Sarkis was the artist entrusted with the second of the Centre-Val de Loire Region’s three-yearly commissions for the Domaine de Chaumont-sur-Loire (2011 – 2013). He has left 12 of the 72 stained-glass windows that he designed specially for the Domaine to it.
Sarkis’s work has a profound humanism and comprises representations composed of objects, sculptures, water colours, photographs and films, all created by the artist himself, which are nourished by references to history, philosophy, religions, the arts and geopolitics. They continually endeavour to build a bridge between works from the past and the contemporary world. Whether this involves works of art, architectural works or urban areas, they are complete places, which he invests with his work under ever-changing conditions (materials, light and colours).
Sarkis has designed this pathway of light like an initiatory and mental journey along which visitors write their own story. He has placed his glass exhibits in front of the windows of the Château’s former rooms for domestic staff. Unveiling images of life and death, love and architecture, these windows capture past histories and future visions in the present moment. Sarkis compares pictures of old techniques with those of daily life.
These panes of stained glass are transformed with the ever-changing light. At night, they are lit by LEDs which take over from the natural light.
Sarkis au Domaine de Chaumont-sur-Loire, 2012 - © Éric Sander
Serkis Zabunyan, known as Sarkis (his Christian name), is a French artist of Armenian descent who was born in Istanbul in Turkey in 1938. He started to paint at a very early age and supplemented this by studying interior architecture at the Academy of Fine Arts in Istanbul. He also studied at the Saint-Michel French Senior High School and got a degree from Mimar Sinan University.
Legend has it that Sarkis, whose real name is Zabunyan, saw the start of his career with Edvard Munch's “The Scream”, when as a sixteen-year-old from Istanbul he came face to face with the Norwegian expressionist’s painting. The idea of being a painter really made an impression on him and he exhibited his first obscure, oracular gouaches, while he was studying at the Academy of Fine Arts in Istanbul. However, we had to wait until 1962 for Zabunyan to become Sarkis: and it was not just his name that was to change after the artist, who is of Armenian descent, arrived in France on the eve of the May revolutions, it was his whole artistic expression. He put the conceptual stamp on his work when he launched his first exhibition “Do you know Beuys?” at the May Salon in 1967: from then on, Sarkis has had an ongoing dialogue with the history, artists and works which have had a profound effect on his creative path. The following year, he was already refining his sensory and enigmatic installations, by working with light, sounds and materials (felt, neons, unusual antiques…), which later became his trademarks. He taught at the Decorative Arts School in Strasbourg during the 1980s and then did a series of exhibitions in France and abroad from 1990 onwards. After the Liechtenstein Palace in Vienna (1995) and the Mamco in Geneva (1996), and in addition to the Istanbul Biennale (2009), Sarkis was invited to adorn the contemporary art museum in Lyon (2002), the Louvre (2007) and the Pompidou Centre, which dedicated a major individual exhibition to him in 2010.
Sarkis is represented by the Nathalie Obadia Gallery.