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 Garri Eduard Dadyan  (1952 - )

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Lived/Active: Washington / Armenia      Known for: miniature, icon, repousse, decorative

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Garri Eduard Dadyan
An example of work by Garri Eduard Dadyan
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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born 1952 in Baku, Azerbaijan, Dadyan is known for repousse metalwork.* (See below for further explanation). He was an ethnic Armenian from Baku, Azerbaijan, and was born of a formerly aristocratic family. His paternal grandfather, Aristarches Melic Dadayan, had changed his name to the more proletarian sounding "Artur Dadyan" at the time of the Russian Revolution. Melic means "Prince" in Armenian, and the surname "Melic Dadayan" was a well-known Armenian aristocratic surname.

Garri has named his House of Design "Melic Dadayan" to resurrect this family history.

Having been raised in Soviet Azerbaijan in the 1950's and 1960's, Garri was little exposed to the rich artistic and religious heritage of his historic ethnic roots in the Armenian Apostolic Church.** However, at the age of 15 he visited Armenia, and Ejmiadzin, the historic heart and capitol of the Armenian Apostolic Church, and of Armenian culture. This was to have a lasting impact upon him.

He attended the College of Applied Decorative Arts in Baku in 1970-71, where he studied ceramics. Even while pursuing the course in ceramics, Garri realized that metal was his real interest. Upon completing this course, he entered Soviet military service, and in his second year was called upon to head the ceramics team assigned responsibility for decorating the Central Staff Offices of the Soviet Army's new Caucasian Division Headquarters in Tbilisi, Georgia.

As head of the ceramics team, he worked alongside the members of the decorative metalwork team, and enjoyed complete access to their tools and materials. He used the relative freedom of movement and access his status as ceramics team head afforded him to both pursue his interest in decorative metalwork, and visit the studios of Tbilisi's acclaimed masters of repousse. (Tbilisi was at the time the center of the repoussé revival.) Garri took advantage of the opportunity to study their workmanship and techniques, visiting their studios often, in particular, those of the famed Soviet Georgian sculptor, I. A. Ochauri, a leader in the revival of repoussé. In addition, he visited the museums of Tbilisi in order to study other works of contemporary repoussé masters. He thus engaged himself in a sort of informal apprenticeship to the Tbilisi masters.

Upon returning to Baku a year later in 1974, he determined to do metalwork exclusively, and took a job in a repousse studio, where he was soon given the title of "Master Artist", and given the top designation of "6th rank"***. Over the next five years, Garri perfected his mastery of the simple repousse technique of the period, and began to rise in the ranks of the Soviet art establishment. He soon worked exclusively for the Soviet Art Fund, fulfilling their commissions for public works throughout the Soviet Union, and for sale in their galleries (see Major Exhibits and Public Works below).

By 1980 he had become a member of the Uzbekistan Art Fund****, and by 1985 was named a National Master Artist of the Soviet Union. He also had a thriving business in the popular and profitable repousse art business.

As mentioned above, by the early 1980's, Soviet art critics, and the Art Councils of the Soviet Artists Union, which held a monopoly on galleries, art shows and art distribution, had begun to tire of the simple repousse being produced in the period, and had virtually declared it "arta non gratis" by 1985. For Garri and many other Russian and Caucasian artists, the bottom had begun to fall out of their art businesses, and they were gradually forced to develop other art products or means of supporting themselves as artists during this period.

By the early 1980's Garri had begun to read the writing on the wall. He had already been developing innovative techniques of repousse, and he made a rather significant decision, both as an artist and a businessman. There was decreasingly any point in doing the simple repoussé that had been such a boon for him and others, and he determined that in order to continue in the medium, he would have to master it at the level of the medieval masters. The effort was to take five long years.

To learn the masters techniques, he began to study the medieval Caucasian masters works in museums and museum catalogs. His primary sources were the collections of the Museum of the History of Azerbaijan, its catalogs, the catalogs of Ejmiadzin, where the Treasures of the Armenian Apostolic Church are housed, and those of the Matenadaran, the State Library of Armenia, in which is housed a vast collection of historic Armenian illuminated manuscripts and miniatures. Slowly, by a process of inference from effect, and trial and error, he improved his skill and technique, developing additional innovative techniques along the way. By 1985 he was named a National Master Artist of the Soviet Union in recognition of the mastery he had developed.*****

For the next four years he developed his art business on the basis of these more sophisticated techniques.******* Religious motifs were avoided, except for private orders, until after the 1991 dissolution of the Soviet Union. The vast majority of his work was sold and distributed through the Soviet, and then Russian, Artists Union. It should be noted that because of the popularity and prestige of repousse as gifts, and the importance of gift-giving in Soviet, Russian and Caucasian society, Garris work enjoyed great popularity among the Soviet elite - government officials, the KGB, and high ranking military officers and he has fulfilled private commissions for such persons and organizations.

By the late 1980's, the Azerbaijani-Armenian conflict over the ethnically Armenian Nagorno-Karabakh enclave, located in the Soviet Republic of Azerbaijan, was in full swing, and the Azerbaijani government had begun to systematically slaughter ethnic Armenians living in Azerbaijan.

In 1989 Garri's family, like many other recent Armenian refugees in the West, was forced to flee overnight, carrying what they could in a Fiat sized car. Garri and his family moved to Moscow, Russia, where he slowly re-established his art business, selling his works through Soviet, and then Russian Artists Union Exhibits and Galleries. However, former residents of the Caucasus were not welcome in the Slavic republics, and in 1997, after a seven-year wait, Garri, his wife Rita, and two daughters emigrated to the United States.******** They have been resident in Washington State for five years.

1978-95 Exhibitions in Mexico, Japan, and European countries
1985-1993 Permanent Exhibits, National Central Galleries, Russian Artists Union
1985-1991 Permanent Exhibits, Central Artists Gallery, Soviet Artists Union
1987-93 All Soviet Artists Exhibit, Manezh Exhibit Hall, Moscow, Russia
1980 Seven installations for the 1980 Olympics
1975-85 Public works for various Azerbaijani and Soviet Ministries: Interior, State Security, Postal Service, Public Transport, Republican Economic Exhibitions, the Soviet Military 1975 Soviet Apollo Wall Sized Repoussé Mural

1993 Member, UNESCO International Federation of Artists
1991 Member, United Russian Artists
1989 Member, Art Society in Moscow
1986 National Arts Fair, Moscow
1985 National Master Artist, Soviet Artists Union
1981 Central Moscow Gallery
1980 Central National Gallery
1979 National Master of Repoussé, Russian Artist Gallery of Moscow
1978-95 Exhibitions in Mexico, Japan, and European countries
1974-79 National Arts Fund

UNESCO International Federation of Artists, 1993
National Master Artist, Soviet Artists Union, 1985

Repousse is performed by taking a thin sheet of metal and chasing a design or image on it from both sides. When the metal is worked from one side only it is called chasing. Fine liners (chisels) and delicate hammers are used to chase the metal from the front, and punches (blunt-nosed chisels) are used to work it from the back, creating the design in relief.

In order to facilitate creating "volume", or the protruding parts of the relief, Garri employs resin, clay, wax, iron, sand, etc., to "cushion" the metal while he chases and punches it.

As a master metalsmith, Garri uses repousse, engraving, filigree and granulation, niello, wax-casting and enamel with equal dexterity and mastery, frequently employing them in combination, depending on the effect he wishes to produce.

Repousse in combination with electro-forming. Garri uses electro-forming to produce reproductions of entirely repousse originals, and also sometimes uses it in combination with repousse to create the original form, depending on the effect he wishes to achieve. In this case, he begins with repousse, creating a negative, then uses electro-forming to create a positive, which he continues to chase, and back and forth, from one to ten times depending on the intricacy of the design. At present, we are not aware of anyone else in the world using electro-forming in this manner. These techniques are best demonstrated to be fully understood, as they are subject to misunderstanding due to the traditional uses of electro-forming.

*Repousse metalwork reached its apex in the Caucasus in the Medieval period, largely achieving its most sophisticated expression in the religious artistry of the Armenian and Georgian national churches. Technically, the medium plateaued through the mid-19th century, and had largely died out in the Caucasus by the end of the 19th century. In the 1950's, a number of noted Caucausian sculptors, among them I.A. Ochauri and K.E. Guruli, determined to revive the lost art of repousse. Their achievements were modest in comparison with the medieval masters, but nevertheless, repousse became a highly popular art form in the Soviet Union from the 1950's to the mid 1980's.

Many Caucasian artists learned to do simple repoussé, mostly employing simple images in their designs. It became a profitable business for them, and an increasingly wide-spread form of decorative art. By the early 1980's, the Soviet art market was sated with simple repousse, and of a deteriorating quality. The Soviet arts establishment, centered in the Soviet Artists Union and the Soviet Arts Fund, which had previously aided, abetted, and indeed created the wave of interest by their approbation and official promotion, began to reject it as an acceptable form of art, virtually depriving repoussé artists of demand for their works, and ending a thirty year heyday of Soviet simple repoussé production. By 1985 the works were no longer exhibited in official venues.

**"Repousse," a metal sheet is chased from the front with fine liners (chisels) and punched from the back with punches (blunt-nosed chisels), the design or image is created in relief; various materials are used to cushion the metal in order to produce the relief.

***"Filigree," a twisted wire is used to create a design, along with granulation. The wire and granulation design is laid on the metal background, solder powder is sprinkled on it, which is then heated with a blow-torch. This causes the solder powder to melt and bond the filigree composition to the base metal.

****"Granulation," a part of filigree - small balls of metal are used in combination with the twisted wire to create a design.

*****"Engraving," metal is carved

******"Niello," either a chemical oxidization process, or black nickel plating, is applied to the final work to darken it, which is then polished and burnished to produce the desired effect of lighter and darker portions on the metal.


Garri's repousse subject matter varies from the canonically defined poses of Russian iconography, to adaptations of images from the rich tradition of Armenian miniatures, to finely patterned designs, to simple animate objects, including humans and animals.

Armenian miniatures and illuminated manuscripts form one of the richest legacies of Armenias religious heritage, and were produced prolifically throughout present day Armenia, Turkey, Syria and Israel in the Middle Ages. As in the Western tradition, scenes from the gospels and the Old Testament are most typically portrayed. Garri's Armenian religious repousse is based on these, on images from Armenias rich religious architectural tradition, and on carved stoned "khatchkars"* or stone stilos.

Simple Pictorial Repousse images typically come from Armenian, Persian, Russian and Middle Eastern and Central Asian mythology and history, depicting animals and humans.

Melic Dadayan

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