What was the creative process this piece?
This is my most recent work, which has been made in collaboration with writer Liana Aghajanian** and designer Keegam Shamlian. The work was made recently as part of my residency with the Wassaic Project in upstate NY.
What feelings come to you when you look at it?
A deep sense of connection is inherent in the work. This also invokes feelings of belonging, warmth and shared stories. Domesticity and the symbolic representation of craft in the work, stand in for a deeper narrative of longing to retrace and reconnect to a sense of cultural identity.
“This piece represents a new direction for my work and an exploration of symbols, food, ritual and memory that make connections to shared cultural heritage within the Armenian diaspora.”
What were your references, influences or inspirations during your creative process?
My direct inspiration for this work is the delicate needlework made by Armenian women. The needlelace tablecloth symbolises the table, the kitchen, the centre of the home, a place where we share, connect, tell our stories and come together.
What did you enjoy the most about the process?
The drawing of the lace tablecloth was a meditative process, as was the printing process. I find a sense of peace within the process of printing and this reflective state allows for these ideas to coalesce within my work.
What was the hardest thing for you and how did you solve it?
Working collaboratively was rewarding but also tricky to fully realise the idea. Through honest conversation and direct communication around a shared vision, these pieces were realised and effectively represent the energy of the three of us working together.
Where would you like to see it exhibited?
Ideally I would love to exhibit these works in an immersive exhibition that involves the experience of Armenian food and drink. In an environment that allows for the engagement of multiple senses. I am working on a broadsheet and artist book that also encompass the words by my collaborator, Liana Aghajanian set in letterpress to accompany the finished series of prints.
“The table is where we always meet. It is where we laugh, love, fight and atone for our sins together. It’s where we confront our past, encounter our longing, make peace with the present and face the future. On embroidered tablecloths we trace our fate, our jakadagir in Armenian, that which literally means “written on the forehead,” and all the forces we couldn’t control that violently scattered us like sesame seeds to all the corners of the world.
But over thick coffee, pungent grape leaves preserved in brine, slices of sweet watermelon or stacks of unleavened lavash ready to soak up shish kebab drippings, we find our paths to each other. Every slice and spoonful is a portal, an opportunity to access a forbidden world. We’re in control. We own our joy and our pain. We satisfy our cultural cravings on our own terms.
On the table, we thread our story back together again and pass the needle on. Our plates, full to the brim, become a tangible inheritance, a legacy to recreate over and over again.”
Prose by Liana Aghajanian
Throughout her creative practice, she explores, experiences and examines the idea of ‘hybrid hyphenations’ within contemporary cultural and social identity. Joanna continues to document an ongoing journey, a search for identity and belonging from a post-colonial perspective that crosses generations and encompasses the diasporic experience. Her work illustrates this complex heritage through a multi disciplinary practice and celebrates her SWANA ancestry through contemporary cultural depictions.