In her meditative color palette and form-driven paintings, Senem Oezdogan explores her canvases’ space by experimenting with colour, dimensionality and flatness. Painted in more earthly and sensible tonalities, Oezdogan’snewest body of work examines the concept of colour field in her paintings, while employing remarkably geometric visualizations in multiple forms and shapes. Observing her work, it seems characteristic that the size, hues, and placement of these geometric configurations reveal an elusive order; some take a distinctly clearer and wider area over the painting’s surface, whereas other smoothly incorporate multifaceted arrangements in smaller dimensions. Furthermore, in her newer works, Oezdogan expands her concentration in variegated abstract compositions implying dynamic new grids and lines that construct a painterly system of perpetual interplay.
Words: Yannis Kostarias
Based on the same colour palette, these paintings draw attention for their architectural elements combined with a meditative energy and mystifying allure. By creating a united composition, whilst reducing representational imagery, the artist manages to render a striking dialogue between colour and form, which becomes the essential feature of her artistic practice. For example, paintings such as Night moves, Backstage Boogie or Luna Park showcase a greater emphasis on the forms’ interaction through various colour blocks. Infusing a serene simplicity in forms and a stimulating use of repeated geometric shapes, the artist’s creative references bring in mind important qualities of minimalism. On the contrary, in paintings such as Trottoir and Untitled (Night) 1, the artist, although insisting on rather similar chromatic applications, develops alternative arrangements in which stricter symmetrical visualizations take over her canvases. The semi-dark blue-washed pictorial space is equally divided in smaller-scaled individual parts, whose tiny colourful borders create a distinctive image outline, enhance the contrast, and achieve a striking multiplicity within a narrow canvas framework. At this point, besides the elimination of structures, Oezdogan manages to create an optical language that conveys minimalistic strength based on her tiny yet characteristic lines and transitions.
Providing a more constant attention to hard-edge landscapes, her paintings bring up clearer geometric patterns and fullness of colours offering a distinctive pallet identity in her artworks. The chromatic exploration of blue is remarkable and its visual perplexity highlights an important emotional expressiveness through the wide array of blues. The use of other colours, such as red or orange, additionally contributes to the painting result where the artist’s compositions continue to generate a challenging harmony between spatial depth and varicolored flatness. Through the variation of colours and shapes, the artist aims to tell her story based on an enigmatic yet original way. Oezdogan underlines the interaction between geometric schemes and hues producing a kind of painterly enigma to decode, while her artistic vocabulary builds up a language that stimulates the viewer’s imagination. The viewer is left, therefore, to dissolve the puzzle and consider new image interpretations.
Can you tell us about the process of making your work?
I enjoy working in series and experimenting over longer periods of time. Sometimes it takes a while for an idea to take shape and for me to figure out how I can translate something that just exists as a vague concept into something tangible. I have a lot of sketches that are fragments or “in-between pieces” – I keep revisiting ideas and adding pieces together as they start making sense. Some pieces are like a one-way street, while with others, it just keeps going – they raise new questions and each new exploration creates a different response. Once I finish a piece, it serves as a stepping-stone for the next one. I found that questions about the subject matter are raised and answered through the process of creation.
The Night Paintings is your show’s title at LAUNCH F18. How did you decide to give this name? Could you also talk about the origins or source of inspiration about the Night Painting series?
The Night Paintings are inspired by an experience Rilke had during a walk in the night and how he was deeply moved by the solitude symbolized by a single light in the distance. This picture stuck with me and I became interested in exploring light’s transformative quality and the emotional response its absence and presence creates. The opposition of day and night, light and dark has long preoccupied the collective consciousness on a biological and psychological level. In this series I wanted to investigate the disorienting quality of decreased visibility at night and the transformation of images of reality into images of consciousness.
The dominating color in these works is indigo. Heavy strokes of darker and deeper shades of blue take over the canvas and blocks of color move towards and away from each other – the push and pull of color blocks is a visual translation of how these opposing forces are experienced simultaneously, rejecting yet defining each other.
Could you share with us some insights on your new painting ‘Trottoir’? Is there any particular story behind this painting?
“Trottoir” was inspired by the area around my studio. It’s very industrial and a mass of grey concrete during the day. But I love how this unspectacular area transforms after dark: the blinking lights of the delivery trucks and safety markers, with car and traffic lights bouncing off the walls and streets. I wanted to capture night’s ability to absorb and elevate light with vibrant marks of vermillion and yellow next to muted shades of blue and green – simultaneously receding and advancing forward into space.
Do specific artworks have been created by random experiments in your studio or do you always come up with a particular concept or narrative in the very beginning?
I have always been interested in exploring new spatial relationships and experimenting with my materials. I really enjoy figuring out alternative ways to work around problems, which always raises new questions and ideas I want to investigate further. In most cases, this creates a series of works that are grouped around a theme or idea I’m currently thinking about. In the past years, this has been the exploration of light and dark contrasts and their impact on the viewer’s perception. They have become important aspects of my practice and something that connects all of my work.
Multiple geometric forms and shapes seem to define your work. How would you describe the idea of order and disorder in your latest body of work?
Most of my work is created with extreme control – once I move to the canvas, there isn’t much room for experimentation. It’s a focused process I really enjoy. Working on The Night Painting series was different in the sense that I didn’t restrict myself. I wanted the work to be gestural – visible layers of paint, pencil marks, and brush strokes. It was a very liberating experience. In my previous works, the process of construction and deconstruction played a very important role in creating the structure of the paintings. Elements were taken apart and new ones assembled, while others had a supporting function. Structure and form are still very important in The Night Paintings but this work has an overall softness that I tried to avoid in the past. Just like darkness absorbs and elevates light, I wanted to pull and infuse light into and out of these works.
Can you mention any artists you, lately or generally, take inspiration from?
I am inspired by artists from various fields. Writers and poets such as Rainer Maria Rilke and Theodor Fontane. And the choreographer Martha Graham. I’m a huge admirer of Caravaggio and Renaissance painting in general. The mastery of chiaroscuro – the creation of drama, mood, and atmosphere with the use of light and dark contrast in his work has always fascinated me.
What about the place where you work? What’s your studio space look like?
My studio is in Bushwick, Brooklyn. It’s a place I can go to and fully focus on things that interest me and where I’m free to create and explore. I enjoy working on multiple pieces simultaneously and like seeing how the pieces interact with each other.
What are your plans for the future?
I am currently working on a new gradient series I will be showing later this year.
All images courtesy of the gallery