Printmaking Meets Literature with Hassan Zahredinne

Poetry and prose conjure detailed imagery in the minds of readers. Take the poem Գարնանամուտ, “Springtime,” by poet Hovhannes Shiraz:

Մանուշակներ ոտքերիս ու շուշաններ ձեռքերիս,

Ու վարդերը այտերիս, ու գարունը կրծքիս տակ,

Ու երկինքը հոգուս մեջ, ու արևը աչքերիս…

Violets at my feet and lilies in my hands,

and roses at my cheeks and the spring below my chest,

with the skies in my soul and the sun in my eyes…

In an atelier with Hassan Zahredinne, TUMO Studios student Milena Adamyan made prints illustrating Shiraz’s ode to spring. The objective of the atelier was creating a series of prints inspired by literature — a poem, story, song or quote — using etching or mezzotinting techniques.

“It was challenging to choose a text and present it visually, but not necessarily literally,” explained Milena, who studies printmaking at the State Academy of Fine Arts of Armenia. “Hassan encouraged us to think outside of the box when creating visuals to capture the story.”

While the atelier focused on etching, the process of using acid to incise a metal plate, Hassan also introduced students to mezzotinting, an engraving technique that involves scraping and polishing a metal surface to create shades of light and dark areas.

“Etching is a linear technique that involves acid, while mezzotinting, which I like the most, is a tonal technique that requires the artist to carve directly into a metal plate,” explained Hassan, a printmaker and children’s book illustrator.

Hassan has always liked the idea of artwork in the form of a book, which he attributes to growing up surrounded by books in Lebanon. He spent summers watching his father work in a print shop — typing letters and working with inks — and went on to study fine arts in Lebanon and printmaking in Canada.

TUMO Studios student Arevik Shaboyan, whose prints were inspired by the Yegishe Charents poem Ամբոխները խելագարված, “Frenzied Masses,” describes Hassan as a great instructor.

“This was my first atelier with Hassan. He was extremely patient and broke down the techniques as many times we needed,” she said. “You can tell that he’s passionate about his work.”

Using the mezzotint technique, Arevik created a single image representing the masses that Charents describes in his poem.

“Charents wrote about mankind and its innate desire to conquer and achieve. My work depicts the ‘frenzied masses’ in the form of one man standing alone. He is confident and intent on winning,” she explained.