His favorite subject, the double bodily scheme of the seated couple, spotted oddly enough in the random criss-cross of black paint drippings of a Jackson Pollock’s work, motivates, directs and manages in a way the painter’s interventions, very few of them being concerned with iconic representation.
Often a certain time of observation or even decipherment is required to detect and make out, amongst what seems to be a chaotic tangle, the main features of the body, the ‘strange attractors’ of the head, shoulders, breast, arms and legs.
The surface of the canvas is a field of multidirectional forces-colors. Seen one by one or in restricted zones, they seem to be totally abstract, scattered, incoherent and meaningless, were if not for the underlying regulating scheme that magnetizes them, lending them convergence, coherence and signification.
The figuration results from a combination of graphic and chromatic non figurative elements.
This description applies mainly to Missak Terzian’s middle production period. The earlier period offers a more straightforward reading of the couple as an image of complementary duality, intimacy and tenderness but also of stability and permanence, in striking contrast with the frantic dynamism of the brushstrokes and the heated fauvism of the color scheme.
In the subsequent period, a triangular abyss tapering towards the center of the bottom edge of the canvas opens up between the legs of the anonymous or rather universal couple. After that, the couple tends to disappear almost completely as a recognizable motif by turning into vertical filiform strokes where torso, arms and buttocks are barely marked by delicate inflexions of the brush with colors that have lost their once expressionistic intensity to take on more understated tints and shades.
The painter does not need anymore to assert himself in the excess of an overflowing expressive energy. A minimalist proceeding takes over, a murmur instead of a scream, without affecting either the spontaneity or the swiftness of execution.
Missak Terzian’s paintings are constructed by deconstruction and deconstructed by construction. To find their way inside them, the onlookers have to identify with that double paradoxical perpetual movement, the very same that continually does and undoes couples and human communities.
The polarity established through the repartition of the canvas surface into two right-left parts weaves a net of vibrations of more or less high frequency between the terms of this asymmetric symmetry, depending on the warmth of the colors, the amplitude of the gestures, and the intensity of the emotions of the painter.
This oscillation between the masculine and the feminine, the visible and the invisible, the inner and the outer, the stable and the unstable, the fullness and the void, the simple and the complex, the finished and the unfinished confers vibrancy and pulsation to Missak’s canvasses, beyond the primal split that, always, ignites the dialectics animating them from the inside, from the feelings, the ideas and the reactions of the painter.
His work consists then in trying to restore temporarily a perpetually broken balance, until shapes and colors end up playing in concert, with the multiple rhythms and tempi this implies, from andante con moto to crescendo furioso. The restlessness of Missak’s strokes does not allow more relaxed and appeasing rhythms.
His canvasses induce a catalytic, galvanizing, electric atmosphere, like musical beats that make the body move to their pace almost against its own will. They achieve this result despite their static underlying structure.
The paradoxical nature of Missak’s paintings is that, although they look like lyrical abstraction, the more they are scrutinized, the more relationships and figures are revealed, emerging from behind the attractive shimmer of a very physical workmanship to which the painter seems to commit himself unreservedly.
Hence, arguably, the onlookers’ temptation to respond with their body, outlining in three dimensional space, if only at their nascent state, the ample movements materializing on the canvass.
In ten, twenty, even in thirty years hence, it may call for a new search, enhanced by the artist’s existential and professional experience in the interval. Thus, vintage paintings from 1982 and 1992 turn up, in a more or less altered state, in his 2012 production.
The same rhythmic pattern prevails throughout the creation of each and every opus: first layer, first brushstrokes, first colors, followed by successive critical evaluations to decide on new layers, new brushstrokes, and new colors. So, Missak’s paintings are composed through a kind of sedimentary process of accretions, and rectifications followed by new stratifications, until the image he holds in his mind finally emerges through the mesh of color patches.
What is at stake here is giving the impression that this elaborate process is the opposite of what it is: not the painstaking aggregate of delicate adjustments that never allow colors to get tarnished and dirty, but a seemingly spontaneous fireworks of instantaneous brushstrokes delivered too fast to be completely mastered.
As a matter of fact, Missak controls in the strictest way every stage of the painting process by shuttling to and fro between the manual and the digital. Photographs of successive stages are scrutinized on his computer screen to locate precisely the spots requiring modification. The camera and the screen are thus enlisted among the painter’s tools.
In other words, time is an essential dimension of the composition and recomposition of the painting as well as of its contemplation and recontemplation. Looking at a picture requires backing off, and moving forward, visualizing the whole, and probing into the minutiae of the artwork. In this advancing and retreating process, the deciphering becomes more accurate and fruitful, enriching one’s gaze with unexpected meetings of shapes, colors, and meanings.
In one series of paintings, the theme is intimated, leaving to the viewer the onus of linking pointers and signs to retrieve the figures immersed into the colors melee.
As a counterpoint, another series gives immediate visibility to the themes and motifs, in an angular style of drawing that can go as far as achromatism: musicians with a variety of instruments, odalisques, dancers, hubble-bubble smokers, card and backgammon players, mothers and children, lovers, landscapes, historical monuments, vegetables, and fruit. Here the organized chaos disappears to the benefit of a mastered graphic composition, a simplified drawing, and a palette of intense, saturated, and yet reserved colors. These themes and motifs naturally generate a gamut of variations redolent of a mellowing of the painter, although he retains his usual stamina and dexterity in the manipulation of the painting brush.
A retrospective glance on his production reveals that those themes and motifs are not innovations but rather echo similar ones he handled since the beginning and throughout his career, with periods in which chromatic tendencies prevailed over graphic ones, periods where the reverse was the case, and periods where both trends fruitfully interacted.