SHAVO ODADJIAN Discusses 'When Art Imitates Life' Piece

Teaming up with Los Angeles-based creative firm When Art Imitates Life, SYSTEM OF A DOWN bassist and ACHOZEN visionary Shavo Odadjian dove deep in order to create a personal painting that's far more than a self-portrait.

If anything, the piece exudes the spirit of a humble creative soul planted in the center of dark and light; a beacon of both musical and visual communication; an honest instrumental poet forever cognizant of history; the one and only Shavo Odadjian.

100 of these pieces, personally augmented and signed, were made available on When Art Imitates Life's official web site on April 22, 2010 — Shavo's birthday. 10 of those pieces are 80x60, while the other 90 are 40x30.

However, in celebration of this piece, Shavo wanted to delve into it via this personal interview below.

Q: What instantly grabs you about this piece?

Shavo: At first, I didn't know what it was going to be like. I wasn't really sure as it was basically a work in progress. It truly grew to be what it is organically. When I look at the final product — prior to putting my final touches on those 100 select pieces — what grabs me is the painting essentially represents society. There are two sides of me — the dark side and the righteous side. It's very mesmerizing. I don't look at it as "me." That's what resonates. I don't see me; I see society. There are over 200 hidden elements in it. Every time you look at it, you'll find something different. You could have it on your wall for a year and still find something new. It's very subliminal, yet very in your face. I've never done a self-portrait, so it trips me out. You have to experience it to really understand it. The painting is almost too much for words. This is the opposite of a self-portrait it's an exploration of the place of a "self" within a larger world.

Q: It's not so much a depiction of you as it is a depiction of your thought process. Every facet of what you think about and feel is captured in it.

Shavo: It's much larger than me. There are always two sides of the coin. There's never one side to anything. There's a story to this. It's abstract. Every person can have his or her own interpretation of it. Picasso never explained to you why he did what he did. There are a myriad of interpretations, and that's why Picasso is Picasso. The painting poses questions. Why is there three of me? Why is there four of me? Why is there one of me? You can look at it in all of those ways. Why does one side look like the genocide and the other side feature celebration? It all means a lot to me. I really want to know what this means to other people.

Q: Do you feel like there's a musical component to the painting?

Shavo: There's definitely a rhythm to it. Everything climaxes in the middle with all of the lines going towards one point. There's a foreshadowing. In a sense, it's almost like a book. The painting is very dear to me. When I paint, I paint to music and there are a lot of colors. There's a lot of thought behind this though and the visuals turn into different thoughts — it's a cycle.

Q: Is there an especially important historical component to it?

Shavo: You could look at it that way. It could be that and it could also be something else. It could be a picture of the Armenian Genocide or Haiti after the earthquake or the Holocaust. It could be anything. It's abstract; it's better to look at it.

Q: Art truly works when there's no definitive meaning to it.

Shavo: That's how I do art. Some people draw a bowl of fruit, and it's just a bowl of fruit. Others draw a bowl fruit, and it'll represent a childhood experience or memory — something good or bad, to each his own. This represents an experience not simply an individual. At four-years-old, I moved from Armenia to Rome to Queens to L.A. in one year. I remember all of it. I moved from country to country to country, and I grew up in Hollywood. My parents came to America with 100 dollars in their pocket. That right there explains everything. Every real piece of art has many different meanings. Art is within. This is just a window inside.

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