Mélik Ouzani was born in Vichy in 1942 to a French mother and an Algerian father.
With a technical background, after a short career in industry as a draftsman and then a model maker, in 1974 he decided to devote himself exclusively to painting, encouraged by his wife and several friends.
He then developed a style that is recognizable by its energetic graphics and bold colors. His work is the result of impulsive and lively gestures. His palette is most often reduced to primary colors and superimpositions of black and white, as if to go straight to the core. Writing is also used in his works to convey a message (sometimes of indignation) or to complete the figures represented. English and French are combined in a sort of artistic Esperanto.
The artist works on multiple formats and different materials. He does not hesitate to confront the gigantic through his murals and installations that enhance public or private spaces.
Ouzani denies being a part of the street art and mural graffiti movements which have certainly influenced his work since his first stay in New York in 1974, but which he has never actually practiced himself.
His age allows him to remind those who compare him to this artistic movement that his first productions preceded it. He admits that he was more influenced by what he observed and loved from illustrious precursors such as Picasso, Matisse, Miro, Dubuffet, Cader, Tinguely...etc...
He doesn’t want to be classified as an abstract painter nor in the wave of the "new figurative" as has been suggested for him, as he feels this term "figurative" to be inconsistent with the well-known opposition between Abstraction and Figuration of the 40's, 50's and 60's... and painting has never ceased to be both abstract and figurative in his eyes.
He has been living and working in the beautiful city of Tonnerre in Burgundy for the past ten years.
His works have been exhibited in many countries, in North America, Europe, and North Africa and of course in France in outstanding exhibitions, such as "Le noir est une couleur" (Black is a color) at the Maeght Foundation in Saint-Paul de Vence (2006), "Il était une fois Walt Disney" (Once upon a time Walt Disney) at the Grand Palais (2007), "Le Tag" (The Tag) at the Grand Palais (2010). His monumental frescoes are noteworthy, like the one at the technical middle school in Aubervilliers in 2003 (100X3M). His performances as well: creation of the components making up the great parade "The Carnivalcade" in 1998 on the occasion of the 1998 Football World Cup.
The desire to rediscover the excitement and adrenaline that precede and accompany the preparation and realization of an exhibition, to expose his work to the scrutiny of his colleagues, collectors or enlightened amateurs as well as to the curiosity of passers-by, have led him to return to the forefront of the scene by exhibiting his work and his latest creations in the Catherine Pennec Gallery in the heart of the Auvergne.
- Mélik, as a young man you started out working in industry, what made you switch to being an artist?
Maybe the simple desire to escape the “daily grind” kind of life of the generation of ’68. But more seriously: as a child and then as a teenager, I remember having always drawn a little but I never imagined that one day I would be able to devote the whole of my time to it, let alone make a living from it.
1974 was the major break in my life. My first trip to New York only reinforced my decision to definitively break with any activity other than painting... a break that I have never had cause to regret since….
- Your works are full of characters such as Mickey Mouse and Charlie Chaplin. Why this reference to these two great American myths?
MICKY MOUSE and CHARLIE CHAPLIN, virtually universally known characters, have already been honored in art, painting and drawing (the origins of MICKEY MOUSE himself) and even just looking at the "Pop Art" of the 60's, it seems to me that one can always derive something new from them – for the contour, the line, the color - as for example from a simple apple in the whole history of "Still life" ...
- You mention artists you love and who have nourished your passion for painting and sculpture: Matisse, Lichenstein, Miro, Calder and many others: in what way were they important for you?
Picasso, Matisse, Miro, Dubuffet, Calder, Tinguely etc. through the strength and clarity of their works have at the least always stimulated me, which in itself is not so bad! Some days when it seemed to me that my work was worthless, not understood, or even useless, I just had to dip into the reproductions of their works to find strength - a simple photo of MATISSE guiding his assistants from his wheelchair for his large mural collages, a bamboo pole in hand - and I was back in the game.
- You say that you’re not an abstract painter, you claim on the contrary that you depict characters, objects or plants but you also deny belonging to the new figurative graffiti and the urban art trends.
As we always want to define and categorize everything in France, I put the question to you: how would you define your work to someone who doesn't know you, which artistic movement do you fit into?
As far as GRAFFITI and URBAN ART are concerned (I really don't know what this adjective means in terms of the art, which is not necessarily only urban) in 1974 in N.Y. graffiti artists considered themselves more as "WRITERS" than as "PAINTERS"...
Most of their work consisted mainly of tangles of signs, letters, comic strip interjections, borrowed names, nicknames, etc.
Back in Paris, I regretted that young French people (and almost everywhere else in the world today) were happy to plagiarize the style invented in N.Y. which to me felt (and still does today) rather uninventive ... The same thing for the MUSIC of our recent RAPPERS and former ROCK STARS ...
I don't know what you mean by NEW "FIGURATIVE" ... If you mean REALISM in another form, I'm not really interested in it anymore, especially when it's
very close to photography...
- In your paintings one feels a kind of instinct, of something boiling, sometimes indignation as well, even provocation: do you need your brushes to express your emotions?
It's strange, but I can't really express my emotions in the execution of a painting or the making of an object, which the poet Francis PONGE calls OBJEU... (object + painting). In general, I express my emotions like everyone else does (laughing, crying, fear, pleasure etc.) but I hardly ever externalize them and I don’t think my brushes are even aware of them ....
- Writing is present in a large part of your creations, what role do you give to writing in your works?
It is often present, it is true, when it is legible: these words are related to the subject matter and they can even be the title of the work, usually written on the back of the canvas. Otherwise the writing becomes an object in itself: a representation of writing of the same value as the painted components around it. I have always wanted to be able to paint as FLUENTLY as I WRITE.
- What is your most memorable meeting with another artist?
I've been around a lot of artists. I lived and worked in a city with 33 artists' studios for 17 years. I had good friends there, but perhaps the most memorable meeting I didn't have would have been with one of the painters and sculptors I mentioned in this interview.
- What is your largest-scale work?
A fresco 100 meters long and 3 high, on the outside wall of a technical middle school in AUBERVILLIERS (93). And in another form, the creation of a big parade called CARNAVALCADE for BANLIEUE BLEUE. It consisted of animated floats, costumes, giants, big heads, Chinese dragons, etc. for the 1998 Football World Cup in St-DENIS (93).