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A Note on an Artwork by Sirak Melkonian

Author : Shamim Sabzevari

Reading Time : 3 Minutes

This series of notes are written in order to introduce Iranian artworks in the permanent collection of Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art.


During the 1950s, Sirak Melkonian (b. 1931), was busy painting abstract and allegorical figures based on the prevailing art current of the time. From 1957 to 1960 he was creating allegorical characters of people in a locality in Tehran, in an expressive method. During the 1960s he was also among those painters who started making abstract artworks. Melkonian slowly distanced himself from anonymous expressionist bodies and tried to represent his personal perceptions of the environment, especially nature, in geometric forms through the language of abstraction. He can be considered a prominent figure of the first generation of abstract painters in Iran. His emphasis on geometric structures increased gradually and with the complete elimination of external references, he shifted to a kind of lyrical abstract expressionism. But by the end of the 1960s, he had completely abandoned basic geometric forms as well and acquired his own language; painting in absolute abstraction.

Sirak Melkonian | Untitled

Examining his artworks in different periods shows that, more than anything, he was trying constantly to know, analyze and apply geometry and form in the context of painting. For this reason, color and playing with it, which can have a special and reliable status in abstract works, has given its position to the geometric structure and composition, and of course, to the line as a crucial element. In "Untitled", the line plays a major role as well, and basically, the formation of the overall structure of the painting became possible with the parallel lines and the connection of geometric surfaces; despite the surfaces being covered with paints and even applying the paint induces a kind of chiaroscuro, everything depends on the line. A line that is hard, simple, and has no special visual meaning and only played a role in creating the overall structure and form.

Perhaps a sign of the nature can be found in this painting, like most of Melkonian’s artworks, this linear structure is borrowed from the inspiration of delimited agricultural lands, cracked river delta, reed beds or even green branches of trees; the result of the artist's personal perception of the surrounding nature, far from being objectified and tangible.


By drawing horizontal parallel lines that are placed at different distances from each other on the surface of the work, directing the eye from right to left and left to right, Melkonian emphasizes the visual values of the line. Only a few lines do not follow this structured procedure and have encountered horizontal lines; from the right and left of the image, somewhere before the fracture, which is located in the middle of the frame. This fracture interrupted the horizontal parallel lines, like a vertical line and passes through one section in almost all parts and maintains its continuity; except for the middle part where the vertical line is detached and oriented to the left. This simple preparation and changing the position of a line, has prevented the whole work from being monotonous and made another surface with a different level from other surfaces and also has helped the eye movement as well as the desire to watch the entire work. In some areas, the small spacing between lines and the choice of dark colors to cover the created surface have caused more focus. Green, blue-green, and midnight blue have been used in various levels and although they have created considerable similarity and uniformity, everything is ultimately minimalist. This simple geometric rhythm and coherence which is dominant in the whole work is the result of the dominance of plain, light, and framed lines which have taken the control of color and surface.

"Untitled" by Sirak Melkonian, Courtesy of the Permanent Collection of TMoCA, Property Code: 217