About Sevan Melikyan
The art of Sevan Melikyan is one of reduction, of a clean yet sensually
realized abstraction distilled from a panoply of aesthetic influences.
One need only look at the numerous ports of calls, or stamps in Melikyan’s
literal and spiritual passport, to understand the multi-layered nature of
his art. His past hovers somewhere in all his present work.
From the storied traditions of rug and textile weaving of his native Turkey,
Melikyan derived a sense of the geometric power born from the assiduous
braiding of assertive verticals and horizontals. The tiled mosaics that abound
in Istanbul’s museums and religious edifices demonstrated to the young
Melikyan a sense of how the rigid placement of stone, with only minute
variation, could yield a shimmering work bristling with possibility.
Paris, and more specifically that city’s wealth of works by Leger, Modigliani,
Matisse and Picasso would act as a crucial siren to Melikyan’s early artistic
muse. A teen-age Melikyan would literally commune for many evening hours in
front of his favorite works by this coterie of post-impressionists and
expressionist masters. Their works would spur Melikyan to cultivate an early
realist style in a number of miniature pieces (often based on his photographs)
always given away as gifts to friends.
If the works of Picasso and Matisse planted the initial seeds in Melikyan’s
style of the power of astringent abstraction, it would be the works of
Joseph Albers, Sean Scully, and Ellsworth Kelly - all painters Melikyan
discovered for the first time when he moved to Texas - that would steer
him towards the artistic domain he currently inhabits.
These modern, abstract-expressionists gave Melikyan the license, if not
the outright legitimate permission, to throw himself completely into what
is now his trademark style of a personalized abstraction which trembles
with minimalist seduction.
Enter the computer and one has a crucial ingredient in Melikyan’s artistic
laboratory. Already a gifted computer graphics artist, Melikyan began to
manipulate on screen the basic visual elements found in such favored works
as Leger’s "Three Musicians" or Henri Rousseau’s "The Dream".
The result of Melikyan’s re-casting of both grand works were abstractions
that both existed on their own in addition to suggesting the themes that
peeped out of the classic originals. Melikyan then took the crucial next
step of converting to canvas what he had first incubated on screen.
"When I brought the two together, the computer and the original work by
Leger, it really was an act of love, a very positive and happy act to give
birth to a new picture and this process of minimizing," Melikyan now says
of one of his earliest pieces.
The highly finished quality of Melikyan’s paintings is all the more
remarkable considering that he has never had any formal training as a
painter. Instead, he seized upon the highly expressive color palette,
bordered by a matrix of almost sculpted lines, of such artists as Kelly,
Albers, Indiana, in order to carve out his own path of visual expression.
In the world of a Melikyan painting, characters radiate a gamut of
personality from bland to captivating, all through Melikyan’s choice of
color tonality drawn from an enormous spectrum. The resulting cavalcade
of protagonists has both all the obvious qualities of a flesh and blood
character, along with all its indeterminate mystery.
"If I have a philosophy about my work, it is that I have to be moved and
excited by the process of reduction that it involves," Melikyan says. "I
also want very much to convey a certain quietness and serenity, often
generated by the subtle color and spatial relationships in the works. If
I have one desire to generate from the pieces, it is one of amazement: How
did these colors come about? I want to reveal the mystery that the colors
are hiding. Frankly, I don’t think anyone has quite figured it out. It is
a mystery to me and understanding the mystery of color is in essence
understanding the mystery of painting as a whole. That's really what I’m
Sevan Melikyan was born to Armenian parents in Istanbul in 1965. He moved
to Paris at the age of 9 and stayed in France until age 26, earning a degree
in marketing from the University of Dauphine. He spent six years in New York
City, directing a program devoted to the promotion and presentation of
artists of Armenian descent. Since 1997, Melikyan’s has been the marketing
director for the Van Cliburn Foundation. His art work is represented by the
William Campbell Contemporary Art Gallery in Fort Worth. Sevan Melikyan’s
body of work can be seen online at