Sayat Uşaklıgil

Born in 1975, Istanbul, Turkey
1993-1997 Mimar Sinan University, Faculty of Fine Arts, Department of Painting
1997-1999 Mimar Sinan University, Institute of Social Sciences, Post Graduate

1997 Sakıp Sabancı Vaksa Awards, First Prize of Painting Department

Personal Exhibitions:
2019 Bizarre Stories (Tuhaf Hikâyeler), Galeri 77, Istanbul, Turkey
2019 Merry Crowds (Multu Kalabalıklar), Galeri 77, Istanbul, Turkey
2018 Between Times (Zamanlar Arası), Galeri Kambur Arnavutköy, Istanbul, Turkey
2012 Walk of Fame (Yıldızlar Geçidi), Artgalerim Nişantaşı Art Gallery, Istanbul, Turkey
2009 Stop Talking-Talk! (Suskonuş), Karşı Art Works, Istanbul, Turkey
2003 İş Bank-Parmakkapı Art Gallery, Istanbul, Turkey

Group Exhibitions:
2019 Down Memory Lane…, Galeri 77, Istanbul, Turkey
2019 STEP Istanbul, with Galeri 77, Tomtom Kırmızı Building, Istanbul, Turkey
2017 Fragility of Now (Şimdinin Kırılganlığı), Daire Galeri, Istanbul, Turkey
2016 Breathe Vol.3 (Nefes 3), Merkür Galeri, Istanbul, Turkey
2015 Editing of Reality (Gerçekliğin Kurgusu), Russo Art Gallery, Istanbul, Turkey
2015 Las Meninas Reviews (Las Meninas Yorumları), Karşı Art Works, Istanbul, Turkey
2012 Doomsday (Kıyamet), Artgalerim Nişantaşı Art Gallery, Istanbul, Turkey
2012 Together Vol.V (Hep Birlikte V), Artgalerim Nişantaşı Art Gallery, Istanbul, Turkey
2011 Together Vol.IV (Hep Birlikte IV), Artgalerim Nişantaşı Art Gallery, Istanbul, Turkey
2011 Together Vol.III (Hep Birlikte III), Artgalerim Nişantaşı Art Gallery, Istanbul, Turkey
2011 1st. Istanbul Summer Exhibition, Beyaz Art-Art Harbour, Istanbul, Turkey
2011 Dream Night (Rüya Gecesi), Swiss Otel, Izmir, Turkey
2011 Connection (Bağlantı), Artgalerim Nişantaşı Art Gallery, Istanbul, Turkey
2010 Near to Us (Vicino A Noi), Ufficio Cultura e İnformazioni dell’Ambasciata di Turchia a Roma, Italy
2010 Quintessences (Quintessenze), Scuderie Aldo Brandini, Frascati, Roma, Italy
2009 Synthesis Movement in Istanbul (Movimento Sintesi in İstanbul), Caddebostan Cultural Center-CKM, Istanbul, Turkey
2009 My Name Is Casper, 216 Thought&Production Platform, Karşı Art Works, Historical Sümerbank Building, Istanbul, Turkey
2009 Synthesis (Sintesi), Turkish-Italian Painting Exhibition, Altamira Art Gallery, Mersin, Turkey
2009 Synthesis (Sintesi), Turkish-Italian Painting Exhibition, Atatürk Univercity Cultural Center Art Gallery, Erzurum, Turkey
2009 Synthesis (Sintesi), Turkish-Italian Painting Exhibition, Ipsar, Roma, Italy
2008 Synthesis (Sintesi), Caddebostan Cultural Center-CKM, Istanbul, Turkey
2007 ARKHE Group Exhibition, Caddebostan Cultural Center-CKM, Istanbul, Turkey
2006 Homo Ludens - When Art Comes into Play (Quando l’arte entra in gioco), NeoArt Gallery, Roma, Italy
2004 ARKHE Group Exhibition Vol.4, Akademililer Art Gallery, Istanbul, Turkey
2003 ARKHE Group Exhibition Vol.3, Mine Art Gallery, Istanbul, Turkey
1999 Group Exhibition, Galatea Art Gallery, Istanbul, Turkey
1999 Turkish Heart Foundation Painting Exhibition, Istanbul, Turkey
1999 Ayşe & Ercüment Kalmık Foundation, 5th Painting Competition Exhibition, Istanbul, Turkey
1999 ARKHE-ARCHE Group Exhibition Vol.2, Elhamra Art Gallery, Istanbul, Turkey
1998 ARKHE Gorup Exhibition Vol.1, Galatea Art Gallery, Istanbul, Turkey
1998 Mimar Sinan University, Faculty of Fine Arts Lithography and Serigraphy Exhibition, Istanbul, Turkey
1998 Young Activity Vol.2 (Genç Etkinlik 2), KAOS Exhibition, Tuyap, Istanbul, Turkey
1997 Turkish Heart Foundation Painting Exhibition, Istanbul, Turkey
1997 Ayşe & Ercüment Kalmık Foundation, 4th Painting Competition Exhibition, Istanbul, Turkey
1996 Habitat II, ÖTEKİ Contemporary Art Exhibition, Antrepo, Istanbul, Turkey

2012 Contemporary Istanbul Art Fair, with Artgalerim Nişantaşı Art Gallery, Istanbul, Turkey
2012 Art Bosphorus Art Fair, with Artgalerim Nişantaşı Art Gallery, Istanbul, Turkey
2011 Contemporary Istanbul Art Fair, with Artgalerim Nişantaşı Art Gallery, Istanbul, Turkey
2011 Art Bosphorus Art Fair, with Artgalerim Nişantaşı Art Gallery, Istanbul, Turkey
2010 Art Bosphorus Art Fair, Arte Vista Booth, Istanbul, Turkey
2010 ARTIST 20. Tuyap Art Fair, Manic Attack (Manik Atak) exhibition, 216 booth, Istanbul, Turkey
2009 ARTIST 19. Tuyap Art Fair, System Failure (Sistem Arızası) exhibition, 216 booth, Istanbul, Turkey
2009 Immagina, Reggio Emilia Art Fair, Italy
2009-2004 ARTIST Tuyap Art Fair, ARKHE Group Exhibitions, Istanbul, Turkey

1996 OPUS 29 Performance with Eric Anderson, Atatürk Cultural Center-AKM, Istanbul, Turkey

Sayat Uşaklıgil was born in 1975, in Istanbul. He has graduated ranking first in his class from Painting Department in Mimar Sinan University of Fine Arts, where he has also done his master’s degree. He has participated in group expositions with art initiatives “Arkhe” and “216”, along with several exhibitions and art fairs both local and abroad. He continues to work in his workshop located in Istanbul.

In his paintings, Sayat Uşaklıgil brings together spatial and temporal contrasts with shapes persisting from the memory of the past. His nostalgic female figures are depicted in all their innocence, far from the visual perception of today’s world. The artist takes these figures, petrified in their own era, and moves them through the infinite universe in constant motion to a dimension that is beyond any conception of time. The absurdity of this collage produces temporal tidal waves on the audience itself. While collating the sense of beauty of these pristine figures with the aesthetics of old book illustrations, the artist presents a certain permeability between times. Focusing on gestures and features in his work, Uşaklıgil manipulates the spatial ruptures and the shifts in synchroneity between the future and the past. This element of friction is further strengthened by the contrast of colored and black-and-white spaces in his paintings.

The painted figures are icons and symbols from a determined timeframe, no longer alive. They are just shapes and forms persisting as documents or memories in photographs, used by Uşaklıgil to signify the idiom “Memento Mori” (remember death). The artist presents this in a way that is surreal at times, and tranquil in others.

Whilst a person is maintaining their lives as an entity, they also determine their boundaries with other people, places or objects. The process starting when a baby teat replaces the real mother’s breast as a child later develops and continues as functional connexions with the daily utility tools within life. Afterwards, some of these items evolve and ascend to be “objects of desire”, becoming parts in future goals.

Objects created for a purpose can become equivalent to ideals not yet denominated in a completely different plane, especially in children’s dream world. But in that period these objects are simply called “toys” and they stand by to substitute for their originals as a precondition for future disposition. In brief, every object materialize by the sense imputed to them, not by themselves. A fork can become a microphone, just as a matchbox becoming a car, a pencil a rocket, a cooking pot a drum; thus moving the children ever onwards on their dreams.

A vast majority of objects are non-existant in the nature. Most of these objects are creations of art. The thing that separates a song from the sound of thunder or the wind is the same as whatever separates a Picasso from a mossy wall: Humans and their transcendental attitude in face of an opus. The artist, being more and more anonymized throughout art history, becomes accepted by the masses that we call “audience” by attaching several features to their work.

Most artist take advantage of previously created objects or encountered events and circumstances when creating their own works. Some of them are known to reproduce previously created art works as well. The history of art is filled to brim with variations of music, painting, literature and photography. Some of them took the subject as it is and changed the for, some added new things on top, sometimes even creating more famous works than the original. Artists like Andy Warhol have ascribed so many different meanings to things like a simple tin can or a photo on a newspaper.

The utilization of off-the-shelf material over the notion of “Ready made” has become one of the more important manners of creation, especially since the 1950’s. One must remember that names like Marcel Duchamp or Man Ray have composed their works via these objects. One must also recall the fact that the Renaissance began by reconsidering Greco-Roman art of Antiquity. All the visual arts –especially photography – start out from things that already exist and are visible to human eye. Not a single snapshot can be perceived as only taken to record the truth. It would otherwise be highly unfair to many photographers who have turned those snapshots into works of art.

There are many important aspects of our sociological and psychological lives such as family, school, neighborhood and professional life. We often use objects that serve as catalysts within these relations in our dialogues. Every single object that was created, including artworks, serve as a gateway to interhuman relations. And these objects maintain their anonymous roaming until someone comes and re-forms them, stylizes them. But at this state it is impossible for them to become a part of history, unclaimed and unappropriated. Subduing a creation is at the same time freeing the space which allows an artwork to breathe. Art fulfils that duty, in the most noble way.

Cinema highlights the process, while photography corresponds to moments frozen in time. In his “Bizarre Stories” series, Sayat Uşaklıgil shows us by the existence of a strange and magical world between the people and the reality they represent; by way of his own domain which is painting, but also by basing his compositions on the art of cinema. Just like the liquifying scenes from the movies we watch, the artist demonstrates his journey through scenes and sequences to the audience. We watch and see the display fading away and leaving behind images that seem to be filtered from dreams.

Sayat Uşaklıgil’s two main passions, music and cinema, are the two most important branches that made him the painter he is today. As a good listener of music and owner of an extensive cinema knowledge, Sayat Uşaklıgil creates his works on the basis of previously created art works, instead of looking to the nature like many of the painters. Thousands of movies and records in his archive are the two main things which influence him. Sayat persistently relays these two different worlds in his paintings.

Sayat Uşaklıgil’s previous exhibition “Merry Crowds” were almost like a summary of the American Dream, especially from the 40’s to the 60’s. The audience were presented with moments based on poses, reflecting the manifestation of an artifical paradise, a synthetic world. Almost anonymous photos with undetermined shooters were used as a screen to the secret reality of the Cold War era. Luckily these photos were taken, and luckily Sayat Uşaklıgil integrated them to the secret world of painture. Normally determining the nature from the angle it is situated in, photography was used as an interlayer and integrated to the art of painting.

Actually, this artifical world which was built specifically and solely for photograpy, can easily become the truth of painting and the reality of the painter. In these mostly anonymous photos, mostly female figures were present with records in their hands, phonographs or record players in front of them; ready to offer the audience the mysterious world of music. Next was the turn of Sayat Uşaklıgil’s other speciality that is cinema, which is time flowing instead of time frozen.

For a number of people cinema is entertainment, for some a world where they discover themselves, and for others it is the most widespread domain of art bar none for our era, able to rapidly appeal to the masses. Sayat Uşaklıgil took as subject the movies of the era in which the common practice was that they were exposed on a stock, chemically developed and copied as positive from its negative film, then shown in a dark theater with a projector. Even with all its modernism, these movies which shape Sayat’s world take us to a period 40 or 60 years ago.

Sayat brings the movie scenes in poses to the canvas by changing the motion based context of the art of cinema, but he does not paint the image remaining when the movie ends. The movie is a work of fiction even if it’s a verisimilar one; furthermore it is first stopped and turned into a photograph, and then that scene takes its final form as a painting. If required to movies are projected onto the canvas by being superposed. Thus, the tangible moments shaped by the performers are seen simultaneously, like the thresholds of two parallel universes. Another important point to mention is that Sayat does not add any figures to the paintings other than those in the movies. Thereby the reality of the fiction doesn’t get changed for one more time.

Sayat doesn’t go after big movies. He paints the scenes in “B” or “C” movies that he finds valuable for his paintings, and likes to depict the attractive tension of them. If you are not very familiar with the history of cinema or you are not chasing after alternative movie genres, understanding which movies these paintings are referring to might not come easy. But this abstractness leaves the audience with even more levels of meaning. In Sayat’s paintings that are seemingly shot by a single director and played by performers who appear solely as individuals; we are left with a new plane disconnected to what Roland Barthes calls “studium”, meaning its history, time and people therein.

Sayat Uşaklıgil busies himself with the surrealistic feeling within the ordinary. In his series “Bizarre Stories”, one can feel that there’s a certain eeriness in those frozen scenes, even though it is hard to put into words. Upon a closer look, it is possible to write new scenarios and scripts based on relations between the people involved in the scene. If we look at the process as a moment, meaning if we pause the flow of images, we could see many details previously went unnoticed, just as in photography. This shows us that nothing is actually simple; upon a more attentive and longer look once can see that there is a hidden world behind the unseen.

When we look towards a piece of art, what do we look at exactly? If the subject is a painting, we look for at first the figures in order to better apperceive and immerse ourselves in it. But afterwards, as the final impression, the criteria is always the total impact the painting creates on us. Works of art take their place in the history by making apparent the essence their artists breathe into them. Common threads in chosen subjects and the unity in points of view and approach all together form the style of that artist. When a person familiar with Mozart’s music listens to one of his pieces that they had never heard before, they might understand that it is actually composed by Mozart based on characteristics inherent in his works. This impression is related to the consistency of the artist.

Sayat’s subjects and approach is apparent. He creates his paintings by reconsidering the bizarre stories of modern times. In general, his topics are images where the people get together in closed or open spaces, forming communions. Pausing the flow on our behalf, Sayat Uşaklıgil meticulously picks moments from previously created works and transposes them onto the canvas for us to spend more time reflecting on them. And taking into account the possibility that the audience might have seen them before, he presents the audience with plans chosen from thousands of sequences within movies, all in the coherence of an exhibition.

Sayat Uşaklıgil adds another version of “Bizarre Stories” to this game called Art that has been played for thousands of years. Maybe the question one ought to ask Sayat is not “What movie is this painting from?”; rather “What part of life is this moment from?”. Now is just the time to get Sayat’s tickets, made in the art of painting, to watch movies chosen from the entire history of cinema. All there is left to say is: “Enjoy the show.”

Merih Akoğul, November 2019

Composing artworks in figurative, utopian, surreal frames within context of time, extent and space, Sayat Uşaklıgil seeks to create ironic integrities in his body of work. Made by using acrylic paint, his paintings showcase alternative and multi-dimensional realities in a figurative density and a spatial depth. His works, in which he utilizes an approach that is illustrative and cinematographic, often include female figures and male and female figures compositely juxtaposed. Portraying innocent, merry figures and laughing, smiling, often fun moments; the artist creates a synthesis based on absolute reality with its surroundings, but also on nostalgia with figures in a collocation of the past and today.

Sayat Uşaklıgil takes advantage of black and white vintage photographs from ‘40s and ‘50s when creating his paintings and compositions. These photographs, which he utilizes not in a direct and literal way but as a rendition and an approach, creates tips and clues in a micro scale about fashion, technology, literary or cultural approaches and modus vivendi changing and transforming between the past and today. The figures can be seen on the works in a state of perpetual dynamism and happiness. Being within “the moment”, living “the moment” and appraising it are what is being presented as an important indicator for the figures, depicted with absurd compositions.

Depicting entertaining, merry loops and moments, the artist’s works include the alternative and minimal codes of a plastic parlance, rather than a more classic influence of painting. Uşaklıgil’s individual orientation and various cultural topics he is influenced by are reflected on his works. He is inspired by and some of these cultural topics and personal interests, vintage movie posters, book covers, images, illustrations of the past; all the while making these inspirations apparent in his body of work. With and approach towards painting in a minimal and illustrative manner, the artist skilfully utilizes acrylic paint in his compositions which basically is a material that dries fast and is hard to work with but altogether works towards creating an impressive visual quality. Comprised of the meeting of various overlapping frames and images reflecting formally on canvas in a spectacle that almost resembles science-fiction, the artworks create independent and striking contrasts in an equation of space and figure. His compositions are created by a natural effect of nostalgia that he draws out from the archives of his individual memory regarding those who are past and those who are stuck in the “moment”, referencing the times once filled with laughter and joy. The predominantly female and occasionally male figures in Uşaklıgil’s paintings are comprised of transformed aspects of nearly long ago images referencing the memory of that “moment”. What do the figures do on the canvas then? What do they engage in? The often female and sometimes male figures, laughing and looking very amused, depict moments next to impossible in independent and fictional realities. In a painting with black and white female figures playing instruments and making music, he relays the energy and the emotional intensity of that moment with a plain, ordinary but radiant red in the background. Images that are multi-figured with emotional intensity at the forefront, reflecting the sense of fashion, modus vivendi and the intellectual cycle of the period are made even more flamboyant thanks to Uşaklıgil’s technique.

The artist creates striking harmonies utilizing monochrome and array of bright colors. The works, in which more often than not the background is colorful and the figures themselves are black and white, present several references taken by the artist from the basis of art history. He opts for Baroque in its dynamism and vivid colors and shapes in motion with dashy and flamboyant colors of his own. In this way the joyous states and active movements of the images on the canvas are further invigorated and blended in a coherence of color and form. He presents to the audience pastel and flashy colors beside cold and warm ones, all within the contrast of a massive plastic collage. The absolute figurative and spatial eclecticism in contrast further supports the conceptual formalism inherent in the paintings.

In his works Sayat Uşaklıgil also creates fictional plastic images with active scenes of places which he chooses to describe and use based on his personal areas of interest from past to present. After the figures in action at the forefront, one can notice absurd places presented in layered realites with a more naïve motion in the background. UFOs gliding through blue skies upon steep and rugged mountains, spacecrafts, a dystopian universe, medieval castles among foliages, greeneries sembling tropical jungles or iconic places and scenes from various science-fiction or thriller movies are some of the backgrounds which take place in the paintings in an absurd manner in the form of plural layers of perception. The artist rigorously fictionalizes the scenes in the background with those of the foreground. A group of people dances merrily in the foreground in the face of a horrifying image of a cow snatched by a tornado in the background - the feeling of horror and anxiety felt by the audience against the sheer power and expression of the image is not noticed or considered important by the dancing crowd. By the state of chaos in which the tornado sweeps through and destroys everything near it, the artist reminds the audience of the upcoming thin line between total destruction or a struggle to escape of the dancing figures. Ironically, while the audience is being stressed, the happy-go-lucky state of the figures in the painting serves extremely well to relay the emotional and imaginary synthesis fictionalized by the artist.

The artist presents an illustrative delusion of reality with absurd choices of places between the past and the future and the gestures of the figures within. The contrasting subject is intertemporality and the dimension of reality. The figures transformed from the frames from the past are relayed in a state of happiness and joy. What’s more interesting is that these figures on the collages created by drawing from photographs are not even alive anymore. Whether in space or a ballroom of a hotel, these people coming from the past to today in an absurd integrity, remind us of living in the moment, being mortals, a state of transience and a worldly variation. The figurative approach in which the artist also focuses on “Memento Mori” (remember death) is a token of imagery of happiness, joy, indifference towards terrifying facts and living and experiencing the moment itself.

Figures focused on that moment between the tides of time and space, ineloquently but affectedly watching a movie beside a shark near an aquarium; dashing, coquettish images of women looking like they have jumped from a movie scene from the mid-20th century; another group of women depicted with an illustrative intensity, a black and white balance of power and a sharp harmony of monochrome, having a discussion on music with records in their hands; a male figure applying makeup on a woman while turning the heads of all other women with a discourse on beauty and aesthetics on a pastel pink background; Mr. Spock looking all casual in a spaceship, lecturing a class on space and universe; and finally the scene from Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, which involves the artist himself among a merry crowd in Overlook Hotel. The artist opens the door to a fictitious, imaginate and illustrative world with an approach that is ironically spatial and figurative. The figures seen on the paintings are created with a pure aesthetic, a conceptual integrity and the power of the image; by permeable status of the space coming from the past to today, and by way of the argument that all happiness is fleeting, life is mortal, the happy moments will end someday and every moment in life should be experienced with joy. The paintings which depict in every composition and absurd situation, are further supported by subjective and objective icons and relayed with strikingly sharp, dynamic and dramatic contrasts.

In these collage paintings which he creates using an illustrative and plain manner, Sayat Uşaklıgil as a result highlights the fleeting states of joy, the ephemerality of time and the value of moments in a pluralist way, utilising figures in the center and minimal colors or bizarre atmosphere in the background. With multidimensional, multilayered and metaphorical paintings bearing an aesthetic integrity and a feast of striking images based upon the traces of an individual memory, the artist welcomes the audience!

Melike Bayık, March 2019