Marcos Grigorian

Creation of the Planet

1963

Artist
Marcos Grigorian 1925–2007
Medium
Soil compound on canvas
Dimensions
Unconfirmed: 1143 x 1187 x 45 mm
frame: 1145 x 1186 x 45 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Purchased with funds provided by the Middle East North Africa Acquisitions Committee 2014
Reference
T14104

Summary

Creation of the Planet 1963 is a large, non-figurative work by Marcos Grigorian. Grigorian used a square-format canvas to create a composition of soil, earth and paint that, though abstract, is evocative of a barren, desolate landscape. Focusing on natural materials and processes, the painting incorporates a sculptural quality within the two dimensions of the canvas. The textured surface of the canvas, and Grigorian’s ability to manipulate shapes and forms to create effects of light and shadow by the encrustations of matter, add to the painting’s illusionistic three-dimensionality.

Creation of the Planet is based on the concept of universal cosmogony, in which the Earth and other stellar bodies developed over the course of millions of years out of dust and gas. The spiral mark that begins at the centre of the canvas and expands to its outer boundaries, gestures to this way of thinking. The circular shape and pictorial symmetry of the soil layer represents the unity and continuity of the universe. The monochrome earthy surface creates the impression of a distant aerial view from space, a primordial phase in the creation of the galaxy that signalled the beginning of all life forms.

The innovative use of soil combined with pigment in Creation of the Planet – which predates by a decade other experiments in what was later termed ‘land art’ – produces an inherent dimensionality that expands any notion and preconceived ideas about painting as a medium. The square canvas became synonymous with Grigorian’s work, which aimed to portray the power of geometrical shapes and the beauty and harmony of natural proportions. Grigorian also used the square format as a framing device to contain the space itself and concentrate the expansiveness of his theme into a measured unit based on the grid, thus associating it with notions of stability, controlled movement and containment. The simplicity and familiarity of the square form, its geometric associations and iconographic symbolism, deconstruct its boundaries beyond the sensible and the intelligible. The viewer is exposed not only to the vision of a process but also to the result of this process, the ‘creation of the planet’. A play between concept and process and the interplay of space and terrain, from the cosmic to the natural, Creation of the Planet functions as a pictorial meditative arena, a zooming in and out on the everyday and the universal.

At the same time the painting expressed a direct connection to the artist’s personal experience and history of leaving his native Iran to live first in Europe and then in America. He later explained: ‘Perhaps I was homesick for the native soil of Iran, or maybe it was just the opposite – a reaction to being obsessed with my past’ (quoted in Grigorian and Stein 1989, p.10). Painted in New York as part of Grigorian’s Earthworks series, Creation of the Planet explores the complex relationship between being and belonging.

Further reading
Marcos Grigorian and Donna Stein (eds.), Marcos Grigorian: Earthworks, exhibition catalogue, Gorky Gallery, New York 1989.

Vassilis Oikonomopoulos
July 2013

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Display caption

Grigorian began working on his Earthworks Series in 1962, the same year he moved from Tehran to New York. He was inspired by natural processes and pursued an unconventional approach to art-making, exploring materials like oil, soil, straw, wood, and various binding agents within a square format. Creation of the Planet, with its monochrome and encrusted surface gives the sense of a distant aerial view of earth. Grigorian explained: ‘Perhaps I was homesick for the native soil of Iran, or maybe it was just the opposite – a reaction to being obsessed with my past’.

Gallery label, October 2016

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