‘Imagination Manifesto, a solo presentation of works by Turkish artist Levent Oyluçtarhan, invites the viewer into a world with continuously shifting shades, textures, and tones. Oyluçtarhan’s paintings brim with an amalgamation of forms and patterns that can be found only within the artist’s vision.
Oyluçtarhan’s work embodies a narrative in which imagination challenges objective values. People, animals, places and metamorphosed forms are hidden amongst colours and textures; at any one time these figures can inhabit earth, sea or space – concurrently, at times. His research is concerned with the way in which abstract patterns can coexist within concrete forms – thus posing the question: can objective values find a place within an imaginative reality?
The visuality of Oyluçtarhan’s paintings is reminiscent of Picasso’s work on the complexity of forms. The works in the exhibition that adopt a monochrome palette suggest a reference to the Cubists’ experiments with depth perception, and working with the technique of grisaille. The series of works that make use of grisaille are distinguishable by their sole use of black and white. However, in contrast to this minimal palette, the rich figurative components of these works make use of distinctive textures and brushstrokes. The striped backgrounds found in the monochrome series are not only suggestive of flags and clothing patterns, but allow the figures in the foreground to appear more voluminous.
Oyluçtarhan’s works in colour are awash with expressivity, further emphasized by the undulating shades and tones, from deep blues to glowing neon. According to Oyluçtarhan, colour is a very effective tool with which to invoke emotion. The entanglement of bodies leads the viewer to consider the emotional compound of the paintings. Looking closely at the interlacement of the figures, one encounters natural elements and metamorphosed forms such as flowers,and the tails and horns of animals.
The combination of vivid neon colors, disfigured human body parts and distorted facial expressions encourages the viewer to unravel the tangle of Oyluçtarhan’s fantasy world. These figures create their own movement across the composition; they exist within their own imaginative reality.
‘‘I see colour as a gateway to my world, which I project onto the canvas. Then comes the tissues; then the forms I hide between the tissues. Once this is coupled with the imagination of the viewer, the story begins. It makes sense to me that the viewer is involved in my paintings by looking at them with their own cultural background and unique imagination. I think every colour speaks to a different emotion.
Considering the varying hues that inhabit my work, we find ourselves adventuring through an unlimited narrative. In my paintings, I add colours, forms and textures. I’m creating deformations, metamorphoses; I think it’s all a combination of riches. It is an example of how differences can coexist – it’s the harmony of multiple voices.
Art is an adventure. Sometimes it’s full of surprises. In each of my paintings, the viewer embarks on an endless journey. Every time you look at my work, you see a different form, a different shape. With my paintings, I invite you to step away from the reality of the world and embark on a journey into the world of dreams”.
Curator: Tima Jam
Can you tell us about the process of making your work?
Every painting is an adventure for me. I always feel great excitement and curiosity when starting a new painting. When a blank canvas is standing in front of me, my imagination kicks in and I first sketch my own manifestation in my mind. The next stage is composition, drawing and painting. First, spots appear in my paintings, then forms and finally textures.
How would you define your work in 3 words?
Experience, imagination and puzzlement.
Your most recent exhibition takes place with Blue Rhino Art Consultancy. What kind of new artworks are you showing there?
Yes, I am opening an online solo exhibition for the first time with Blue Rhino. I am very excited and happy for this. Most of my works in the exhibition are oil paintings on canvas. There are also two small-size woodblock prints. I am showing these Woodcuts for the first time here.
‘Imagination Manifesto’ is your new show’s title. How do you correlate this title with your work in this exhibition?
My works are like puzzles that stimulate the viewer’s imagination. Every time you look at my paintings, you see continuously shifting forms; sometimes human bodies, sometimes portraits, sometimes animals…People looking at my paintings can establish different connections between the forms with their own imagination and create very different forms, identifiable or indefinable forms. Seeing this take place at my exhibitions not only makes me excited and happy, as I know this experience makes the viewers happy as well! This excitement offers a new adventure opportunity every time art lovers look at my paintings.
Have specific artworks been created by random experiments in your studio or do you always come up with a particular concept or narrative from the very beginning?
I always trust my creativity and imagination. Honestly, I don’t like being in control. That’s why I usually do experimental work. But within certain projects, I also work on predetermined subjects in a planned manner. Although I mostly create a sketch at the beginning of my works, the painting can become very different in the process and find its own form. I don’t want to interfere too much at this stage. Because I trust my technical experience, I go into a trance state during the painting process and release my stream of consciousness. Although the result is full of surprises that I could not foresee, it impresses me and the audience immensely. In addition, I do many experimental studies with different techniques and mediums. When these works of mine mature, I will share them with viewers through Blue Rhino.
Is there any particular theme that utterly triggers you to engage with in your art?
There is no specific theme, there are multiple themes. I am inspired by everything and everyone. That’s why you can always see very different themes in my works. The things that affect me in my artistic production process are very diverse. An artist is under the intense influence of all his emotions. I internalise everything I see, hear and touch and project it onto my paintings. For example; Flowers blooming in spring, bees flying, butterflies, insects, birds, leaves falling in autumn, falling rain, waves of the sea, movies I watch, books I read, people I communicate with… All of these leave a mark on me. Any interaction I have from the outside is reflected in my paintings. This reflection does not happen immediately, all of this has a process of formulation in my mind, in my imagination. Also, there is no day that I don’t dream. It is also one of my sources of inspiration. Every morning when I wake up, I start the day by reviewing my dreams from the night before.
Can you mention any artists you, lately or generally, take inspiration from?
Gustav Klimt is my longtime companion artist. I have a small catalog. It never leaves my side. I would study each of his works for hours. It inspires me a lot.
Do you ever wonder if additional work was needed, when an artwork’s making process is finished?
For artists, painting is never finished. When time passes and they look at the picture again, they often want to add something more or change something. Yes, sometimes I think like that too. Picasso says: a painting is never finished, the artist knows when to stop. That’s why I don’t know where the painting will end and when I will begin.
What about the place where you work? What’s your studio space look like?
My workshop is a very special space for me. It is a space where I feel free, where I can truly be myself. Its aura is powerful. Art lovers and my friends think the same thing. Here I exist and I am reborn every day.
What are your plans for the near future?
It is a great opportunity to work with Blue Rhino. I wanted my works to be seen internationally and spread to many parts of the world – Blue Rhino offers me a lot in this respect. I think I will take further steps with Blue Rhino and work on different projects in the future. Also, there is a project in America I’ve recently started working on. I want my works to reach people in many parts of the world and this is what I am working on at the moment.
Founded by Tima Jam in 2016, Blue Rhino is an international contemporary art consultancy based in London and Istanbul. The consultancy supports and promotes a global network of over 2,000 emerging and established artists from the Middle East, Europe, Africa, Asia and the Americas, providing a space in the art world for overlooked and underrepresented artists. Through exhibitions and symposiums in Turkey and across Europe, Blue Rhino has showcased the achievements of a wealth of emerging, established, and master artists to new audiences. The consultancy’s continued devotion to discovery, and an eye for spotting and supporting the newest, raw talent, defines Blue Rhino as the business it is today.
All images courtesy of the artist & Blue Rhino Art Consultancy