Galeri MCRD participates in Scope NY Art Fair with a solo presentation of 10 new paintings by Yasemin Cengiz Cagatay. Painting Other Universes exhibition offers a lyrical meditation on new vistas. It is as if the artist’s alter ego visits other universes as a time traveling supernatural being, and then tells us about them, to challenge received notions of the universe.
Scope New York
Mar 5 - 8 , 2020
Gallery co-founder Yasemin Cengiz Cagatay reflects on the themes and motifs of her own work, and the context in which they were made:
Yasemin Cengiz Cagatay’s ‘Painting Other Universes‘ series is a new way of surrealist and futurist painting, viewed from the perspective of the digital age: They are painted with a digital brush, and are infused with the energy of our times. Her imagery follows the times, she is imagining the future, envisioning new possible universes while we are becoming something completely new.
However, although the medium of digital painting is very contemporary, the artist’s painting is very classical, in the sense that it is her mind which directs her painting hand, not the computer. She does not manipulate digital photographs, she draws and paints directly from her mind’s eye - albeit on a Wacom pro tablet and with a digital brush- like every artist did before the digital age. To ensure complete control on her artistic output, the artist prints her digital paintings herself in her studio at her own HP Designjet, on museum quality Hahnemühle fine art paper, experimenting endlessly with the digital medium. She offers a lyrical meditation on new vistas, using the colors with a painterly approach. She enlists her otherworldly compositions to pose timely and nuanced questions, touching upon notions of perception and how technology will give access to a new world.Her supposed “brain in a vat” which could be the artist’s alter ego visits other universes as a time traveling supernatural being, and then tells us about them, to challenge received notions of the universe.
The artist’s visual story of an imagined future or parallel universes is resonant with ongoing issues and debates, both the philosophical and the political ones, regarding mankind’s perception of the universe. A devout admirer of the master painters of the past like Vrubel and the futurist Balla, her urge to innovate goes hand in hand with a profound engagement with the older art she reveres. Her aesthetic vocabulary including richly chromatic effects is indebted to it. Her appreciation of the classical sublime drama is evident, but her imagery owing a lot to video game graphics is resolutely futuristic. Her signature style consisting of sinuous creatures which look both naturalistic and surreal enables her to create futurist vistas.
Yasemin Cengiz Cagatay is interested in painting the unknown. Her paintings offer a lyrical meditation on new vistas, and these portals into alien worlds feel alive; one feels as if the artist’s alter ego visited other universes as a time traveling supernatural being and tells us about them. Aiming at ambiguity and ambivalence, she creates complex allegories set beyond reality. In her dream landscapes, the familiar and the visionary are inextricably interwoven, creating new associations. Her paintings open up windows onto a universe in which narratives are reimagined; leading the viewers onto another plane of consciousness. Oscillating between representation and abstraction, her dream-like imagery is frozen in time. Her perspective engenders an indeterminacy that veers sharply from the real world. Her figures hang in the air somewhere between free-fall and surreal suspension. The occupants of her paintings are the stuff of dreams: Cosmologies, birds of paradise, butterflies, sharks, mother nature: Fusing an array of vibrantly painted flora and fauna, she creates an ecosystem inhabited by hybrid creatures. In a visual interplay of the familiar and the unknown, she imagines macrocosmic depths of the universe. Cagatay’s works strive for the future, attempting to find new artistic paths through conceptual enquiry and poetic reflection. Her mind’s eye likes to play: her images are by turns poignant, comic, skillful, naïve, grotesque or elegant. None are what they seem at first sight. They are designed to provoke thought on the caprices of perception and mysteries of mental pleasure.
Looking from the perspective of the digital age, her paintings are painted with a digital brush. However, differently from most artists working with the digital medium, Cagatay does not use a multi-pronged process of first sourcing imagery online and then manipulating it. She paints directly from her mind’s eye like every artist did before the digital age. Unable to harness her novelty seeking, hyperactive mind prone to working insane hours, she is experimenting endlessly. To control her artistic output, the artist prints her digital paintings herself in her studio with her own large format Design Jet on museum quality fine art paper, and doesn’t make editions.
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.
The artist’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.