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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

WEIRD MOSCOW




Gayane Pakhlevanyan was originally trying to get hold of the Los Angeles Times but no one was in. We got the telephone call instead and Gayane, a worried-sounding Armenian poet, told me that her children are two-handed artists and that her son can paint upside down as well.


Not quite understanding, I had an image of a small Armenian standing on his head with two paintbrushes in each hand and headed off to their apartment in the far northwest of Moscow.


The truth was slightly more prosaic. Edgar, 14, has drawn simultaneously with both hands since he was 7 years old, his sister more recently.


The paintings are somewhat shaky pieces ranging from landscapes to Donald Duck to soccer players.


It was only a few month ago that Gayane found out that her children were ambidextrous artists. She was reading an old Armenian Society's information bulletin when she read about Agnessa, a 17-year-old artist who painted with both hands and was being hailed as a wonder of the modern age and was set for an exhibition in St. Petersburg.


Hearing the story from his mother, Edgar looked up at her and said "Easy peasy lemon squeezy" or whatever the Armenian equivalent is. His 10-year-old sister, Edita, piped up with a "Me too!" and they quickly got down to drawing.


"I was stunned," Gayane said, bursting with pride as she showed me a selection of Edgar's pictures. "Look at that, two mountains in Armenia. It's amazing."


"The bulletin said that she was the only one in the world," Gayane said. "And I've got two of them."


Both the children have their mother's thick black hair and a calm stillness about them. Sitting at the table they pick up two pens at once (red for Edita, blue for Edgar), make sure that the paper is even and lose themselves in the drawing. Every now and again they whisper something to each other in Armenian and muffle a small giggle.


Edgar is the more concentrated and, after drawing a symmetrical old house, stops to massage his large hands and twist his neck until it cracks.


Then he begins again, quickly sketching another house but this one he draws upside down with both hands.


A crew from Segodnyachko, a Russian television program on NTV, turned up at the apartment earlier this week, shaking their heads in amazement as Edgar drew for them. Gayane dreams of helping Edgar be a real artist.


The family left Yerevan seven years ago after Gayane's husband was killed. Now the family sticks announcements on walls and lampposts to make a living. Neither child goes to school and until recently they lived in an apartment with no light and practically no furniture. In November they spent three days on the street and many of Edgar's drawings are streaked after the family's belongings lay in the rain. It was only through akindly donor that they got this apartment a few weeks ago, finally giving the kids somewhere to draw.


Now Edgar has devised a new alphabet, a hieroglyphic mixture of 50 figures. Each one has a complex meaning of its own, being made up of three or four phrases.


"He's a wonder," said Gayane. "People look at them and can't believe a 14-year-old boy could do such things."


- Kevin O'Flynn