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Journey to the Unknown 

Galeri MCRD presents Journey to the Unknown exhibition of Yasemin Cengiz Cagatay consisting of 5 new paintings and one painting from the previous year. The artist has a long held fascination with the Unknown, the un-familiar and the futuristic. Populated with a wealth of hybrid creatures, her opulent scenery is at once microscopic and macroscopic. In these Covid days, the exhibition is naturally taking place only online.

Online Exhibition


May 16-June 20, 2020

This exhibition which includes several works on paper and canvas by Yasemin Cengiz Cagatay invites viewers to contemplate an imaginary dreamworld. Its anchor point, Halcyon Days, 2020, depicts a winged lion face to face with a beautiful bird. Lion and bird are symbols generally used for power positions, and the observers of this private moment are left to guess the circumstances of the encounter. The artist’s suggestive imagery gives the clues in the posture of the figures.The lion’s body language is not menacing.The vibrant color palette adds to the feeling of a luxuriant but definitely fantastical nature. The fabled halcyon bird -watching the lion from behind in this scene- is said to calm the wind and the sea, and it represents  a tranquil period of happiness, often nostalgic.Hence the painting's title alludes to the artist’s nostalgia for better times of the past, fondly remembered in these stormy Corona days.


The artist has a long-held fascination with the unknown, the unfamiliar and the futuristic. She creates complex paintings suggesting a fantastical world full of intricate detail and jewel–like surfaces. Through microscopic areas of detail, dramatic coloring and exaggeration she comes up with theatrical works. They appear as a vivid entanglement of densely grouped bulging volumes arranged dramaturgically. Populated with a wealth of hybrid creatures, her opulent scenery is at once microscopic and macroscopic; and her signature, immersive flower-like explosions are part of her quite Baroque imagery.Hypnotic circles, almost psychedelic patterns fragment the space, embodying the fluidity of time. The pictorial space consists mostly of swirling and twisted lines of vibrant color, each color representing a different note on the scale that gradually ascends and descends in a sequence of patterns; becoming ornate scenes coming to life with a sense of enigma. These paintings are imagined as windows onto converging moments of life in an imaginary dreamworld. Varying from evocations of gatherings to almost abstract, vertical forms pulsating with energy, each painting carries its own distinct mood and character. Poised between the strange and the familiar, the works are shaped by dreamlike associations that interconnect the works on which the abstract remains visible amidst defined areas of representation.


Inviting prolonged scrutiny with their intricate details, the paintings’ evocations change according to the viewer; each viewer mixing the evocations with their own assumptions and desires they project onto the paintings. There is a sense of narrative, and the paintings seem to exist at the border between outer and inner, actual and symbolic worlds. The colors may seem overly vibrant, the scenes surreal, almost utopian, but there is a familiarity and dreamlike paradise in most paintings.Supernatural clouds emerge, hybrids creatures evolve in those waves of color sometimes pulsating with energy, some other time lost in reverie… Cagatay’s entendre-rich paintings display an uncanny strangeness: A safe and friendly place, or an eerie setting capable of disquieting the viewer. There is a dominant silence, poetically dramatic, but not ominous. From the core of the painting light emanates, and vibrant colors and textures -choreographed together with a layered composition- spread throughout the space. 


The paintings aim to teleport the viewer into an unknown place, outside the manmade world. For the artist, dream worlds are fertile territory, one that allows the imagination to roam freely, to envision what might be to come. She proposes a different form of landscape painting, one that functions more like poetry, where cerebral and emotional experience collide. The artist displays a poetic playfulness. Improvisatory, fluid and highly instinctual, her paintings abound with ambivalent imagery, and she managed to coax evocations of place, light and weather into them.With luminous kaleidoscopic effects they seem to represent candid snapshots of a moment, frozen as if time had stopped. Forms, such as the wings of a bird extend towards the horizon in a manner that is both seductive and disorienting. In the space vistas, upon closer inspection we notice that the figures are split in half, letting the light through and beyond. Held in a moment of quiet contemplation, the figures fluctuate between motion and stillness. The various passages conjure very thin, nimble threads. The paintings are powered by juxtaposition: They are organic and geometric, colorful and pale, flat and textured, linear and painterly. They pivot between structure and openness, retaining a restless, searching quality. 

Galeri MCRD Online

About the Artist

Yasemin Cengiz Cagatay grew up in Istanbul with an art teacher mother who surrounded her with paintings and art history books. She taught her painting as a child, and introduced her the work of the masters, which inspired the artist from a young age; leading 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. She had the opportunity to use the school’s art studio on the Bosphorus exclusively. The French influence she received in this centuries old school with a blend of French and Turkish curricula reflects in her paintings. She has been invited to the major art academy of the country, and 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. 


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Yasemin Cengiz Cagatay, Halcyon Days,  2020

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Sky on the Rocks,2020

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The Crest,2019

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Treasures from a Sea of Jade ,2020


Joycians, 2020

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A Star is Born,2020