Galeri MCRD participates in Virtual Contemporary Istanbul 2020 with Dream Time exhibition, a presentation of sculptures by Yücel Kale and paintings by Yasemin Cengiz Cagatay. Sculptures of animals, and hybrid creatures along with new otherworldly paintings create a surreal, inside out landscape of nature and artifice. Both artists have a lot in common: Their works are infused with a dreamlike, surreal sensibility; and both dress them in sparkles, gemstones, and fantasy, using beasts, birds, butterflies, fish and flowers as well as dragon-bird creatures to animate their supernatural characters.
Gallery co-founder Yasemin Cengiz Cagatay reflects on the themes and motifs of Yücel Kale's and her own work, and the context in which they were made:
In this exhibition, Cagatay's surreal landscapes characterized by luminescence of color reflecting the artists’ sense of awe in the grandeur of nature meet Kale's fantastic hybrid figures between nature and supernatural. When it's Dream Time, both artists come up with otherworldly compositions commenting ironically on human condition. Yücel Kale's sculptures present a world where the natural and supernatural go hand in hand; drawing into play parts of the culture which are forgotten, disregarded or buried . The artist employs all that has lain outside of the mainstream of modern art – age-old symbols and fanciful myth, irrational beliefs, traditional genres like wonder at the natural world – in order to speak vividly about his dreams. His work reminds the fairy painting of the Victorian era, whose scenes unfolding with an interest in otherworldliness, with an impulse to cleanse the doors of perception.Such characters might seem to exist at the outer reaches of our ordinary sensory thresholds, as though momentarily illuminated by Kale's vivid powers of description. His lifelong fascination with the natural world reflects in his work.Though in his imagined world, each species struggles to co-exist with mankind, nature is unbowed. Animal life always maintains the upper hand, even when mankind's avarice threatens everything else. Animal and plant life represent good sense and eternal knowledge, yet one still senses strong intuition at work.
Encapsulating the instinctual and the surreal within Yücel Kale's body of work, these new fairy tale works present an extension of Kale's practice that is as fresh and thought-provoking as ever. Staying true to the Surrealist preoccupation with dreams and the unconscious, Kale's sculptures are steeped in private mythology and childhood memories.His primarily sculptural output of composed, harmonious female figures remain stylistically consistent:The subject of a curvaceous female figure occupied Kale for almost twenty years. In conceiving and executing his Muses, the sculptor created drama and rendered his dream creatures in great detail. The theme of a sweet fairy tale animal figure started to preoccupy the artist more and more, and nowadays one of his major themes centers on the image of the bird, which often incorporated a human element. His hybrids and sweet animals convey a whole host of human emotion, concentrating on the animals’ physical attributes , rather than their movement.The reptile figure continues to occupy a special place in his iconography.
His colour-saturated, giant or diminutively scaled sculptures of fairy tale animals evince neo-romantic longing, whether for the objects of his affections or the intensity of feeling in the representations as such. Kale achieves the highly expressive quality of his sculptures through an intensely laborious process.His is also a tactile, rather than strictly ocular approach, and uses expensive, luxurious materials like semi-precious stones.His curvaceous forms give his sculptures an aura of primitive magic that seems to radiate from it, and he shifts into extra-sensory or super-sensory realm. Painted wood elements, among them art bags in pulsating combinations of colour and animal forms bring to mind pagan mythology. The field of reference, with fairy tale associations slotting in easily next to African sculpture and surrealist undertones is large. Handicraft is supported by a conceptual approach and- in the true spirit of the surrealist idea of the miraculous- woodblocks are transformed into something astounding, then you have art. The influence of Symbolism is also apparent. A Feng Shui adept, he forms the owl as a source of good luck, wisdom, knowledge and protective energies. Kale’s figures exude an overwhelmingly placid, stable, and self-contained air.The artist transforms his subjects through whimsical color and free play with form.His hybridized sculptures are at once familiar yet strange, insinuating primal similarities linking the animal kingdom and examining humans’ place within the natural world.
Yasemin Cengiz Cagatay's preoccupation with the infinite and the sublime -to be searched in pattern and colour - dating back to her earliest works are continued in her new paintings which include otherworldly dream landscapes as before. The artist believes that "as we go into an uncertain future, one thing we can predict is that the landscape will continue to claim the attention of artists and writers and that alongside anxiety and unease, beauty and wonder will be there too." She thinks that the beholder, on "entering" a picture of her would read from form to form, would move inwards by tone colour to tone colour. All this without consciously thinking about what the picture might represent: that should be left to filter in gradually, subconsciously.In its controlled movement over each part of the picture plane, the eye would be responding to the rhythms and relations deliberately created by the artist- would be listening to the music of the picture; 'chords' of colour are audible in many pictures: for example, cadmium yellow, violet and indigo blue at In a Heart Beat. She is fascinated by anything futuristic, and is influenced by the jet-age aesthetic itself.
In her practice colour creates structure, spatial recession partly because colour instinctively built up in the act of painting.Her colour combinations reflect a visual and emotional complex, drawing a wide range of colours to express subtle, but precise nuances.She attempts to create magical Futuristic cityscapes with visual audacity. Drawing on the possibilities of free invention encouraged by Surrealism, Cagatay developed a style that drew from highly personalized and psychological references.She deployed these motifs for Futurist ends: the dissected planes implied dynamism and the straight lines became “force-lines” showing motion.Cagatay integrates the Cubist use of straight lines that divide spatial planes into her more expressionistic style. Cagatay's paintings run counter to conventional viewing habits and genre-based thinking in a number of ways. She combines painting with digital painting, using digital means to brush both the wrong way, and happily overstepping boundaries of taste.The artist remains true to the traditions of abstract painting, her sweeping gestures occasionally referring to the heyday of abstract painting. The surreal undertones are pushed even further in her figuration. Her themes also draw on surrealism. She tries to come-up with new pictures-pictures that confound viewing patterns- to surprise herself with and continue dreaming; and in this Kale joins her, endeavoring to create a 'new' reality that provokes imagination.
Yücel Kale is an Istanbul based established artist, who began his artistic career two decades ago studying sculpture at Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University, Istanbul (1993-2000). In 1997 Kale had his first large-scale solo presentation with C.A.M Art Gallery, Istanbul. His work has been exhibited solo or as part of group exhibitions internationally at fairs -Art New York 2017 , Aqua Art Miami 2017, SOFA Sculpture Objects Functional Art and Design, New York (2008), ST-ART Strasbourg Contemporary Art Fair, France (2009), Frankfurt Book Fair, Germany (2008), Asia Pacific Leather Fair Hong Kong (2014), Contemporary Istanbul (2006,2012, 2013)-; at museums, -Museum Der Arbeit in Hamburg, Germany (2009) and Santa Maria della Scala Museum, Siena, Italy (2008); at Portside Gallery in Yokohama, and at Youkobo, Japan (2004). The artist had also many solo exhibitions nationally, at many established galleries including Galeri Apel, C.A.M. Art Gallery, Galeri Selvin, Imoga Art Space and Siyah Beyaz Art Gallery. His works are held in private collections.
Yasemin Cengiz Cagatay grew up in Istanbul with an art teacher mother among paintings and art history books. She learned painting as a child, this leading her to national art prizes - including a first prize in a nation wide art competition when she was a high school senior. She has studied from 11 to 19 years old in Lycée de Galatasaray, a major establishment having formed the politicians and artists of the country. The French influence she received in this centuries old school with a blend of French and Turkish curricula reflects in her paintings. She has studied at Bosphorus University Business School; which also taught a rich humanities program. The artist pursued a finance management career working as a management committee member for multinational companies, and quit to indulge in her passion for art. She gave herself a tailored art education, living in art centers - Paris, London and New York- and studied contemporary art at the programs of IESA Paris, Sotheby’s Institute of Art London and New York. Cagatay’s yearning to wed the eternal with the coming day, and her devotion to constant questioning pushed her to paint for a long time before exhibiting her work: her preoccupation with analogue and digital painting in relation to representational iconographies spans a decade. She preferred to have her inaugural exhibition with the gallery she co-founded; and starting with All Arts Istanbul fair in 2013, she had exhibited her work both solo or in group at Galeri MCRD and at Contemporary Istanbul 2014- 2019.