Armenian school, she was never taught about Armenian art, explaining that she found out about art and music on her own.
Maral’s family is Egyptian-Armenian and Turkish-Armenian, and with family from Istanbul, she finds a lot of Turkish influences. “I just like taking inspirations from different cultures”, she explains, “Not just Armenian-ness, I think it can be spread out from a wider region than that.” That said, there is also a sense of dreaming and longing within some of her paintings, reflecting a dream of one day visiting Armenian. In one particular image an Armenian boy rests his arm on a mountain and Maral explains: “I really wish that Armenian men were given the opportunity to be soft, and for vulnerability to be seen as a powerful thing. I wish they could be given the chance to fully express themselves whether they’re feeling sad and emotional.”
And, in her teens, Maral’s work is moving in a new direction, one that seems more provocative and open to new influences. “I’m kind of having a shift right now and it’s hard to navigate”, she says, “I want to maintain my Armenian-ness in my art but I also want to grow and not just stay in one place.” She’s also thinking of pursuing art school in Armenia or going into something with design, adding that she is actually thinking of becoming a tattoo artist.
As for inspirations, Maral is particularly inspired by Armenian modern artist Martiros Sarian. “He would often do mountain landscapes and they’re just so dreamy”, she says, “I love them.” She’s also inspired by music too, citing Vigen Hovsepian, Raveena Aurora and Rina Sawayama as influences.
And as for the future? “As an artist I just want to experience every culture possible around the world because I think every culture has some kind of solace to answer in art and philosophy”, says Maral, “I just want to travel and see where the root of everything – people’s ancestry, their traditions – where does it come from? And how can I use that to find peace within myself and within the world.”
Maral and I also wanted to add a little section about the current situation in Armenia and clashes affecting Armenian people in Artsakh. We wanted to take a moment to let you know about some prints that Maral is selling via her Etsy page to help those affected by the conflict.