The Art of Ararat ‘Mali’ Tanarach

If we are lucky in our lives, we come across artists who are always paying attention, whose vibrant paintings bring to life the world in a way we have never seen before.

They see the everyday; the objects, food and places that make up our lives, and they can make these things sublime. Through the artist, we get to see the truth about our own reality. We get to see the colours that we never normally see.

One such artist is Ararat ‘Mali’ Tanarach. She is a talented painter and illustrator, who uses colour to bring to life the things I cannot put into words, the emotions and dreams, longings and heartbreaks, that so typify the crests and valleys of our lives.

This is the world according to Ararat ‘Mali’ Tanarach.

Mali has a great imagination for colour. She catches the things she sees in vibrant hues that are reflective of small moments in time. There is very little shading in her work, and as a result, the colours pop vibrantly off the page. In simplifying the image, she can draw our attention to things we don’t usually pay attention to. Her process reveals that shading can be just as much a distraction as anything else.

When we look at the world, we tend to miss things. We get caught up in the rush of daily life, our daily routines, and our habits, and in the process, we pass by things we should stop and pay attention to.

Mali is the kind of person who stops and pays attention. “I have always felt like I’m creating my world when I’m painting,” she writes, “The world that I’d like it to be. To express it as art is kind of to connect my world to other people. To let them peak into my world.”

If there is a theme in Mali’s work, it is the ideas of temptation, heartbreak, and the loss of innocence, contrasted against a vibrancy and beauty of the natural and built environment. There is great pain and suffering in her work, but there is also redemption and hope – a heart can break, she seems to suggest, but new cells can grow in its place.

Find her work on Instagram:

At times, she accompanies her work with a poem or a small phrase. Her writing expands on the themes in her art, and is tinged with a raw emotive energy that in itself, is rare and speaks to someone who can truly see what is happening right in front of them.

There is a sequence to her works – from heartbreak, to nostalgia, to redemption. It is a sequence we all go through when getting over someone and learning to thrive on our own. There is a sense that we must become strong enough to be independent, to love ourselves and to accept everything that we are.

But first, we are hit by that nostalgia, harder than anything else that can come at us. The black and white movie tinted image of what our love represented, the faded photographs of back then, the montage sequence that plays at the end of every romantic comedy film:

I eat Tahini every time I miss you and now there is no more Tahini in the jar

I went to the restaurant where we first met. Sat in the same chair where we had our first chat

I read the book that I brought to you over and over. To just feel the same letters you read.

I told my dad he’d love to meet you, but he won’t get a chance to

I read the poem I wrote for you.


Flowers blooming from myself

I’m waiting. I’m healing.

But the flowers only bloom for the one who looks at them.

On the idea of heartbreak, she writes:

I told my story to the sea

Hope the sound of the sea took it to you

I wrote about you to the sand

Hope the waves crashed the beach and wash it away

I placed my wounded body onto the ground

Cold soil had touched my bones to the spine

My empty eyes flew away to the sky

I waited. I was begging for

Somebody to come and heal

Both her poetry and her paintings exist as if they have always been there. They are symbolic representations of things we all go through. They mirror the emotions of longing and loss, reflected through the symbols of nature and construction. She writes of flowers blooming “for the one who looks at them, just like Thomas Gray wrote of how “many a flower is born to blush unseen and waste its sweetness on the desert air.”

The nostalgia and heartbreak quickly turn, as for all of us, into a kind of spitefulness and distance.

When you first introduced me to Tahini, I’ve known this will be my favourite food after my first bite. I love you like I love how Tahini melt[s] on my tongue with a softness of warm Turkish bread. It tasted like your kiss when you hold my face with your warm hands.

And I realise that I hate you like I hate Turkish delight. It’s too sweet and tasteless. The sweetness also poisoning my tooth like you were poisoning my life.

We want to be everything the other person was not. We run towards the parts of ourselves that were different to them, and cling onto those parts, while the memories start to fade.

What doesn’t fade, however, are the colours in our world. They remain – through heartbreak and recovery, new love and new life – we get to keep the way we see the world. We get to keep the vibrancy, and that makes even the worst experiences bearable.

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