Interview with Nvard Dalyan

From November 11 to 28, the Institute for Contemporary Art hosted "From the Veil", a joint exhibition by architect Nvard Dalyan and poet Sonia-Sanan Kilejian.

"From the Veil" combines Nvard Dalyan’s photographs and Sonia-Sanan Kiledjian’s poems, both inspired by the landscapes of Hamshen mountains. The artist and the poet, through different artistic mediums, explore the mysterious nature of mist.

Below is our conversation with Nvard Dalyan.

When did you start practicing photography?

Nvard Dalyan – I am an architect, but I’ve always been interested in photography. I was sixteen years old when my mother gave me my first camera. When I was young, I used to travel around Armenia and takes pictures of everything I found inspiring. Later, I specialized in architecture, but my love for photography helped me to develop qualities needed to become an architect. Looking at the world through a camera lens helps developing skills in composition, scale, light, etc. I think these two art mediums are very connected and naturally broaden the development of artistic vision.

How was the "Beyond the Veil" project born?

N. D. – In 2021, my husband and I travelled to Hamshen with a tour company. The first day's program was called "Gates of Heaven", and we were taken to a lake, high up on a mountain, deep in the forest. By the time we got there, the mist had completely covered the lake. It was truly a heavenly moment. With the repetitive movement of the mist, changes took place in lighting and form. I waited for the members of our group to finish taking pictures and began to photograph this changing movement. Nature seemed to create sceneries for me to photograph, and while doing so, I realized that "beyond the veil" lied another reality. I had a feeling of déjà vu, because I had had similar feelings in the past in the forests of Dilijan, in Parz Lake.

You have been taking photographs since you are sixteen, and this year you organized your very first exhibition. What brought you to choose these photos among all the pictures you took for so many years?

N. D. – I often flew into the infinite in my dreams. It was a very real feeling for me, as if I were in another dimension. Upon waking up, I understood that I was in another reality, and it was very important for me to depict this abstract feeling. What I felt at the lake in Hamshen took me back to my dreams. The idea of disappearing into infinity was very appealing. Nature has the ability to take you away from the real world, while remaining rooted in reality. It gives you the strength to think about sublime things, to forget about the trifles of everyday life. For example, when you stand at the top of a mountain, it seems that everything that’s below is very small and insignificant. The mist had the same effect on me. I talked about this with my friend, the poetess Sonia-Sanan Kilejian. She also had similar thoughts about the mist. And since this experience was inspiring, we decided to collaborate around this topic.

As an artist you witness different things in life, photograph them, and then try to share them with us. How do you decide whether you want to make something public or prefer to keep it to yourself?

N. D. – It depends whether I am satisfied with the result or not. If the artwork doesn’t impress the observer, I will not show it, even if it is a very good picture. I have to make sure that I have something to say and that I can trust and share what I have created. Everyone is taking photographs today. So for me, the important thing is to convey content and artistic feeling, not to focus on technical skills. It is very important to me that people experience and connect with my works. If the artwork is impactful, then I consider it successful.

Interview by Lilit Grigoryan