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Double Perpetual Movement

By Joseph Tarrab, art critic

Solicited both by the human body and oil painting, Missak Terzian gave himself at first to stylized figuration with a cubistic slant.
His natural impetuosity, zest and bravura as an inborn colorist carried him soon towards a vibrating lyricism of the brushstroke.
Guided by the body’s outline as organizing pattern, his brush assaults became the true motif of his canvasses.

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.

Unreservedly Committed

By Joseph Tarrab, art critic

The vivacity, dynamism and movement of Missak Terzian’s paintings are such that they draw the onlooker into their chromatic dance.
Beyond this first visual impact, what at first sight seems destructured or deconstructed begins to take on structure and configuration; figures and shapes start to emerge.
When he does not depict a trio of musicians or a solo tree, Missak Terzian likes to picture the duo man-woman, the human pair in their ups and downs and their transformations, from not so close proximity to complete fusion.

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.

Fruitful Interaction

By Joseph Tarrab, art critic

On the stage, a play is fashioned by dint of trials, errors, corrections, elaborations, and repetitions before it is deemed fit to be shown to the audience.
Missak’s paintings are wrought in the same way: the lyrical exuberance, the graphic and chromatic improvisations are but the last version of a work in progress liable to be indefinitely reset on the easel in search of an improved harmony, a better balance, or a more subtle imbalance.

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.


To reveal his 25 years in painting, the artist shows in a book the different phases of his work.
The 138 reproductions chosen for this retrospective represent his successive works starting 1978. The book is a luxury edition of 128 pages, with a hard cover and a jacket. Published in November 2005, it is available in France and through the artist’s website.
Reference codes: ISBN 2-913330-35-5
EAN 9782913330351

Invitation Cards:

Epreuve d’Artiste Invitation Card 1987

Epreuve d’Artiste Invitation Card 1987

Sherry Frumkin Gallery Invitation Card 1991

Epreuve d’Artiste Invitation Card 1994

Epreuve d’Artiste Invitation Card 1996

Epreuve d’Artiste Invitation Card 1999

Galerie Rochane Invitation Card 2002

Haigazian University Art Gallery Invitation Card 2008

Alwane Saifi Village Invitation Card 2009

Hamazkayin Lucy Tutunjian Art Galley Invitation Card 2010

Haigazian Art Gallery Invitation Card 2011

A Touch of Passion Invitation Card 2012



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Press Release

Missak Terzian, Ambassador of Joy in his “Informal Paintings”

Lebanese-American semi-abstract figurative expressionist contemporary painter, Missak Terzian, was born in Beirut in1949 to Armenian Genocide survivors. He studied at Ecole d’Art Guvder in 1968-1969 and graduated from London College of Printing in 1971. He held his first major art exhibition in 1984, and has since participated in 133 exhibitions worldwide.

His paintings are part of many collections in Europe, United States, the Middle East, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Armenia, the United Arab Emirates, Canada and the Republic of China; namely the Saudi Royal family and prominent Lebanese political figures. His works are on permanent display throughout Lebanon, at the headquarters of Banque du Liban, the Armenian Catholicossate of Cilicia Museum, Haigazian University, the Bank Audi Head Office, the Sursock Museum, the Museum of Bzommar, and at the Bank of Sharjah Head Office.

With an innate and primal impulse to create, figurative artist Missak Terzian is in a timeless search for existentialism, and is eager to record time and occurrences. “For me, painting is a visual testament of the mind, body and spirit. Distortion and exaggeration trigger a continuous search into an unknown semi-abstraction,” Missak explains.

He further declares his philosophy as resting on life, happiness, and the imparting of joy in his works, while emphasizing his predilection for “the couple” as his central theme, from representing reproduction and continuity—life, in essence.

Missak Terzian is presenting his exhibition “Informal Paintings” at Galerie Cheriff Tabet from March 19 to April 11, 2019.

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