Armeno-Egyptian artist (painter and composer) Hrant Minas Keshishian was born at Cairo on the 10th of April, 1947.
Most of his ancestors were descended from Arabgir, a city in Ottoman Turkey. In around 1885-86 his paternal grandfather Hrant (1867-1932) migrated to Egypt in search of a better life.
His father Minas (1910-86), despite being a wholesaler of cigarettes, was an intellectual man, with a special love for music. His mother Sirvart der-Michaelian was an amateur artist of “pyrography” and his aunt Alice was for long years in her youth a private student of piano playing.
In the earliest years of Hrant's life, which were his happiest days, two factors played a crucial role in shaping his character and personality; i.e. family environment and the location of their residence at Giza, which was in late 1940s and early 1950s still a quiet small town on the west bank of the Nile, some 5 kilometers south of Cairo.
Their residence being a nice flat in a building near Giza square; sites like the famous Giza pyramids, the west bank of the Nile, and the Giza zoo were regular places of their visit during holidays. Thus, he painted in his 1st artistic period two Nilotic scenes, in his 2nd period a series of landscapes were sketched at the zoo, and the theme of the pyramids had to become a symbol of Egypt in some of his drawings and paintings, created during his 4th, 5th and 6th artistic periods.
Another factor was a small Armenian kindergarten and primary school located at Giza. There, from 1950 to 1954 he met his earliest friends, who later played an important role in his teens and early youth (he painted their portraits during his 2nd and 3rd artistic periods). It should be especially mentioned Sirarpy Nadjarian who afterwards became a life long friend, and whose role in the artist’s life was decisive particularly since early 1990s.
From 1954 to 1962 Hrant was a student at Kalousdian Armenian National School at Bulaq, Cairo. In this school three talented artists taught him art successively, of whom especially must be mentioned Puzant Godjamanian (1909-1993), who afterwards became his adviser and friend.
In 1958, Hrant, a boy of 11years old, won the first prize in a Cairo art competition for school children. This competition was annually organized by a private cultural club called Y-Club. A set of fine oil colors was his award, and this set played an extremely important role in his subsequent artistic development, for he used it in his earliest (unsuccessful) attempts to create oil paintings in the summer of 1960. It was also used by him afterwards to create his oldest body of oil paintings, which was to constitute his first creative-stylistic period (1961-1966).
Parallel to his studies and activities in plastic art, Hrant after being initially guided by his father and aunt, regularly and seriously studied music since Sept. 1955, devoting himself subsequently to the composition of piano music (from late 1950s). Today, the date of his earliest piano composition is 1961.
In the spring of 1961, being 14 years old a crucial change occurred in his life .A visitor to Cairo, one of the greatest composers in 20th century, Aram Khachaturian, dramatically changed his life. After attending two of his five concerts held in Cairo, Hrant discovered that he was born to be an artist. From then on music and art became serious occupations for him.
From 1966 to 1971 Hrant studied at the painting section of fine arts faculty, at Zamalek, Cairo. In these academic years he was meticulously guided by a talented Egyptian art teacher and artist named Mamdouh Ammar (1928-2012), who gradually became a friend of him.
Also must be remembered professor Hamed Nada (1924-1990), a talented artist who guided the group of art students through Cairene popular districts, to study ancient Islamic monuments and to draw sketches.
In that academic period, which was to become his 2nd creative-stylistic period, his ability of artistic expression, also his technical skills gradually reached a considerable degree of maturity, and after a transitive early phase of Realism (Sept. 1966-late 1967), since early 1968 his style evolved towards a Fauvism which stylistically can be classified as being in the midway between Matisse and Duffy, but actually being tougher and vigorous. In this 2nd period (1967-71) he painted psychologically penetrating portraits of his friends, colleagues, family members, a few academy models, and also himself (his several self-portraits reflected different attitudes towards life and different “facets” of his personality).
He also painted a series of Still Life-s, Landscapes (mostly sketched at the Giza zoo) and Cairene scenes (sketched in popular districts and suburbs of Helwan and Maadi), which became to him a vast field for experimentation in color harmonies and composition.
Hrant concurrently studied music seriously with private teachers, and since the beginning of 1968 his musical style surpassed the academism of previous years and evolved towards a musical Fauvism which was to parallel his Fauvism in painting. This new style incorporated a selection of modern idioms and techniques, also some devices deduced from Near-Eastern traditional musical practices.
Concerning his personal life, most important events in those years were his platonic love for a talented and beautiful colleague, and also his trip to Europe in the summer of 1969.
His hopeless love towards Randa Fawzi was a powerful motivation to create his second self – portrait, and also a penetrating portrait of her. In addition to that, he composed three musical works dedicated to her (the 5th piano sonata, the suite – fantasia "les Esquises de Randa Fawzi" and a piano piece titled Impression). This deep emotional experience of ecstasy and agony played an important role in enriching his creative powers and in the maturation of his character and personality.
Also his trip to Europe in the summer of 1969, accompanied by two of his talented colleagues and friends; George Bou-Antoun and Tarek Helmy, played an extremely beneficial role. In Paris he was to discover his basic differences (as a Fauvist) from Matisse and other Fauvists, a factor that revealed to him his artistic originality and confirmed his individuality.
He came back from Europe enriched culturally and more confident about his own artistic powers (while still being in his academic years and only 22 years old).
In July 1971 and later months, during the execution of his graduate project, which was a series of 12 pieces entitled “war, peace and humanity”, the artist deliberately turned away from his previous Fauvist representation of nature, and guided by pure imagination and technical facility moved towards a personal style, which was virtually a new category of Expressionism (more accurately: Neo-expressionism). That was the beginning of his 3rd creative-stylistic period, which lasted till the end of 1973.
After his graduation in 1971 and because of the country's troubled situation, his family conditions got disturbed. In 1972, he was obliged to accept a governmental assignment as art teacher, in a primary school situation at a distance of several kilometers to the north of Aswan.
He travelled to Aswan in about mid-December. There, the living conditions being unbearable, so after one week he was obliged to return back to Cairo, sick, penniless and deeply frustrated. After recovery, he found himself in front of the large Belgian mirror in his room and began painting a self – portrait, to recover his hurt dignity. This was the Self – Portrait with Crossed Hands, painted on 26th of December 1972.
Immediately after this self – portrait, he began creating a cycle titled Microcosmos.
It was based formally on free composition, relative color scheme, analytical configuration of human figures, and expressed universal human issues and themes, including sometimes hints of social criticism. This cycle was to become the point of departure for all his subsequent artistic evolution.
While in his second period, Keshishian’s cathartic art was always objective, being deduced from impressions of the “outer” reality, filtered through his psyche, in his 3rd period, his figurative art became subjective in form (yet still remaining objective in its content), owing to its acute expressionistic tendencies (exaggeration, unlimited distortion of line, color and shape, analytical reshaping of figures depending on complete imagination and lastly relative colour scheme).
Because of the deteriorated political and economical situation of Egypt in early 1970s, also for several psychological, social and ideological preconceptions, Hrant migrated to Soviet Armenia in late 1973. He reached Yerevan, the capital, on the dawn of the Tuesday, 8th of January 1974.
In early 1974, Keshishian, who was at the moment an enthusiastic young man, of less than 27 years old, migrated to Soviet Armenia and settled in Yerevan, the capital.
After a "relatively happy'' year, he experienced a psychological downfall, which was expressed in a work titled "The fall".
At the beginning he didn't comprehend the source of his psychic disturbances, but gradually through his initial years in Armenia, he painfully discovered that his migration to it was his life's biggest mistake. His character and art being the product of a totally different society, it was natural that he was neither understood nor appreciated there.
Nobody was able to understand and accept his art and personality, and even he was cynically mocked by some ignorant persons (including an art critic, who was initially presented to him as being the greatest critic of the Soviet Union!!).
This fact caused him much anguish and disappointment. His youthful ambitions being gradually destroyed, and his most beautiful years of life being lost forever, he experienced for about sixteen years a long and painful sequence of “inner” struggle for the preservation of his psychic balance and health. Thanks to his perseverant creative activities as a complete devotee to art, at last he was able to fulfill this hard task.
As a defensive reaction, consequently Keshishian was obliged to isolate himself in Armenia and lived a life of loneliness and hardship. Consequently, originally his objective and sociogenic art step by step became subjective and purely psychogenic (and even autobiographical in some instances).But to be sure, regardless of being introverted and unhappy, he never became a pessimist and his art never became “negative” in form and content. Thus he always reflected in his art the beautiful and the sublime.
Stylistically, after an initial transitive year (1974), when his basic theme became “The Apotheosis of Labor”, which was an optimistic continuation to the “Microcosmos” cycle of the previous period (3rd period), his art developed since early 1975 towards a new type of figurative art, which can be designed as Neo-Pharaonism, being derived from ancient Egyptian style. This involved his 4th period, nicknamed the “white period”, because lightly tinted white pigments became the basic colors in most of his works.
In this stylistic-creative 4th period (1975-1978), through a deep process of “sublimation”, at last Keshishian’s art reached its complete maturity and he created some of his best works.
This “happy end” was reached because the artist, being completely isolated, paradoxically it proved to be beneficial to his art. For then he was not involved in any artistic and social engagements, and thus was “absolutely free” to create an original art of his own (either as a plastic artist or composer).Some of these works were autobiographical projections, but occasionally were projections of universal human thoughts and emotions.
During the 2nd half of 1978, the artist experienced a sharp shortage of oil painting materials. At first, it was a painful fact for him, but he gradually “discovered” in charcoal drawing a suitable substitution for oil painting.
Thus, his 5th period began in 1979, lasting till 1989.In this period he created a higher level of Neo-Pharaonism, based on ancient Egyptian monumentality of content and form, and also on modern West European analytical treatments of form.
In spite of his isolation in Armenia, a few friends surrounded him. At first must be mentioned Suzanna Tonoyan (1949-1998), his beloved friend. Thanks to her he had also some happy moments from time to time.
It should be also mentioned Shushanik Avagian, another close friend who was a capable translator from English to Armenian, being specialized in W.Faulkner's literature.
The four members of the family of Alexander Alikhanian were his best neighbors, who appreciated his personality and respected him. Lastly must be mentioned two talented music students at the conservatory of Yerevan; Ali Obeid (from south Yemen) and the Lebanese Nabil Gaafar. These two young artists were his best friends in his last three hard years in Yerevan.
Thanks to the Perestroika of President Gorbachev and the kind-heartedness of the Egyptian government, at last Hrant was recovered his Egyptian citizenship and was permitted to return to Egypt. On the dawn of the 6th of October 1989 an airplane carried him from Moscow to Cairo. Thus, after losing most precious days of his youth in Armenia and all his ambitions being destroyed, at last the artist was able to return to his beloved homeland. He brought with him all his pictorial works (about 1800 works) and a luggage weighing 20 kilograms; full of the scores of his authentic musical compositions.
In Cairo, at first the artist had to regain his psychic balance and to surpass his psychic traumas inflicted to him during his “long” life in Armenia. This was a hard task, but again creating art works helped him to accomplish it. Also a friend of childhood, Sirarpy Nadjarian, who was destined to become his protectress, helped him to recover his psychic health.
In his early years in Egypt, he lived with his aunt Alice and her daughter's family at Bulac, Cairo, and he was enthusiastic and socially active .Thus, in October 1990 helped by an old friend named Adel el-Sharqawy (1948-1995), he organized an important personal exhibition at Atelier du Caire, which was to him a moral success. It also helped him to be acquainted with several Egyptian contemporary artists, who appreciated his charcoal works created during his 5th stylistic-creative period. But, financially it gave him nothing.
However, this exhibition contributed to gain a membership in the Egyptian Syndicate of Plastic Artists. This membership was important to him morally, and for the first time in his life, it established his social status as a freelance artist.
Another old friend, Enayat Wasfy helped him to resume his musical activities .Being one of his best friends, in 1970 Hrant had dedicated to her his 7th Sonata for the piano. She was also one of three people who wished him farewell in the evening of 30th December 1973 at the seaport of Alexandria, the others being Adel el-Sharqawy and his brother Sarkis.
But, unfortunately the artist soon discovered that contemporary Egyptian art was no more than a “localization” of worldwide tendencies, trends and schools (including trends of absurd abstractionism and empty experimentation). Consequently, he recognized that it was impossible for him to share in artistic activities in an environment totally alien to his artistic creed.
Thus, a new phase of obligatory self-isolation began in his life, especially since mid-1995, when he moved to reside with Sirarpy Nadjarian, at her flat in Heliopolis, a calm quarter north east of Cairo (Sirarpy's family had moved from Giza to Heliopolis in September 1959).
In the 1st half of May 1995, Hrant visited Aleppo in Syria for two weeks. The goal was to meet his beloved friend, Suzanna Tonoyan, who was living there at that time, owing to family circumstances. This became his last meeting with Suzanna.
He returned to Cairo full of happy memories, but after seven months a letter from Suzanna unexpectedly informed him about her breast cancer. This was a heavy shock for him, which in addition to other passive factors (such as the obligatory involvement in less important cultural activities, which exhausted his creative energies), subsequently contributed to his sudden creative halt as a plastic artist in October 1997. And as it was foreseen by him, Suzanna Tonoyan died of cancer on the 6th of April, 1998.
During this creative halt as a plastic artist, he assiduously concentrated on musical composition, and also on the hard task of cataloguing his total output in plastic art. He also began collecting primary material for his autobiography and for an analytical-theoretical study about his art.
Between 2000-02 he completed his grand ballet tilted Anis el-Galis (yet not performed),and in 2005 he composed a children's operetta tilted The Lazy Cat. It was performed on 2 December 2007 at Belekdanian hall in Heliopolis.
In February 2008, a friend from early 1990s, Dr Mohamed Mustafa Khalil, who resided in England for long years, visited Hrant unexpectedly. He was highly enthusiastic about what he saw of the paintings of Hrant.
After his departure, this enthusiastic attitude of a friend, kindled within Hrant a renewed creative inspiration, and in August 2008 he felt in himself a strong urge to create paintings again.
Soon the artist discovered that stylistically a new creative period was born in his art. It was his 7th creative-stylistic period.
In December 2010, sponsored by AGBU-Cairo, he held his 1st retrospective exhibition in Cairo Opera House (main art gallery). A full illustrated catalogue was published on this occasion, which was a unique event of its kind in Egypt.
Today, the artist feels satisfied as he believes that by his output in plastic arts he firmly reestablished the dignity of figurative art which he is convinced that it can never be exhausted historically.
Secondly, by his music he proved that an artist can be contemporary without using extreme technical "tricks" to create attraction artificially. For after a century or more who will care that an artist was technically contemporary or not in his own time? What remains of an art for posterity is its originality, its expressive depth (including sincerity of expression), aesthetical vitality and technical mastery. Modernity is only something relative and superficial.
The earliest extant work from this period is titled "The city of Yerevan at night ". It was painted directly from imagination in October 1961 When Hrant was only fourteen and a half years old.
Owing to being occupied in obligatory school studies, and also in his pleasant musical education, the artist's creative output in this period was meager in number. That is why he was able to create only 33 oil paintings during 1961-1966, of which today only 22 pieces are extant.
However, paradoxically this small body of work can be classified as being the cradle of his all subsequent output .This was thanks to the fact that he was not "guided" by any art teacher, and so his creative will was completely free!
Perhaps, the only influence on him was his mother's works of pyrography, which mostly were attractive reproductions of beautiful Japanese pictures of Geishas, created in late middle ages. They were painted by highly saturated enamel paints on black backgrounds, and the flattened shapes of human figures were delineated by a flexible line drawing.
Thus, this period became a phase of bold experimentation in different techniques and styles. On this line, he painted after objective reality (e.g. The Mosque, January 1965) and after imagination (e.g. Humans on the moon, late 1965).He used a semi- impressionist brushwork and in February 1963, due to the advice of his school art teacher Puzant Godjamanian he invented his own style, the Triangular style (e.g. The seascape, January 1963).Before that, in January 1962 he had painted The Rescue, his 1st thematic composition which comprised human figures.
During this period he also painted several landscapes (e.g. African Landscape, June 1963), several Flowers in Vases (e.g. Flowers in a Vase, June 1963), townscapes (e.g. the city of Yerevan at noon), and seascapes (e.g. Racing sailboats, February 1965).He tried also Surrealism (e.g. Composition, August 1966), and a semi-abstract style (e.g. Composition of Shadows, December 1966).
Technically, all these works were painted on unprepared (i.e. without priming) cardboards, and in most cases the paints were applied by brushes charged directly from oil tubes (i.e. without using a palette), and so without thinning with a thinner or oil. Consequently, the layer of the paint is thick and rough.
Keshishian's academic studies at Fine Arts School of Zamalek, Cairo, began on Saturday, 17th of September 1966.
When we neglect the small laps of time between mid - September to late December 1966, we can consider that young Hrant's academic period was virtually begun in early 1967.This was his 2nd creative-stylistic period.
The 1st academic year being a "preparatory year", it was appropriated wholly to pencil and charcoal drawing of gesso statues and still life compositions .For Hrant this was a loss of time and energy, because he disliked drawing after "lifeless" statues. However, he continued creating oil paintings at home.
The 2nd academic year which was his 1st year in painting section, compared to the previous year was an extremely useful year. For, in the 1st time, guided by an able teacher named Mamdouh Ammar (1928-2012) he was permitted to paint in oils after objective reality.
His earliest academic study in oils was a painting of the lower half of a Greek Statue backed by a curtain, executed during the 1st half of October 1967. Being realistic in drawing but non-realistic in coloration, this oil-on-canvas study was not approved by the teaching stuff. However, today this 1st academic painting can be considered one of the artist's most successful works in 1967. It’s style is "Analytical Realism".
Till the end of that year Hrant painted 10 more works in Realist style. Afterwards, since early 1968, he moved towards Fauvism which fitted more conveniently to his dynamic character. That's why the whole year in 1967 is considered today a "Transitive Phase" in his art.
In a time laps of three years (from early 1968 to late 1970) Hrant painted around 125 works in bold and vigorous Fauvist style, which for the 1st time revealed his true character as a mature artist.
Some of these works were presented as academic lessons in the faculty, but of course they were not approved by the conservative teaching stuff. Hrant was carless about this fact, for his initial aim was to create original works of art which can be appreciated in the future, and not to create works in a "dead" academic-realistic style, to be superficially approved by the teaching stuff, but completely neglected afterwards.
Thus, his aim was to realize a personal stylistic originality through the adoption of a modern style (i.e. Fauvism), which can be surpassed later on towards more advanced style of his invention (this was realized in his 3rd period of Neo-Expressionism).
In this 2nd period the artist realized several achievements. While, depending on traditional genres like the landscape, seascape, townscape, the still life, the portrait and the nude, he created a type of stylization fitted to his own Fauvism .It was the equivalent of a Fauvist style adopted in his music from early 1968.
Specially must be mentioned some highly stylized landscapes originally sketched in public gardens like the once famous Giza Zoo and semi-rural towns near to Cairo like Maadi and Helwan. This group of works can be classified as "stylized artificial landscapes"(artificial, because all were man-made parks and sites).
Portraiture was the next important genre inclusively explored in this period. The artist painted portraits of most of his friends and colleagues, and also most of his family members and his self-portraits.
These all are important character studies and samples of esthetical vitality and psychic penetration (e.g. the icon-like portraits of Randa Fawzi and the portrait of his friend Vram Nalbandian). His three self-portraits painted in this period led in the next (3rd) period to the invention of the Meta-Portrait.
During the 1st half of 1971 Keshishian's style evolved from Fauvism to a peculiar type of Neo-Expressionism. This new style was fully explored through the execution of the 12 pieces of a big pictorial cycle titled "War, Peace and Humanity".
The 1st half of 1971 can be classified as a transitive phase, since during it Keshishian's style was transformed gradually from Fauvism to a specific type of Neo-Expressionism.
The earliest achievement in this 3rd period was the creation of a pictorial cycle (for the 1st time in his artistic career) titled "War, Peace and Humanity" (July-December 1971).
In mid-August 1971 pieces no. 1, 2 & 3 of this cycle were represented as the young artist's graduation diploma project. As usual these comparatively progressive works were not approved by the examining team which was comprised of three conservative old-aged artists and a middle-aged charlatan of serially-made thousands of abstract "absurdities".
During this period he created a series of still life-s and table pieces, and in its last phase he created a second pictorial cycle, titled "Microcosmos". This was an achievement of double meaning, as being the culmination of the period, and also as the starting-point for the whole of his subsequent creative path.
Starting from "Microcosmos" he rarely painted in traditional genres (except portraiture), the psycogenic thematic-composition becoming his basic means of expression. While, the landscape served an auxiliary function as the background of his works and the human figure became the basic compositional component.
Concerning the content, most works created in this period are highly dramatic and are charged with conflicting emotions and universal thoughts, particularly in the aforementioned two pictorial cycles.
The thematic content of the "Microcosmos" cycle includes the expression of lyricism, joy of life, happiness, privation, horror, hardships of life (The burden, Thirst), death (Farewell), war, poverty, rebellion and protest against social injustice.
This cycle is a good example on that how enjoyments and sufferings of life can be generalized and sublimated in artistic creations.
Being stylistically differentiated from the preceding and succeeding periods, the works of this period can be grouped under three genres:
a: portraiture (including portraits, self-portraits and the first meta-portrait).
b: still life-s and table pieces.
c: pictorial cycles ; a complex genre comprised of serially connected
Formally, the Neo-expressionism of this period was based on an analytical approach of the human figure and also on a "relative palette", this was contrary to the tetra-chromatic "restricted palette" of the former period of Fauvism, when he only used a fixed group of four basic colors (yellow, red, blue and green), manipulated variously.
The most important achievement realized in this period was the invention of a new sub-genre, the "meta-portrait", a word coined by the artist himself to mean an art work that represents the "inner" portrait of an artist, in other words a portrait which manifests what is hidden beyond (=meta) his "outer" appearance, i.e. his psychic state of mind, and also his attitude towards the world, social events and the events of his personal life.
On this line he painted on the 10th of April 1972, which coincided his 25th birthday, his 1st meta-portrait. In the moment of its creation, it was not conceived as such, for his initial aim was to paint a self-portrait, but after several years he discovered (in Armenia) that virtually it was something different. And thus, he coined the term meta-portrait to recognize it.
The 1st work painted by Hrant in Armenia was the "Farewell", created on 23-24 February 1974, after a pencil drawing executed on board Bashkiria, the ship which carried him from Alexandria to Odessa in 4 days (30 December 1973 to 3 January 1974). It reflected his last impressions from his two friends, Enayat Wasfi & Adel el-Sharqawy, and also from his brother Sarkis, who came saying farewell to him in the evening of 30th of December 1973.
In the next day he painted the bi-chromatic "Meditations on death". It was somewhat a pessimistic work that became later one the key for a small group of meditative-philosophical works titled "Meditations on life and death".
These two aforementioned works, also "The pool" painted on 11 August 1974, concluded the Microcosmos cycle of the previous 3rd period, which contained harsh dramatic emotions and thoughts.
Then the artist painted a series of optimistic works titled "The Apotheosis of labor". This small group of works created in 1974, became a transitive phase leading to the 4th period, the White period (1975-1978). The White period, is called “white” because of that same color lightly tinted by different hues became the basic color used in most of the works painted by him during it.
The artist was obliged to invent his White period, because of the lack of oil paints during the 2nd half of 1970s in the art stores of Yerevan. Only the members of the Union of plastic artists were privileged to receive yearly high quality brushes and sets of oil color tubes. Hrant was not accepted as a member in that union, and today he is grateful for that, because the fact contributed to his originality during his 4th and 5th periods.
The White period was begun by a work titled "A man, a women and nature", painted on 12-16 February 1975. Subsequently, the theme of man and women became one of the basic themes in all his artistic output.
In this period the artist at last reached complete maturity in his art, surpassing his previous Neo-Expressionist style, and creating a new style derived from ancient Egyptian iconography. Hence this style can be described as Neo-Pharaonism.
This period lasted till 1978 and he created during it some of his best works, including "Meta-portrait with a cup in hand", painted on 4-5 June 1975. This work expresses self-fulfillment and ataraxia.
In 1979, when his oil paints were consumed finally, he was obliged (once more!) to depend on charcoal drawing as a compensation for oil painting. This led to his 5th creative-stylistic period; the Charcoal period.
During 1979, because of lack of oil paints the artist was able to create only 6 oil paintings, but he seriously concentrated on charcoal drawing, which was a kind of substitution for oil painting. Hence, a new period has begun in his art, the 5th period or the Charcoal Period.
The charcoal drawings created in this period virtually were independent works of art (i.e. they were not merely studies or sketches). However, some of it served later on (during 6th & 7th periods) as the "father" and "grandfather" of many works painted in oils and acrylics.
In this period the artist systematically improved his Neo-Pharaonic style, reaching a higher level of monumentality which depended on a method invented by him during years of study in ancient Egyptian painting and sculpture, and also years of hard and persistent creative activities (despite hardships of life).This method was called by him "Pruning".
Pruning is the opposite of Distortion. While Distortion for the sake of expression "distorts" natural forms, especially human figures; Pruning makes them compact and provides them with an easily recognizable style. This process is comparable to a gardener's pruning of trees and bushes, to provide them with compactness and style.
Pruning is established on 4 technical devices deduced from ancient Egyptian practices in figurative arts:
A) Subtraction; of functionally and expressively unnecessary fragments and details, like the subtraction of the nose or the mouth. The origin of this technique is found in ancient Egyptian art where many details are subtracted.
B) Addition; of a part to upper limbs. The earliest occurrence of it can be seen in "The violin" from the 3rd period (painted on 22 July 1973). It was deduced from the mural paintings of Bani-Hassan, executed during the middle kingdom of ancient Egypt.
C) Mutilation; of the lower part of human figures to make them compact. The origin of this technique also goes back to the ancient Egyptian art.
D) Amalgamation; of two or more human figures. A technique also originally found in ancient Egyptian art.
This method of "Pruning" was meticulously applied by Keshishian in his 5th period, particularly in a cycle of 21 charcoals titled "Relations" (i.e. human relations), created during the 1st half of 1982.
This cycle is important in that it established defiantly the “genre of Relations”, also deduced from ancient Egyptian art. However, its origins can be traced back in Keshishian's art to the “Self-portrait with a girl”, painted on 20 October 1973, but was systematically explored since the beginning of the white period (early 1975).
Generally speaking, after the invention and the perfection of "pruning", the most important achievement of the artist in this period was his "discovery" of charcoal drawing as compensation for oil painting and also as a self-contained medium for creating works of art which have their own charm and attractiveness.
These charcoal works, numbering 175 pieces, which can be compared with chamber music, gave the proof on that charcoal is not only a medium for sketching and studying, but also it can be used to create independent works of art.
During his life in Armenia, parallel to his activities as a painter Hrant created also a substantial body of India ink drawings, numbering about 750 pieces. These are independent works of graphic art. Yet, a number of them became the primary source of many paintings created during his 4th and subsequent periods.
In this 5th period, based on the principle of "variety in unity" he established in his art the complex genres of the "pictorial cycle" and the" pictorial serial".
A Pictorial cycle is a series of several works elaborating one fixed theme, like the Microcosmos and Chains (January 1981). While the Serial is a programmatic creation comprising several descriptive works after a certain subject-matter. It is not an illustrative work, but a dramatic reflection of a chosen subject-matter which carries psychological connotations.
On this line Hrant created in August 1980 "The life of Jesus Christ", a serial of 21 pieces which represent the traditional legend of Jesus Christ reflected subjectively. Virtually it was the life story of the artist himself, i.e. his autobiography.
This big serial was originally designed as a work of synaesthesia, i.e. series of pictures accompanied by music composed by the same artist. Actually in 1996 Hrant composed music for the 1st three pieces of the serial.
Lastly, must be mentioned that his output during the 5th period included more than 25 India ink and charcoal serials and pictorial cycles.
It was natural that since Keshishian’s return to Cairo on the eve of 6th October 1989, a new phase was begun in the artist's life and artistic career.
The most urgent thing was to resume painting (in oil paints) after a halt of more than a decade. The earliest work he painted in oils was a symbolic picture titled "Hello to Egypt", painted on 20 January 1990. It was based on a pen-and-ink drawing executed in Armenia on 14 January 1986.
During 1990, he painted more 5 works in oils, all of which were based on charcoal works from the previous period. Hence, the whole year became a "transitive phase", like a joint in a human body.
Virtually, his 6th period was begun in February 1991, when the first time on his life he used acrylic paint as a medium. This enriched his art by new technical and expressive characteristics and till May 1996 the artist created a bulk of around 80 acrylic works, which being differentiated stylistically present a new "generation" in his artistic output.
These small-scale works of the "Acrylic" Period, were based on and inspired by the previous two periods (the 4th & the 5th), but also were inspired by new life circumstances and a new socio-political reality which surrounded the artist in Cairo.
Some of these acrylic paintings were new versions of works created in previous periods.
For example can be cited an acrylic work titled Embracement, painted on 23 January 1992, it expresses the artist's nostalgic love feelings towards his homeland Egypt. It was painted after a charcoal drawing created in Armenia on 18-20 April 1989, which was on its turn based on a pen-and-ink drawing executed on 8 February 1989.
This phenomenon can be explained thus. Some great and universal ideas expressed in all arts can be represented several times in different mediums and forms, and through different viewpoints.
In this period he created in parallel a substantial body of pencil and pen-and-ink drawings (around 150 pieces), which functioned either as the primary source for several acrylic paintings, or were independent works of graphic art , which can be compared with musical compositions for a solo instruments.
Unfortunately due to several objective and subjective circumstances a creative gap occurred in the art of H.M.Keshishian (Dec 1997–July 2008).
This was an extremely painful fact for him and he thought that the plastic artist within him was already "dead". However, he compensated this situation by his perseverance as a musical composer. Yet, only around 10 musical works were composed by him during that decade of creative sterility.
At last, in August 2008 he was able to gain courage, inspiration and energy to resume painting, and his creative "inner volcano" was erupted again.
The earliest work he created was an oil painting dated 13-16 August 2008, in the genre of "Relations". This work was based on a previous prototype.
Now, the artist already being in his 61st year,he decided to realize a big creative project, which was to be the summit and also the synthesis of all his subsequent artistic output (that is why the period was considered a synthetic one).
Thus, from October 2008 to November 2010 he created a cycle of 24 paintings titled "At the beach". Its prototype being an acrylic work tilted "Mother and children at the beach", painted on 28 June 1993. This cycle was based on many elements selected from his six previous creative-stylistic periods, including the method of "Pruning ", and several motives, themes and stylistic devices (like the triangular style and fauvist coloration). Of course, many new elements were also included, like a highly diversified stylization and the absence of black from the color composition of all the pictures of the cycle.
A charcoal self-portrait (11 July 2009) and "Meta-Portrait at the beach" (19-21 September 2009) were two complementary works to this cycle.
As a whole, "At the beach" cycle was tinged with optimism. That was because at last the artist succeeded in overcoming his previous psychic traumas, and of course his advanced age played also its role.
Lastly, to conclude must be mentioned that driving his creative momentum from objective reality (i.e. either nature or social life), subjective reality (i.e. events of his "outer" life and events of his "inner" life), and also from pure imagination, H.M. Keshishian's art was influenced by four basic sources:
a: Egyptian monumentality (in content).
b: Armenian patheticism (in content).
c: The Arabic source, reflected variously (Arabesque like flatness in pictorial rendering in plastic art, and metro-rhythmic and model derivations in music).
d: European techniques and multitude of traditional and modern (20th century) conceptions.
Owing to being isolated culturally and socially during most of his life, also due to hardships of life and unfavorable political situation in Egypt, H.M. Keshishian was not able to represent his works of art internationally till today (2016).
a: Human relations, including all varieties or "facets" of love, family relations,
friendship and compassion.
b: The relation between nature and human beings, emphasizing the "greatness of
c: Philosophical-meditative reflections on basic issues of life; like freedom, poverty, nostalgia, the triumph of human will, the conflict between advanced individuals and society (e.g. the serial titled "The life of Jesus Christ" ,1980, which was virtually an autobiographical projection),and meditations about life and death.
d: The "inner" life of individuals, through its agonies and ecstasies; like happiness and sadness, loneliness and social isolation, regret and solace, psychic disturbances, turmoil, introspection, etc.
e: Works concerning self-revelation and self-confirmation; like autobiographical individual works and also cycles, self-portraits and portraits revealing the "inner" world or the psyche of the artist, called by him Meta-Portraits.
1. “Rescue” , Jan. 1962
2. Seascape ,Feb 1963
3. The Mirror , July 1963
4. The Mosque , Jan. 1965
5. Flowers , Apr. 1965
6. Humans on the Moon, late 1965
7. Shadows, Des. 1966
8. Egyptian Composition, Feb. 1967
9. Sunrise at Red Sea, March 1967
10. Camping at Red sea April, 1967
11. Back Street Scene, June. 1967
12. Lower Half of a Greek Statue, Oct.1967
13. Still Life, Oct 1967
14. Public Garden at Giza, Oct.1967
15. The Japanese Garden in Helwan, Nov.1967
16. Portrait No. 1, Nov. 1967
17. The Yard, 6 Jan.1968
18. Ruins, Jan. 1968
19. Three Portraits, Feb. 1968
20. Still Life, 5 March 1968
21. Panoramic Seascape , 8 May 1968
22. Self-portrait No 1 ,9 May 1968
23. Portrait of Brother Sarkis, 12 May 1968
24. Seated Women , 8 June 1968
25. Still Life ,9 July 1968
26. An Alley in Old Cairo ,29 Sept.1968
27. Self-portrait No 2, 25 Dec.1968
28. The Pond, 1968
29. Portrait of Randa Fawzi , 16 Jan. 1969
30. Flamingoes at the Giza Zoo, 17 Jan. 1969
31. The Merry Bay, 22 Feb. 1969
32. Grand Still Life with Statue, 15 March 1969
33. Seascape, 26 April 1969
34. Seascape, 27 April 1969
35. Decorative Landscape,3 June 1969
36. A pond at the Giza Zoo,18 June 1969
37. Swans,7 July 1969
38. Public Garden in Paris,3 Sept.1969
39. Fellaha, 19 Nov. 1969
40. Slumber, 5 Dec. 1969
41. Landscape in Paris,12 Feb.1970
42. Children in the Garden, 14 Feb. 1970
43. Still Life with Alarm clock,22 Feb 1970
44. The Giant Tree,25 Feb.1970
45. Type Writer, 9 Mar.1970
46. Self-portrait , 23 June 1970
47. Landscape, 25 Aug.1970
48. Landscape,28 Aug. 1970
49. An Alley in Old Cairo 7 Nov.1970
50. The Sweets Vendor,18 Nov. 1970
51. The Coca-Cola Vender, 25 Dec.1970
52. Still Life with Oranges, 27 Feb.1971
53. Brother and Sister,9 May 1971
54. Sitting Man,31 May 1971
55. Sirarpy in the Yard,26 July 1971
56. 1st Meta-portrait, 10 April 1972
57. Composition with Shades,18 May 1972
58. Portrait of Lucy, 10 July 1972
59. Self-portrait,26 Dec.1972
60. The Dance, 28 Dec 1972
61. Soaring ,31 Dec.1972
62. Happyness,1 Jan.1973
63. Ecstasy ,2 Jan.1973
64. Thirst,18-19 Feb.1973
65. Still life with Bananas, 19 April 1973
66. Vase with Flowers, 20 Apr.1973
67. Still Life in Red,22 Apr. 1973
68. Composition with Table Lamp,28 Apr .1973
69. Horror, 30 May 1973
70. Rebellion ,2-4 June 1973
71. The Burden ,20 July 1973
72. The Violin,22 July 1973
73. Self-portrait with a Young Girl, 20 Oct.1973
74. Farewell ,23,24 Feb. 1974
75. Working in the Desert ,26 June 1974
76. The Giant ,23 July 1974
77. The Pool, 31 Aug.1974
78. Apotheosis of Labour, 4 Sep.1974
79. Man and Women in Nature,12-16 Feb.1975
80. Man and Nature, 1 Mar.1975
81. Man and Woman, 5 Apr.1975
82. Seated Man, 9-11 Mar.1975
83. Genoside, 25 Apr.1975
84. Self, 27 May 1975
85. Girl in the Balcony, 13 June 1975
86. Consolation , 9 July1975
87. Affection,20 Dec.1975
88. The Ideal, 20 Mar. 1976
89. The Mirror, 4 Apr.1976
90. Armenian Landscape in Springtime , 10 April 1976
91. Armenian Landscape in Winter ,21 July 1976
92. The Wheat Field , Pastel Version, 25 July 1976
93. The Wheat Field, Oil Version, 29 Aug. 1976
94. Man and Nature, 1 Aug.1976
95. The Path of Life,2 Aug.1976
96. Landscape Near Tatev in Armenia, 4 Aug 1976
97. Armenia ,28 Aug.1976
98. Egyptian Statue and Mirrors,25 Oct.1976
99. Portrait of Emma Papayan,14 Nov. 1976
100. Lonlyness,31 Dec.1976
101. Portrait of Varoujan Frounjian, 29 Mar 1977
102. Bolt ,1 Apr.1977
103. Vase, 18 June 1977
104. Candle, 24 June 1977
105. Tempest,29 June 1977
106. Musical Meditations,14 July 1977
107. Lyric Meditations, 19 July 1977
108. Music,24 July 1977
109. Farewell, 12 Aug.1977
110. Two mirrors, 14 Sep 1977
111. The Artist and his Model ,6 Oct 1977
112. The Artist and His Model, 9 Oct.1977
113. Man and Nature, 4 Mar.1978
114. Joy of Life,18 Mar.1978
115. The Guest, 1 May 1978
116. Reminiscences, 26 May 1978
117. Regret, 30 May 1978
118. Sublimity ,7 March 1979
119. Soaring,29 Mar.1979
120. The Colt, 19 Sept. 1979
121. Self-Portrait with a Cup , 1 May 1980
122. Self-Portrait as a Teenager,15 Nov.1980
123. Sublimity, 8 Dec. 1980
124. Chains, 18Feb.1981
125. Meta-Portrait with Rock Formations ,17-24 May 1982
126. Protestation, 29 Nov.1983
127. Hands of the Artist ,29 Dec.1983
128. Self-Portrait as an Artist, 27-29 Feb .1984
129. The Fall, 2 May 1984
130. Self-Portrait as a Robot ,29 Nov.1984
131. Self-Portrait with Shushanik Avagyan, 2 Apr.1985
132. Hope,4 Oct 1985
133. The Carnation,4-6 July 1986
134. Intellect ,20 Aug.1987
135. Adoration at the Pyramides, 23 Dec. 1987
136. The Artist and his Inspiration,25-28 Feb.1989
137. Hello to Egpt,20 Jan .1990
138. Maternity ,13 feb.1990
139. Ternary Relation,19 Feb.1990
140. The Kiss,19 July 1990
141. The Orator,22 Feb 1991
142. The Dance,5 Sep.1991
143. Artist and Model ,15 Sept.1991
144. Lovers in solitude, 2 Oct 1991
145. Hope,9 Oct .1991
146. Lovers, 10 Oct.1991
147. Meta-portrait , 22 Oct.1991
148. The Artist in his Studio,24 Oct.1991
149. Two in One,8 Jan.1992
150. The Sleeping Beauty,4 May 1992
151. Caress, 2 Jan. 1992
152. Conversation ,13-16 Jun.1993
153. At the Beach (Red Sea),28 June 1993
154. Self-Portrait with a Cup of Tea,4 Feb.1994
155. The Idol A ,4 Mar.1994
156. The Idol B ,11 Mar.1994
157. Adoration ,30 Apr .1994
158. Caressing the Gazelle (acrylic version) , 29 May 1994
159. Happiness ,11 June 1994
160. The Egyptian,26 Sept.1994
161. The Winged-man and the Child, 1st Version,22 Dec.1994
162. The Winged-man and the Child, 2nd Version,14 Jan.1995
163. The Winged-man and the Child, 3rd Version,16 Feb.1995
164. The Gardner,4 June 2001
165. Sirarpy's Mother Hranoush,25 June 2001
166. Sirarpy's Mother Hranoush,28 June 2001
167. Sirarpy's Mother Hranoush,9 July 2001
168. The Merry Family, 27 Aug 2008
169. Lovers,22-28 Jan.2009
170. Caressing the Gazelle(oil-on-canvas version),8 July 2009
171. The Winged-man,9 Sept. 2010
172. The Yellow Horse(acrylic version) , 11 Sept .2010
173. Music and Love,10 Aug. 2011
174. The Chandelier, 25 Nov.2011
175. Family Quartet1,4-16 Oct.2012
176. The Happy Family, 26-29 Nov.2012
177. Caress ,22 Nov.2012
178. Mother and Child,3-6 Dec 2013
179. Affection,17-19 Jan.2014
180. Happiness ,2-4 May 2014
181. Marry Bay(Polyptych),23-27 Aug.2014
182. Joy of Life,8-11 Sept 2014
183. Family Encounter,22-24 Oct.2014
184. “Good Morning Children”,12-16 Aug.2014
185. “My Dear Child”,22 Feb.2015
186. The Yellow Horse(oil-on-canvas version ,21-24 Oct.2015
Due to circumstances of life, at the beginning Hrant's musical education was acquired privately, and then on it was accomplished by a hard and long process of self-instruction, which persisted till his last year in Yerevan (1989).
After some early guidance by his father Minas and Aunt Alice, Hrant's systematic musical training was begun in September 1955, at Kalousdian Armenian National School, Cairo.
His music teacher was named Eduard Hagopian (1920-2004).He thought his pupils singing, solfeggio, some elementary theory and "Recorder" playing (only to a small group of pupils, including Hrant), and while playing on it Hrant spontaneously began improvising some primitive melodies of his own invention.
Hagopian was an able, albeit rude, teacher. He was also the organizer of musical activities within the Cairene Armenian society, but as composer he was less than a mediocrity.
After several years thanks to the advice of Hagopian, in January 1960 Hrant became a student of Nevart Damadian (1910-2004), a well known teacher of piano playing. This apprenticeship with Damadian lasted till July 1962. Afterwards, because of financial shortage Hrant was not able to carry on his piano lessons.
However, in early 1963 he became a private student of Hagopian, who gave him weekly lessons (free of charge) in traditional harmony. These lessons lasted till July 1966.
Hagopian's teaching method was based on Charles Koechlin's book of Harmony, but his manner of instruction was rigid and he consistently insisted on that Hrant should not "lose his time and energy" on experiments in musical composition, always saying: yet, it is not time for you to compose music!
So, Hrant composed music secretly!! And by no means being satisfied of the mediocre instruction of either Damadian or Hagopian, he decided since 1961 to begin a long and hard path of self-instruction in all sciences of music.
Thus, in the summer of 1961, Aunt Alice bought for Hrant a second-hand volume containing the complete piano sonatas of Beethoven, and so he immediately began the study of it, for he considered this volume his first musical Bible.
This hard study of Beethoven's 32 piano sonatas was started by the study of "Moonlight sonata", and was ended in 1972-73 when he studied the last five marvelous sonatas.
In this period he studied also several piano sonatas by Hayden and Mozart, 12 short preludes by Bach, several Waltzes, Mazurkas, Polonaise no.1 and Ballad no.1 by Chopin, "Etudes symphoniques" by Schumann and "Jeux d'eau" by Ravel.
Concerning the acquisition of theoretical knowledge in this period, Hrant studied several books of harmony(and counterpoint) by Bashinian, Dubois, Dommel-Dieny and Vincent Persichetti, whose important textbook titled "Twentieth Century Harmony" was completely studied and translated by him into Arabic during a whole year (1969). It is amusing that several modern techniques described in this book were already have been used by him intuitively in some of his compositions created previously (1967-1968).
From early January to July 1972, Hrant was lucky to study modern techniques of musical composition under the guidance of Jivani Mikhaelov,a professor of composition at the Cairo Conservatory. Mikhaelov told him that he had been studied musical composition in Moscow conservatory, under the guidance of Aram Khachaturian.
Being isolated socially during his life in Armenia (January 1974 to September 1989), the artist had the opportunity to concentrate assiduously on both his creative activities and theoretical studies.
Thus, in this long period he accomplished two hard tasks; the complete study of the 48 Preludes and Fugues by J.S. Bach, which became his 2nd Bible, and the detailed study of three famous textbooks by Walter Piston (sent to him from Sydney by his uncle Dr Antranig Keshishian) ; Harmony, Counterpoint and Orchestration.
He studied also several other theoretical books, like Foundations of Practical Harmony and Counterpoint by R.O. Morris, and several scores like Brandenburg Concertos by Bach, a few Sonatas and the Wanderer Fantasia by Schubert, Album for the young and Kinderscenen by Schumann, the orchestral score of the 6th symphony by Tchaikovsky and Antar symphony by Rimsky-Korsakov, Suite Bergamasque and Children's Corner by Debussy, etc.
Must be mentioned also his serious studies in the theory of classical and modern Arabian music (since 1970), besides the theory of Armenian folkloric music.
All these studies played their specific role in shaping his musical style.
In 1989, before leaving Armenia, Hrant considered that his long and hard musical training was at last accomplished convincingly.
Keshishian’s earliest work, Five Easy Pieces for the Piano, his op.1, was composed in 1961. Being a rather primitive and simple work it reveals some characteristics which were later on developed and enriched by him; like rhythmic diversity, harmonic vitality (e.g. the usage of parallel fifths, which was as a challenge to his teacher E.Hagopian's conservativism) and textural diversity.
From 1962 to 1967 his style yet being in a traditional manner, however it showed a degree of originality and expressive depth, his creative powers being developed gradually.
In 1963 he invented the Armenesque. Then in 1964 he composed his first big-scale work, the 1st sonata in two movements, a composition which included for the first time a mixed metro-rhythm (5/4 + 4/4).
In 1965 he composed his first programmatic work titled Qays and Layla ,op.18, based on a poem by Ahmed Shawqi, and in 1967 he composed Sonata No.5 which included for the first time an irregular metro-rhythm (3/8 + 4/8 = 7/8). This pathetic work was dedicated to artist Randa Fawzi, a talented college and friend.
During 1968, at last Hrant surpassed his stylistic traditionalism and approached towards a musical Fauvism which was the equivalent of his Fauvism as a painter. The most notorious work composed in this new idiom was the Suite-Fantasia tilted "les esquisses de Randa Fawzi" (1968).
In the period 1969-1973 the artist composed 10 piano works, including 4 Sonatas, from which the 7th (dedicated to another friend, Enayat Wasfi) is notorious for its innovative techniques and pathetic content. The other Sonatas are deep revelations of human feelings, emotions and thoughts.
Sonata no.10 can be considered as being the summit of all his compositional efforts (1961-1973) during his 1st life period in Egypt.
As a composer, Hrant's early years in Armenia were appropriated to three issues. The deepening of his musical knowledge, the revision and completion of his piano works composed previously in Egypt and the creation of new works.
That’s why he was able to compose only a few works in this phase (1974-1979, yet, he painted and drew abundantly). However, he succeeded to fulfill his plans and his musical studies were advanced seriously, and he also revised and completed several sets of compositions, like the Five Armenesques, the Five Early Waltzs and Sonatinas no.2, 3, 4 and 5.
Afterwards, in the 1980s he was able to compose a bigger number of works, and his compositional techniques reached a higher degree of maturity (e.g. the 11th Sonata for the piano, the programmatic suite Vocis Orientalis and Ballads no.3 and 4).
In this phase he also composed the 1st book of Egyptian Songs Without Words (ESWW 1986-1988), and decided to compose a Ballet titled Anis el-Galis. But, unfortunately his life being full of hardships and suffering, he was not able to compose more than the short score of six numbers from this ballet.
The artist returned to Cairo on the eve of the 6th of October 1989, carrying with him a bag full of around 20 kilos of his musical compositions.
Since his return to Cairo his 2nd life period in Egypt was begun. During the earliest 4-5 years being in a harsh psychic state he was able to compose only two musical compositions; an Elegy (1990) in the memory of the Egyptian composer Gamal abdel-Rehim (1924-1988) and the 2nd book of Egyptian Song Without Words. However he painted abundantly.
On 31 July 1995, Hrant's lifelong friend Sirarpy Nadjarian presented him a professional synthesizer (XP-50, made by Roland in Japan). This was a turning point in his life and compositional practice, because for the first time in his life he became able to compose in "alla prima" manner, i.e. to compose directly depending on inspiration, imagination and intuitive insight.
Thus, being a highly efficient instrument this synthesizer helped the artist to resume his activities as a composer, and beginning in August 1995 till now (2016) he composed more than 50 new works. However, the pace of his creative momentum being swifter than his ability to notate this works, he was not able (till today) to write down all these compositions. But, fortunately all are recorded, thanks to the XP-50.
Fourteen piano sonatas (from no. 12 to no. 25) are included in the bulk of these new works, which reveal the highest degree of his creative maturity. Also many other types of works were composed, including a Piano Concerto (1996) and a dramatic Sonata for Flute and Piano (2004).
In addition to all this, thanks to this instrument Hrant was able to accomplish the composition and orchestration of his grand ballet titled "Anis el-Galis" (1995-2002).
H.M. Keshishian's musical style was evolved from an early traditionalism (till 1967) to a type of Fauvism parallel to its equivalent in his paintings of the same period (1967-1971).
Then this style was evolved further towards an Expressionism (1971-1973), which afterwards gradually reached a kind of Neo-Classicism. This last evolutionary process was owed largely to his studies of J.S. Bach's music (specially his complete study of the 48 Preludes and Fugues during 1975-1980).
Generally speaking Keshishian's musical style was born as a synthesis of elements derived from several sources. These included modern European concepts like atonality and bitonality, as well as traditional formal structures which were developed by him through years of hard style work, like the form of "continuous" variations, the Free Sonata Form and the Monothematic Ternary Form.
Several other elements were derived from near-eastern traditional modal and metro-rhythmic concepts (including "lame" metro-rhythms).
In most of his mature works the linear-contrapuntal and vertical-chordal factors are equally in action, and three types of chordal structures are used successively; a) pure consonances, b) pure dissonances, and c)"concealed" dissonances.
These sonorities, enriched by modal melodic lines which abundantly include augmented 2nds, diminished 3rds and tritons, as well as the usage of mixed and irregular metro-rhythms (which are in his works an ordinary occurrence), are factors which gave his work the sense of modernity and freshness of expression.
All these peculiarities were reached without the reliance on "extreme" and "bizarre" solutions, because always the artist's first principle was to realize in his music a type of euphony, which included sometimes harsh dissonances "concealed" by surrounding consonances.
In his piano works the freely moving left hand (dynamic accompaniment) supports the right hand which mostly carries the thematic material, but often the situation is inverted. Also, we found the device of crossing of hands used abundantly, in addition to contrasting textural changes and the steady exchange between regular and irregular metro-rhythems. The right foot pedal (sostenuto pedal) is used only when there was a need to create accumulative sonorities.
Concerning the content, beginning from most of his earliest compositions like the first sonata for piano, we can notice two characteristics of expression; a: Egyptian monumentality, b: Armenian patheticism.
During more than half a century and owing to the change of life circumstances and also to the gradual maturation of his creative abilities, H.M. Keshishian's manner of composing music passed through three phases.
In the first phase his method was to invent an initial musical idea (e.g. a phrase or a sentence), and then keeping in mind the rules of harmony (but applying them daringly), and depending on the process of trial and error he worked day by day, keeping the results in his memory. At last when he felt that the whole piece was composed satisfactorily, he set down on a table and wrote the score.
This painstaking process may occupy several days, or weeks and even months and years. For the artist was a harsh critic of his own work, and he was used to edit, revise, review and even in a few cases to recompose a work after many years of its initial composition.
During his long stay in Armenia (1974-1989), because of gradual weakening of his memory, this method was changed and when he composed an initial unit, he immediately wrote it down. Then he composed more and again wrote it down, till the work was completed. In this manner was composed Vocis Orientalis in 1981.
Afterwards since the acquisition of his synthesizer in 1995 (when he was in his 48th year), he became able to compose in an "alla prima" manner.
This is a method of composing directly (i.e. extempore), without any preconception and also without any reworking or further revision. It depends of course on a highly developed intuitive insight and also on the technical support given by the electronic instrument.
This is the highest degree of creative facility, when the artist practicing the act of composition is in an ecstatic state of mind, "forgetting" all the rules of composition and also "forgetting" the whole world. It needs inspiration and a highly organized concentration. It can be compared with a temporary volcanic eruption controlled by gigantic efforts.
It's normal that the artist after finishing his work soon set down and wrote it down... All his works created since 1995 were composed in this manner.
01-Five Easy Pieces for the piano, 1961 (revised in 1966)
02- Waltz no.1, 1962 (revised in 1972)
03- Sonatina no1, 1962-63
04- Armenesque no.1, 1963
05- Armenesque no. 2, 1963
06- Waltz no.2, 1963(revised in 1972)
07- Waltz no.3, 1963(revised in 1972)
08-Sonatina no2, 1963-65
09- Armenesque no. 3,1964
10- Waltz no.4, 1964(revised in 1977)
11-Sonatina no3, 1964(revised in July 1977)
12-Sonata no1, the "Egyptian Sonata", 1964-65
13-Armenesque no. 4,1964(revised in 1978)
14- Waltz no.5, 1964(revised in 1977)
15-Sonatina no4, 1965(improved in 1975)
16-Funeral March, April 1965
17-Dramatic suite for the piano, 1965-65, 1976(recomposed in 2012)
18-Qays & Layla, a poem for the piano, 1965-67 (revised in 2005)
19- Sonata no2, the "Classical Sonata", 1965(revised in 1975)
20-Sonata no3, 1965(revised in 2010)
21-Sonata no4 in one movement, 1966(edited in 2011)
22- Arabic Dance, no. 1 (1967)
23-Ballad no1, 1967(reviewed in 2013)
24-Chromatic Dance, (October 1967)
25-Sonanta no5, 1967-68 (dedicated to Randa Fawzi)
26-Armenesque no. 5, 1967-68
27-Ballad no2, 1967 (reviewed in 2013)
28-Arabic Dance no.2, 1968(revised in 1975)
29-Sonanta no6, 1968
30-Suite-fantasy for the piano, "les Esquises de Randa Fawzi", 1968
31-Sonata no7, 1969-70, 1979 (dedicated to Enayat Wasfi)
32-“Impression”, 1968(a lost work)
33-Sonata no8, 1969-70
34-Arabic Dance no.3, 1969 (revised in 1976)
35-Sonata no9, 1970-71(revised in 2016)
36-Sonatina no5, 1971-73,1975
37-Revolutionary Fantasy no1, 1972
38-Sonata no 10, 1972(dedicated to Soviet Armenia)
39-Revolutionary Fantasy no2, 1973-75
40-variations on an Optimistic Theme, 1973-76
41-Sonatina no6, 1974-80
42-Variations on a theme by Sayyed Darwish, 1975
43-Prelude & Fugue no.1, Jan.1977
44-Sonatina no7, 1978
45-Four Armenian Folksongs from Palu, 1978
46-Sonata no11, 1979-83(dedicated to Suzanna Tonoyan)
47-Sonatina no8, 1980-83
48-Ballad no.3, Jan. 1981
49-Vocis Orientalis, 1981(revised in Feb.2012)
50-Sonatina no9, 1981-82
51- Prelude & Fugue no.2, 1983
52- Prelude & Fugue no.3, 1983
53-Ballad no4, 1984-86
54- Prelude & Fugue no.4, 1985
55-Children's Paradise,1985(revised and edited in 2012)
56-Egyptian Songs Without Words (ESWW), book 1,1986-88
57-Variations on an Arabic theme “Bafta Hindi”, 1987
58-Overture to the ballet Anis el-Galis (Piano version), 1988-89
59-Elegy in the memory of Gamal abdel-Rehim,1990
60-ESWW, book 2, 1992-93
61-Improvisation, composed on 11 August 1995(this is the earliest piano work composed in "alla prima" manner and was dedicated to Sirarpy Nadjarian)
62- Three Pieces for my pupils,1995(instructional work)
63-Let’s Play the Piano,1995(instructional work)
64-Two Self-Portraits, "On my 50th birthday",1997
65-ESWW, book 3, 1997-2010
66-Reflections no.1, 1999
67-Sonata no12, 1999-2000
68- Millenium Variations, 2002
69 -“Groonk of Egin”, Jan.2003
70-Reflections no.2, 2004
72-Sonatina no10, 2006
73-The Dance of the Little Fellaha, 2009
74- Prelude d'amour,2010(dedicated to Sirarpy Nadjarian)
75-ESWW, book 4, 2010-12
76-Ballad no. 5, Jan. 2011(dedicated to Mo.Mihran Gazelian)
77- Sonata no14, 2011(dedicated to the composer's mother on her 90th birthday)
78-Sonata no15,"Revolutionary Sonata",2011
79-Sonata no16,"four portraits",2012
80-Sonata no17, 2012
81-Album for the Young, March2012(basic themes invented in 1983)
82-Childrens’ Games, April 2012(basic themes invented in 1983)
83-Variations on an Academic Theme, April 2012
84-Sonata no18, May 2012
85-"Surprise", a character piece, 2013
86-Sonata no 19, March 2014(dedicated to Azza madyan)
87-Sonata no 20, April 2014(dedicated to Rania kalawy)
88-Sonata no 21, May 2014(dedicated to Armen Mazloumian)
89-Sonata no 22, October 2014 (dedicated to Sirarpy Nadjarian)
90-Sonata no 23, November 2014(dedicated to Ahmed el-Saedi)
91-Sonata no 24, December 2014 (dedicated to Abdallah Saad)
92-Sonata no 25,"1915", April &October 2015
93-Toccata, Sep 2015