April 2024 brings an exciting new Hybrid Landscapes resident to Centrala: Karen Babayan.

From the 24th of April until the 25th of May, Karen will take over our gallery space upstairs, presenting: Out of the Ruins exhibition.

During this time, Karen will also spend time engaging the Armenian community in Birmingham and delivering a series of events and workshops at Centrala including the commemoration of the Armenian genocide featuring a film screening, a map-making workshop, an Armenian Folk dance workshop with Shakeh Major Tchilingirian and an artist talk.

This Hybrid Landscapes residency is supported by the Arts Council.

Out of the Ruins

At a moment when nations are once again at loggerheads and colonial powers continue to subjugate indigenous populations, Karen Babayan’s work is uncomfortably pertinent. Throughout her long career, Babayan has advocated for recognition of the Armenian Genocide 1915-1923 whilst exploring multiple hybrid identities and family histories through uncompromising work.

As part of Centrala’s year-long Hybrid Landscape programme, Babayan has carefully curated a selection of colourful paintings and ritualised objects made early in her career that evoke the colour and form of Christian and pagan religious iconography that depict war, genocide, natural disaster and the loss of innocence. These artworks contrast with a series of recent large-scale photographs through which we are invited to witnesses ongoing, state-sponsored cultural genocide.

The exhibition’s title is a reverent nod to Armenian activist and writer Zabel Yessayan’s book ‘Among the Ruins’ Աւերակներու մէջ (Constantinople 1911), a first-hand account of the aftermath of the 1909 massacres of Armenians in Adana, Turkey.  Babayan’s exhibition ‘Out of the Ruins’ recognises and acclaims the resilience of the Armenian nation in their small, precariously independent nation state as well as those in the Armenian diaspora whose multiple hybrid identities are a necessary strategy of survival borne out of a tumultuous history of genocide and Displacement.

Karen Babayan

Karen Babayan is a multidisciplinary artist and writer who explores her own hybridity, identity, sense of place and role as an artist with Eastern European and Middle Eastern heritage, living in the Western diaspora, in the north of England. A grandchild of Armenian genocide survivors she strives to raise awareness of this catastrophe that still ripples through the region today, most recently through the exodus and genocide of the Armenians of Artsakh (Negorno Karabagh). She is compelled to express her frustration and anger through the creation of images, poetry and fiction. Her work also gives us insights into issues around hybridity, dual heritage, of being both Eastern and Western, of belonging and not belonging.

Despite dealing with difficult issues, Babayan’s work is sumptuous and engaging. Babayan is an established artist, with over 15 solo exhibitions in the UK, Armenia and Canada. Her work is in many public and private collections, including, Tate Britain Library, London, Museum of Modern Art, New York, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, National Art Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, Rank Xerox Headquarters, Marlow, Provident Financial Group, Bradford, Dean Clough Collection, Halifax, Harris Art Gallery & Museum, Preston, Leeds City Art Gallery & Museums and Special Collections, Brotherton Library, University of Leeds.

She says: “Image-making, performance and writing enable me to explore and tell stories of my past and present self. Diasporan Armenian identity is investigated through handed down family stories and personal experience. Photographs are made and excavated, both from my own and other public and private archives, incorporating them into new work through projection, a variety of print media, painting, fiction writing and poetry. The experience of displacement is revisited. through the history that has shaped my family in our physical and psychological migration over time and space, bringing the past and the present together in one place.”