Tokatlian was born in Beirut on 17th October 1957. His childhood was marked by his grandfather’s stories, the only family member to have survived the Armenian genocide of 1915. His father was the one who initiated him into the art world. Grandfather, father and son often drew and painted together. In 1981 Raffi came to Paris and spent two years at the Ecole des Beaux Arts combining drawing to sculpture and interior design. On a trip to Egypt Raffi discovers Pharaonic sculptures that turned out to be a major inspiration for him. 1984 – Return to Lebanon, where Raffi founded a company of more than twenty artists for mural painting and trompe l’oeil arts. Since 2000 Tokatlian has created more than 60 sculptures in his studio in Beirut. 2008 – Opening of his own gallery “Knowledge of Arts” in Beirut as a permanent exhibition of his works. The same year, Tokatlian’s sculpture “Liberation of the Spirit”, a symbol of the marathon, is selected to be exposed at the Marathon Museum in Athens, Greece, in the presence of the Greek President and the mayor of the city. Exhibitions: 2007 – Soho, Down Town, New York, USA, 2008 – AFP Galleries, New York, 595 Madison Avenue, 2008 – Harvest Gallery, Los Angeles, USA 2009 – Palazzo Zenobio, Venice, Italy, 2009 – Art International Zurich, Kongresshaus, Switzerland.
The artist is willing to shake us up, intent on awakening us to see something both strange and real. Tokatlian is a sculptor who gives us visions, dreamlike images, which carry within them suffering and wisdom, the fantastic and the real, all made manifest in human form.
One does not leave an exhibition of Raffi Tokatlian’s sculptures unscathed. His works engrave themselves on the spirit, leaving an indelible stamp on the soul. Sometimes, they can even be “disturbing”, in the sense that Braque gave the world when he claimed that “Art is meant to disturb”. All things considered, however, Tokatlian’s world-with his fantastic visions and tormented bodies being reminiscent of the world of Gibran; his frightening creatures, hybrids, evoking those in the works of Jerome Bosch- is in no way oppressive. His sculptures have a fluid, ethereal quality that escape the substance from which they emanate. They are a hymn to life, symbolized by the primordial or comic egg, by the primal shell; they are a return to genesis both in the sense of origin and of birth. They are also a hymn to woman, both lover and mother. And when they represent the human body, they reveal, without expressing these emotions violently, a combination of passion, energy, and sensuality.
Resolutely anchored in modernity, abounding with allegorical and mythological symbols, Tokatlian’s works are an invitation to reflect on our destiny while enchanting us with their harmony. We sense the quest for movement, the concern for self-expression, and the desire to capture every shiver of life such talent leaves one speechless with admiration.
Counselor at the Ministry of Culture in Beirut