Sunday, February 05, 2006

Artist Statement

Form Follows Function: A Design of An Assyrian Identity

Artists of non-dominant cultures have an inherent responsibility to communicate a message that is genuinely personal yet able to transcend multilayered boundaries of identity. Being Assyrian, or a displaced person in the global world, I have strengthened my ability to examine, imagine, author, create, and produce art and tell stories through my visual explorations. My native language is the basis for all of my expression, yet as a person of a culture without a country, I am free to go beyond borders and artificial constructs.

Graphic Design is a form of visual art that is concerned with the presentation and management of image and text as well as their relationships. Its primary function is to communicate by creating either a visceral reaction or to initiate an intellectual decoding process or both. The form of the neo-Assyrian alphabet, specifically Eastern Syriac letterforms, has a unique affect on my design sensibilities, as they are the core foundation of my semiotic coding of meaning. Assyrian is my mother’s language; what I heard in relation to what I saw visually and what I first coded and decoded, gives meaning to the world around me. I have chosen to examine the semiotics of this letterform along side ancient Assyrian patterns, by constructing and deconstructing their form. Through this investigation, the subject matter spans 20th Century Assyrian history, depicting an autobiographical connection to the subject.

Several unique observations have arisen, both visually and conceptually, through this investigation. The relationship of patterns and ornamentation is juxtaposed with abstract form and documentary content. Formation of a cluster of letterforms transform into a variegated visual repetition of patterns, utilizing historic and contemporary photos and text to document a specific aspect of 20th Century Assyrian history.

By cropping the form of each letter to its basic identifying feature, our relationship to letterforms is also distilled to its essence. Photographic scans are manipulated, including my childhood Assyrian notebook, along with Persian and English writing, examining their relationships, as a vehicle for learning my mother’s language, and symbolism of the letterforms. This abstraction of code allows for transcending the subjective where both Assyrian and non-Assyrian viewers can share in a profound and familiar experience; the development of an identity through language, form and culture.

Assyrian letters function as a visual tool through which I can express my design sensibility. The form of the letter holds who we are as Assyrians. Nothing can threaten the existence of this culture so long as the language remains. Despite all of the language deterioration, it is the alphabet, as the form of the language, which gives us our identity.

Sharokin Betgevargiz
MFA candidate in graphic design at Boston University

Sponsored by

With special thanks to professors Alston Purvis and Richard Doubleday, Colin Burke, Crest Graphics, Maegan BetGivargis-McDaniel, Eden Naby, my parents and the Donabed family.


Blogger Sharrukin said...

"[...]the development of an identity through language, form and culture." (Betgevargiz)

I also perceive the language as a tool holding an important role in the developpement of an identity, thus it must directly be referred to the concept of culture, which englobes the one of identity.

I am Assyrian, from Montreal and I would like congratulate you for your tremendous work, determination and deepness, reflected in your art, your devotion and your vision. Keep going brother.

Elie Kaso (

8:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shlame Elie,

Thank you for your encouraging comments. My apology for not noticing your comment earlier. My next show will be on April 20 in Boston.

Tell me more about your studies in anthropology. My niece was interested, but is now going to study Middle Eastern Studies here at a state university in Connecticut.

Khatokh Sharokin
Ana in brata! :)

9:35 AM  
Anonymous Ray Dinkha said...


First of all, I would like to thank Zinda Magazine for making your name and work available. It's great to see other Assyrians who are involved in the design world.

Your particular pieces on Assyrian heritage and history are excellent. Incorporating design principles along with design elements, you've really done a great job! I especially applaud your will to incorporate your own heritage in your designs. Not only are you showcasing a piece of art that you've created, but you're also in essence creating somewhat of a documentary. I guess the only way I can describe what you've done is "Documentary by Design". The design style that comes to mind when I view your pieces is Grunge, mainly because of the many ways you've incorported a rich color palette along with cropped objects.

I personally want to thank you for creating such excellent pieces and wish you the best of luck with your talent.

All the best,

11:53 AM  
Blogger Amna Design said...


Havit Basima! Your comments are very inspiring. I hadn't thought of my work as grunge. It's kind of refreshing since I hadn't thought of that since the 90s.

I like using multi-layers to express what I see visually, especially in relation to complexities.

Are you a designer?

Very best,

9:37 PM  

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