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Saadet  Cengiz

Saadet Cengiz painted familiar scenes -trees, rivers, rocks, the sky with surrealistic figures in them. A romantic at heart, and an avid reader, she is steeped in the poetry of the Romantic movement and the Surrealists'. The artist's art is centered around an inner world, a mythology of her own creation. She reveres nature as the product of divine creation, and she seeks to gain a deeper perception of the world through the resources of her imagination.


About the Artist

The gallery co-founder Yasemin Cengiz Cagatay examines the themes and motifs of her mother Saadet Cengiz's work and the context in which it was made: 


Saadet Cengiz is a profoundly sensitive painter crafting "inner pictures" that were the mainspring of her creativity. They were crafted from  childhood memories, capturing the emotional sensation of particular moments in time, as well as the ravishing scenery of her provincial childhood home. The artist was driven by  the desire to create beautiful landscapes evoking happiness, combining elements of realism and a conscious naiveté. The mythical creatures emerging from the rocks of her imagined landscapes make her an ardent surrealist, while the style she uses most would best be described as naturalism informed by the heightened palette of Impressionism. But clearly, for her, a landscape worthy of being painted should be picturesque above all.


The antidote to the broad naturalism of her training came in Istanbul through her discovery of the art of Paul Gaugin, Henri 'le Douanier ' Rousseau and Marc Chagall the Surrealist among many others through art books. She came to describe herself as 'a kind of naturalistic "Naive" painter. Cengiz's landscapes are not generally designed to evoke awe, they tend to appear as meditative, with a sense that there is a story lurking behind the image somewhere, although she has painted a number of landscapes that evoke 'the sublime' (in the late eighteenth- century sense of the term).


Saadet Cengiz’s enigmatic gouache painting Dreamland exhibited at the Spectacular exhibition at her daughter's gallery is influenced by children’s tales such as Alice in Wonderland and old fairy tales, as well as the Surrealist painters including Leonora Carrington, -19 years her senior-, depicting their own bestiary like Cengiz. There seem to exist a number of possibilities in this scene, the viewers are invited to imagine their own story. Saadet Cengiz’s spirited insects dressed as a bride and groom leaving their fairy tale home in the rocks are otherworldly creatures populating her active imagination; living in an imaginary world where reality is upturned. Imagination is as limitless as the horizon. Metamorphoses, ambiguous identities and intentions were intrinsic to the workings of Cengiz's imagination, drawing upon vividly remembered fairy tales. Nothing was quite what it seemed. This was a vein of fantasy rooted in childhood imagination that inspired her, for her nature was alive with magic.  

Saadet Cengiz studied painting in Ankara at the beginning of 1950s with the idealist professors of the young republic, at the school which became Gazi University now. She became familiar with  Surrealism from the art books her brother brought from Germany,  but she received little encouragement from her family to forge an artistic career. She became an art teacher, painted for pleasure; and inspired her children and students to join the art world. Populated by otherworldly creatures, Cengiz's work features kaledioscopic utopias inspired by Disney's wonderful world where humans and nature co-exist in harmony. To these apparently idealised scenes, Cengiz brings her humor and love of beauty.  Captivated by the seemingly porous borders between the marvelous and the real, she painted  quietly luminous paintings she kept to herself.


Selected Works

Saadet Cengiz's Dreamland at Galeri MCRD

Saadet Cengiz, Dreamland, 1958

Detail from Happiness by Saadet Cengiz at Galeri MCRD

Saadet Cengiz, Detail from Happiness, 2000 

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