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Comic Pilgrimage: Shamiram Khachatryan Explores the Eclectic Culture of Europe

Comic artist and 2023 East-West Resident spends a productive month at the Villa Empain in Brussels, bringing her projects to fruition and gaining inspiration for new art 

March 21, 2024  |  by Creative Armenia


Shamiram Khachatryan, 2023 East-West Resident

When embarking on her creative residency at the Villa Empain in Brussels, Shamiram Khachatryan had a clear vision: to bring two ambitious projects, ARNALEZ and ARCHIVAKAN, to fruition. Fast forward past the residency, and the comic artist made more than just progress. Extending beyond the boundaries of her initial goal, she visited iconic comic shops, museums, and cities. Along the way, she forged connections with inspiring creative leaders shaping the comic industry and gained energy for many more new projects.

Dive into the adventures of our East-West Resident Shamiram Khachatryan, comic artist, and founder of Panic Labs, in our exclusive interview, as she reflects on her transformative month-long stay at the iconic Villa Empain, reveals the profound impact it had on her creative process, and shares what is yet to come.

You just completed your East-West Residency at the Villa Empain in Brussels. Tell us about the highlights of your experience.

The highlight was having the time to fully concentrate on writing my script. I also took a small comics pilgrimage to several cities, where I met different people and visited exhibitions.

"I absorbed content while exploring vintage bookstores in Brussels and discovered illustrated pulp comic magazines."

During your stay, was there a specific experience, idea, or moment that left a lasting impression on you? How has that particular impression affected your creative process or the project you were working on?

During my residency, I had a cathartic experience working on the teaser soundtrack for my graphic novel with Haig Gragian. We spent the entire day in the studio perfecting the tune. It felt like envisioning the entire book while fine-tuning the music.

Another highlight was meeting Sophie Crumb, an American-French comics artist, and visiting the gallery founded by Aline Kominsky-Crumb, her mother, and a famous American underground comics artist. 

Throughout your residency, you worked on your graphic novel ARNALEZ, which revolves around rabiz musician vampire as well as explored Armenian illustrated periodicals for ARCHIVAKAN. What progress have you made on these projects? How did the residency contribute to shaping them?

I completed the draft script for ARNALEZ, although the title is still provisional. The graphic novel is set to be published in the summer. 

For ARCHIVAKAN, I worked on the script for a three-episode webcomic, which will be published on my website. 

The residency provided me with the opportunity to fully relax and delve deeply into the complex creative processes of both projects.

Moments from Shamiram Khachatryan's East-West Residency 

As an artist dedicated to confronting censorship in Armenian visual storytelling, how did the East-West Residency contribute to or empower your mission? How do you think the experience will inform your future work?

The experience was dense. I absorbed content while exploring vintage bookstores in Brussels and discovered illustrated pulp comic magazines. Additionally, I had the chance to revisit the Angouleme Comics Festival. These immersive experiences provided me with a renewed wave of courage and energy to work on two significant exhibitions, which will be announced soon. The East-West Residency has already had a visible impact on my personal work.

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