Mesut Karakış

Born in 1976, Sakarya, Turkey
1995-1999 Marmara University, Faculty of Fine Arts, Department of Painting (Hüsamettin Koçan Workshop)
2000-2015 Worked as an assistant to Prof. Dr. Tayfun Erdoğmuş
Lives and works in Istanbul, Turkey

Personal Exhibitions:
2020 Serial Beauty, Galeri 77, Istanbul, Turkey
2019 A Glimpse into The Void, Galeri 77, Istanbul, Turkey

Group Exhibitions:
2019 Down Memory Lane, Galeri 77, Istanbul, Turkey
2019 STEP Istanbul, with Galeri 77, Tomtom Kırmızı Building, Istanbul, Turkey
2003 Annual Tekel Painting Competition, Istanbul, Turkey
1999 “Passion and the New Wave (Tutku ve Yeni Dalga)” Biennial, Marmara University Faculty of Fine Arts (MÜGSF), Istanbul, Turkey
1998 Culture and Art Activity, Marmara Üniversitesi, Istanbul, Turkey
1998 Young Activity Vol.4 (Genç Etknilik 4), International Association of Art (UPSD), Istanbul, Turkey
1998 Media Celebrities (Medya Meşhurları), Hüsamettin Koçan Workshop, Istanbul, Turkey

Artist Statement:
In his paintings, the artist comments on the relation between the forms, spots and colors while drifting towards a more direct figuration. Though his latest works are mainly influenced by patterns of nature, the emphasis lays on a concern of creating colorfulness utilizing depth, effects of emptiness-saturation and transparent transitions.

Every painting begins with surfaces being treated one layer at a time as part of a personal composition. During this process, each acrylic color layer which are themselves the product of different densities of paint reapplied according to composition and color palette, is redefined by interacting with both the previous and the next layers. After sheeting of the surface is finished, individual layers are thinned and reduced by being sandpapered and patinated according to the plan of each composition. Through this process of reduction, the colors and textures in the lower layers become evident and come to surface, revealing a whole new look and impression. The depth and the textural value of the work when seen from a distance, together with the flat, smooth surface of the canvas while looked closed enough to touch, serve to create an effect of illusion on the audience.


For more than 150 years, the dispute regarding the role of representation in visual art had parted the world of painting in two groups. On the one side, a large number of artists underlined that freedom and pure originality could only be achieved through a formalist approach to painting. Only then, its psycho-visual impact could be fully released, and art would give up its ancient role of telling stories in order to illustrate matters of the world.

Another large group of painters underlined instead the power of figuration and narration in their oeuvres. Thy believed in the socio-political dimension of art, where individual stories are merged with political history.

At the end of the 20th century though, abstraction and figuration made peace with each other as the postmodern condition of art exposed that formalism and narration do not necessarily have to be opposites or anti-poles. It even went so far that both approaches can be mingled for more adequately reacting to the multi-layered character of today`s highly complex realities.

In this context, the work of Mesut Karakış is a good example for an artist who bridges between the spheres of nature and abstract art. His formalist approach to painting does not hide its sources in the real world and creates so an appealing aesthetic that shifts between representation and abstraction.

For a figurative painter, a tree, for instance, is a subject with an individual life, an appealing story, and even a spiritual aura. The artist shares the stories of its being with the spectator, for whom the tree becomes a part in his own mindscape.

For the abstract artist, the tree is a complex form with lines, shapes and textures. Here, the tree becomes an element of a painterly matrix. The formalism of this artistic act turns realistic references into pure aesthetic matters of abstract art. Its aesthetic pureness aims for a sublime-like stimulation.

Karakış’ artistic development has led him from figuration to abstraction, an evolutionary road that is valid for most representatives of non-objective art or informalism. In earlier series, the referential character of his paintings was stronger, and elements of society and of nature were more concrete. Though, even then, dealing with language, culture or trees, not narration but art-internal issues were of his main interest.

In his current work, the level of abstraction has strongly increased, so that now the self-referential and autarkic character of his paintings is dominant. The pieces show highly dynamic matrixes of lines, thin shapes, complex textures and appealing bride colors.

Mesut Karakış has developed a sophisticated and individual painting technique, which shifts between construction and destruction. During the composition of his pieces, he constantly creates and erases parts of his paintings to formulate his characteristic aesthetic of blurredness and clarity. In the production process, he reveals underlying layers of paint by erasing parts of the upper surface. In this act, shifts of color merge and mingle with each other for creating an extraordinary psycho-visual effect.

The background of his works is mostly white, or lightly colored for supporting the visual effect of the overlaying matrix in the foreground, where a complex texture of horizontal and vertical lines is often formed into a large rectangle-like field. Inside this area, which covers most of the canvas, uncountable lines and small color-shapes formulate a vibrant field that stimulates the retina as well as the mind of the spectator.

Karakış uses mainly warm colors, which he contrasts with black and white in order to support the aesthetic power of his paintings. Already Goethe and Kandisky, as well as Rothko and Newman understood the strength of warm colors, and the importance of complimentary contrasts. Like lava-streams of a volcano, in Karakış’ paintings, red and orange appear frequently in a complex net of swirling stripes and multiple forms. The strong qualities of the colors find a nice counterbalance in the dynamic design of the composition. Together, they form abstract images that have deepness and powerful momentum.

His alternative method of painting, erasing and revealing has not only a visual quality. Indeed, observing various stages of the painting through the exposure of numerous layers of paint is a feast for the eye. Its visual impact is high and appealing. At the same time, the process of creating and destroying, as well as showing and hiding is a fascinating conceptual aspect in his works. Normally, a painter presents his ideas about the world on a rather flat and solid surface. The work is “displaying things”. Everything besides the main idea of the painting stays outside the frame of the canvas. So, the painted matters represent a decision, and indirectly refer to the not-represented ones as well. It is like every selection in life. While you chose something, you neglect all the other options at the same time. Though, we normally only perceive the results in our daily environments. In the art world, we only see the final work being exhibited in the gallery.

Though, we all know, life is much more complex than the images that we see on the surface of our everyday routines or the many screens with which we perceive reality today. Behind every image there are uncountable other images, which lay beneath and form the ground, on which the matter stands. We can call this Visual Culture, or Collective Memory, as well as the Past or the Path of History. Archeology is the scientific field which reveals old and often unknown knowledge through digging deeply into the soil of the earth for revealing cultural objects from a distant past. It exposes yesterday’s memory for a better understanding of today.

In this sense, the painting method of Mesut Karakış not only causes a fantastic aesthetic but also discusses the existential being of painting itself. Through his archeological-like act of digging and revealing, he exposes the nature of painting, and this is the reason why his work positively contributes to the critical regeneration of this ancient field of art.

Prof. Dr. Marcus Graf, Art Historian, Art Writer, Curator
Yeditepe University, Fine Arts Faculty, Art Management Department, Istanbul