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Kevork Mourad: Multi-Layered Storytelling

Jill Steinberg
Jill Steinberg

Kevork Mourad does spontaneous painting, live with musicians.  He has performed at major world venues including the Metropolitan Museum, the Liverpool Biennial, and the Paris Art Fair, mixing painting, animation, video and music.  HPR’s Noe Tanigawa spoke with him in advance of performances here in Honolulu while he is Artist in Residence at Shangri La.

Jill Steinberg
Credit Jill Steinberg

Kevork Mourad, Artist in Residence at Shangri La, performs with Hawai‘i Symphony Concertmaster, Iggy Jang at the Seventh Art Stand opening, tomorrow, Saturday, at the Doris Duke Theater.  4:00-6:00 pm.  Tickets may be purchased through the Honolulu Museum of Art

He will perform at HPR’s Atherton studio on Sunday. May 28, 2017,  a "Home Within" performance with DJ Mr. Nick, Atherton Performing Arts Studio, Hawai‘i Public Radio, 4 pm, call 955-8821 for tickets.

At an event with Kevork Mourad, the action involves live painting in collaboration with music, overlaid video and animation.  Mourad is Syrian of Armenian descent, and says his ancestors were refugees welcomed by Syria a hundred years ago—in one version, his live performance thanks Syrians for their hospitality and reflects on the journey of seven million Syrians now displaced.

Kevork Mourad:  Paint, it’s paint squeezed on paper, and smeared or smudged on paper, so it means you cannot go back and erase it.  It’s like sound, you always go forward.  So this dialog that happens between me and the collaborator, it has to be honest and true in the moment.  You’re telling something.  You’re not just there to just do a jam session.  You’re there to tell a story.

Mourad:  I’m from Armenian descent.  When my ancestors came to Syria a hundred years ago, we were the refugees in Syria.  Syrians opened their arms and we became comfortable and safe there and I want to thank them.  I want to thank the Syrian community that they welcomed us a hundred years ago.  So I want to start with an Armenian piece that gives homage to what happened a hundred years ago, the journey started a hundred years ago and goes to today, to seven years ago.  All this crisis, how seven million people left Syria and went all over the world.  I feel like I  know what happened in the past and I want to be with my friends and neighbors and kind of express what they went through.  I want to create the journey.

With music as a through line, images emerge and dissipate.

Mourad:  I like to create like a film, where people can come from beginning to end and get one story. 

Mourad:  I never think what I am doing is unusual.  With the simplest thing in life you can touch someone.   The purer you are, the more honest you are with yourself, you can touch people.  It’s like you’re looking at the mirror, you cannot fake when you look at yourself.  You have to be true to yourself and when I look at this blank piece of paper, I am creating or writing a story, and that story is my story, and I’m doing it in the moment to just share the honesty of this simple thing.  The simpler you’re doing your work, the more effective and touching it is. 

Mourad:  So even though I’m using technology , when you look at what I’m making, you won’t even think, Oh, with the computer you have animation and you’re using a midi controller and you’re using splitters, no, the end result is a piece of paper and paint and you’re telling a story.  So it touches people because somehow people are with you when you are creating.  I don’t feel nervous, I feel like just when simply  your grandmother is telling you a story and you’re so in it, and when you’re reliving this intimate moment, you’re inspired and you’re touched without even thinking how this story is being told to you.

Mourad offers a new way of storytelling.   

Noe Tanigawa covered art, culture and ideas for two decades at Hawaiʻi Public Radio.
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