We had the good fortune of connecting with Sevag Mahserejian and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Sevag, what makes you happy? Why?
I am happy when I am playful – And what better play than creating art – What better protest to reality, What better source of happiness. When I was a child waiting to blow out my birthday candles, I would, year after year, wish for happiness and love. It may seem silly that a seven year old boy would compress such vague and subjective values in his one and only wish, but it was even sillier to ignore the fact that another wish was just around the corner the year after. What if, these wishes we blew out did really come true? Then what would one truly wish for? As a seven-year-old boy, I could have easily asked for new hockey skates, a box of X-men comics, or a never-ending slice of mud-pie. However, as an adult faced with the same question, my response would remain the same. What is it to be happy though? We all know the feeling, the state, and understand that it is fleeting. It is unrealistic to expect the love and happiness we know and crave to be present as a constant. The belief and knowledge that it will come, that it is there, is more crucial. It is an illusion to think that you’ll be presented with it at every waking moment. A song is not full of crescendos. A novel does not impose a plot twist on every page. A film does not climax with every scene. Sex isn’t just about having an orgasm. You can’t feel the explosion of positivity all the time or else we would be unable to differentiate between the good, bad, and everything in between. Happiness and love create a sea. Once you’re thrown in, they surround you, but even an ocean takes breaks between waves. There are moments when the water, our world, stays still. In their absence we are only faced with the realizations that the waves will return once more. As they appear, we learn to ride them as long as possible, until we dive deeper into the water, come up for air and prepare for the next wave to arrive. So what do we do with the moments in between these waves? I create, paint, fuse mediums and explore ideas that I’ll come to translate with varying shapes and hues. It is in the process of creating art that I find happiness. The absence of awareness liberates the weights of the conscious world. Here, there is no audience, not even my own interpretations and commentary. The wonder, worry, and expectations come to a halt; it is a process that creates a flow of its own. Painting, playing, and creating itself is the only point. The process calms the mind and brings an end to one’s internal dialogue and hinders the incessant desires that plague our clarity. It pauses time and expands the moment in which I find myself in. It is here that the years of birthday candle smoke converge to outline the products of happiness and love – and I get to wish for it all over again year after year.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
My process in creating art focuses on fusing varying sources of inspiration and mediums to give birth to something new. I draw upon my own experience in psychology, theatre, and the Armenian culture with its vast history and richness in the arts. I’m captivated by nature, science, myths, poetry and humor. There is no set of guideline or rules that I am following. If I choose to work with acrylic or oil, wood or canvas, stencils or linoleum, cardboard or steel, it is my approach and style that unifies the work. There is always a sense of playfulness in my work, a style that has followed me since childhood. I like to keep my eyes entertained; often finding myself face up to the canvas, picking up on minor details, hidden phrases beneath layers of paint, illustrations that can only be viewed from an intimate distance. The progression of my art stems initially from the introduction to music, then studying theatre and finally focusing on the visual/fine arts. The medium that was most impacting on pursuing a career in the arts was creating installation artwork. The logistics, time, and obstacles that arise from taking a simple sketch and bringing it to life on a large scale setting propelled me into experimenting further and fine tuning the skill set I had been developing. I’m constantly playing with new mediums, learning new applications to continue this exploration of how to digest information, ideas, and concepts to allow them to ferment and finally escape in some form of orchestrated shapes and colors. The actual process of painting can be done quickly, as the layers had previously been contrived in my head prior to my hands taking over. Other times, its quite the opposite with my hands leading the way and my head catching up to contribute to the collaboration. There is no shortage of ideas, combinations of patterns and hues, subject matter; the further I move along, the more I crave to do. I have no interest in stretching out one process or idea and engulf a multitude of canvases with similar stains. There is too much to explore. I do find value in restraints as it massages the muscles of creativity to come to the foreground. From a macro perspective, it all seems like waves. One day it is intuition that leads the way, the next it is logic, a story or phrase. They come in short bursts or linger. With my installation work, I’m much more a perfectionist and need to be in control. With most of my paintings, I’m learning to let go of that control, but I’m critical of all it.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
My best friend and I actually have a podcast – Bate Forte Podcast – that stems from the idea to apply a traveler’s lifestyle to everyday life. Being born and raised in Los Angeles, I always had an issue with people visiting cities on a surface level. As much I seek local expertise when traveling in order to dive deep into what a city offers, I have always offered the same to guests visiting. It’s not just about the stars and signs of Hollywood or the boulevards dressed with cars. Let’s start with home, the Valley. The San Fernando Valley isn’t on anyone’s top list of destinations when flying into LA, but between the malls, shopping centers, and liquor stores, you’ll find a mouth full of cultures that’ll beg your appetite to stay. Follow Your Heart – a restaurant hidden within a natural foods market, you’ll weave your way through this mini grocery store to find probably the best vegan/vegetarian dishes. Recommendations: Follow Your Heart Burger & Tempe Tacos. Hayat’s Kitchen – no one does Lebanese food better. Recommendations: Chicken Shawarma, every single appetizer, and extra room for bakhlava. Versailles – Cuba Libre! Recommendations: Ox tail. Coffee Roasters – tiny coffee shop with excellent java outmatched only by their friendliness. If you’re venturing deeper into the valley, visit Stoney Point Park for a hike or continue down the 101 to Malibu and have a bite at Malibu Seafood. Burbank/Glendale: Tony’s Darts Away – nestled in the calm of Burbank you have a go-to bar for beer, games, and bites. Mini Kebab – a literal hole in the wall the serves up the best Armenian BBQ. Recommendation: Chicken thigh. Pasadena: Work up your appetite first by visiting the Norton Simon Museum. Ramen Tatsunoya – as an avid ramen eater and lover of all things Japanese, this place serves ramen that’s most comparable to Japan. Recommendation: Koku Tonkotsu. Pie Hole – after all that sodium, take a short walk to one of the best pies in town. Recommendation: Mexican Chocolate Pie. The Raymond 1886 – cleans your palate with a proper cocktail. Downtown: Angel City Brewery –Grab a few beers and walk around the Art’s District. After some libation, walk over to Little Tokyo. Chinchikurin – Little Tokyo. Recommendation: Try traditional okonomiyaki. The Broad Museum – secure your free tickets in advance. Walk over to the Grand Central Market afterwards for a well-deserved snack. Broken Shaker – rooftop cocktails. Guisados – exquisite tacos. Recommendation: Cochinita Pibil and Chicken Tinga. If you want to hear more, you can check out our podcast ‘Bate Forte Podcast’ on any platform.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
The environment my family created growing up is one that fused a sense of curiosity, discipline, humor, culture, and artistic expression. A group of relatives being crammed into one space is no different than a miniature crowd; by introducing music, dance, and cuisine you transform the same setting into a treasured gathering. Walking from point A to B can just be a means of transport, yet with music playing along it becomes a stroll. A house is only a shelter until you decorate its interior with paintings and artifacts, dressing the same structure now as a home. Life full of its obstacles can seem heavy; it’s the introduction of humor and comedy that makes it light and enjoyable. Each sibling, parent, aunt, cousin, uncle and grandparent provided the support and confidence, the strength and curiosity to continue adding a sense of wonder to every day life, for any moment is heightened by sprinkling art – in any one of its forms – into the scene.
Other: Podcast: Bate Forte (www.bate-forte.com) available on all platforms.