He was born on May 3, 1941 in Yerevan, Armenia, in the family of a well-known Armenian illusionist, Arshavir Khatchatrian ("Arsho").
He began to draw in early childhood. In 1962 he was graduated with highest honors from the Yerevan School of the Fine Arts. In the same year he was accepted into the College of the Fine Arts in Yerevan, but his studies were interrupted by his conscription into the army.
In 1964, while serving in the army, Levon Khatchatrian created his first picture that used text. In the Soviet Union an artist had appeared, working independently in the same genre as Kaprow, Kosuth, and Rauschenberg.
From his notes: "When I made up my non-drawn pictures, I couldn't imagine that such works would be called either Soc Art or Conceptualism or both together."
In 1965 Levon Khatchatrian returned from the army to Yerevan and continued his studies at the Art College.
But in 1967 he interrupted his studies and, against the will of his parents, left for Moscow to apply to the Art Faculty of the State Institute of Cinematography.
From his notes: I was sure I would pass the exams for skill, drawing, and painting, as well as for the history of the USSR, but I was scared about the Russian language exam. At that time I sort of understood Russian but spoke it very badly. I still remember the elderly examiner, who, having seen my marks for drawing and realizing that I knew nothing about parsing sentences, spent more time talking than asking questions. Finally, looking guilty, he said that he couldn't give me a mark higher than 'Passing'. This was a victory! On the total of my marks I got in!
While studying, Levon Khatchatrian continued "to make non-drawn pictures." As he perfected his graphic technique he gradually moved away from the use of artists' customary materials and approaches, since he considered that the times called for their own appropriate materials and means of expression. Almost all his works could be called documents of the epoch, a chronicle of those years.
In 1968 Levon Khatchatrian met his future wife, Larissa, and in 1970 their daughter Maria was born. But his family had almost no effect on his work. Later he wrote in his diary:
"Kharms wrote that he stayed up late, keeping awake."
"I also love to stay up until late at night. It's quiet, nobody bothers me. It's been this way ever since my student years. Living on campus in a room with three roommates, at night when I needed to smoke, I would go outside, into the long empty corridor. Various subjects, new ideas for pictures, scenarios. In one word, theory. Then it was impossible to think of the final result. Just to have an idea, just to write it down."
"Years later - the same situation. An one-room apartment, the child is asleep, and I'm working alone in the kitchen. This was a wonderful embodiment of my dream."
"In my student years I often flew to Yerevan. With a student ID I could buy a plane ticket for half price. These tickets were always sold for the red-eye flights. I rode through Moscow in the night and envied the windows that were lit-up. I didn't care who lived there or what they did by day. I envied the fact that the inhabitants could go into the next room and, without bothering anyone, turn on the light."
In 1973, after completing his studies at the State Institute of Cinematography, Levon Khatchatrian returned to Yerevan and worked at the republican studio ARMENFILM. In three years he worked on four animated films as an art director. In the last of them, "The Loafer", he was the author of the screenplay, the director, and the art director.
In 1975 he permanently joined his family in Moscow and began work at the largest animated film studio, SOYUZMULTFILM. As an art director, in seven years he made eight animated films, creating screen characters famous in the USSR. At the same time he worked in book and magazine graphics and was allured by the genre of caricature.
From his notes: For many years the Communists, in fact their Central Committee, fed me and my family. The main Soviet magazines came out under the aegis of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. It was in these very publications that I illustrated the works of our multicultural literature. During twenty years of membership in the USSR Artists' Union I didn't sell a single picture, didn't get a single commission, although I meticulously paid my membership fees.
Only fantastic capacity for work and tenaciousness in his art gave him the strength not to abandon his main (conceptual) works, although in the USSR they could not even be shown. The constant pressure had its effects. In 1982 he suffered a heart attack. After recovering, he decided to give up cartoons despite the huge success of almost all the cartoon films he had made.
In 1983 Levon Khatchatrian became a freelance graphics artist. Having seen even a few of his illustrations, one can note the variety of techniques, approaches, and materials used. Particularly notable was his work with the most authoritative magazine of the Perestroika period, "Ogonyok."
The new Russian freedom did not change much in the life of Levon Khatchatrian, though it did become possible to read his favorite authors in legalized editions. Kharms, Khlebnikov, Venedikt Erofeev, Zoshchenko, Shalamov...
From his notes: I really haven't felt the change of times. As under the old regime, I continued to illustrate the historical and detective books, short stories of dubious quality, and folklore of the multicultural South of Russia. I am happy that now, as before, my art is art for art's sake and in no way I yearn impatiently for "long-awaited meetings with an audience." And I'm not sorry that less work is getting done. What difference how many stacks of newspapers sit in the corner of the room or hang on the walls. It's not a matter of quantity. The idea is what counts.
In the year 2000, at the age of 59, Levon Khatchatrian became an addicted computer user. He quickly mastered complex graphics programs, and the Internet provided full access to the world.
Many new ideas and plans appeared including the computer animation and the creation of his own website - a virtual gallery where the presence of the artist is not required but access for the audience is unlimited.

He had not enough time to realize his dreams.
Levon Khatchatrian, my father, suddenly died of heart attack on December 17, 2002.

The present website is my tribute to him.
 

Maria Khatchatrian
 



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