The turkish artist Ardan Özmenoglu is known for working with different media including neon lighting and Post-It® notes. Since her first exhibition in 2006 her work has been featured in over forty exhibitions in the USA and abroad including Istanbul, Basel, Berlin, London and Milano. Sabrina Möller interviewed Özmenoglu during her preparations for her first solo show in Austria at GPLcontemporary …
The title of your show “Art is my husband“ is referring to a neon lighting work of yours. It seems to be an impressive statement of the contemporary woman but you also imply a kind of criticism. Could you tell us more about this work?
This statement is personal and very simple at the same time. In interviews they often asked me what art means to me and this seems to be the most honest answer. Of course it is also a feminist statement. It has many different meanings and you can understand one of it as a kind of summary of my life.
Why did you choose this title for the whole show?
Actually this is my first solo show in Vienna. I have been here before for group shows and Artist in Residence at ‚Kulturkontakt‘. But with my first solo show it seems to me like the first appointment between Vienna and me. And I wanted to say something really clear. I like real things: real people and real statements. So this is a real introduction.
How important is the Anatolian traditional daily life to your works? Are there some references or influences?
Yes, there is an influence but you can’t see it in all of my works. I like to work on historical subjects so there is always a connection.
You are working with different media. However, working with Post-It® notes seems to be your most characteristic technique. How did you get into working with Post-It® notes? Was there a main influence or a significant moment?
I started to use Post-It® notes in my art while I was having my master degree in Bilkent University. It was an innovation. I remember myself, screaming like Archimedes, on the corridors of Fine Arts department: ” Eureka! Eureka!”
This creation process is physically and psychologically quite demanding but it’s a passion for me. I have a very disciplined way of working in my studio and I believe that is an obligation that every successful artist should have.
At the beginning I started to work with one layer of Post-It® notes and I was painting only on one layer. But then I changed ways, put more layers on it and begun to print in various directions: to the right, left, up, down and mixed. I think you can see that there is a huge process from the first work until today. It’s developing and also creating itself.
What makes Post-It® notes so interesting that you use them in your works again and again?
What I like about Post-It® notes is that it’s something you use every day without thinking to save or to keep it. Cause it is just a paper, it is a contemporary medium. And when you connect all those things that you want to remember, their meanings and memories it becomes such a philosophy. I want to make you remember. I want to say: don’t forget!
The images – constructed of Post-It® notes and silkscreen – are sometimes folded and seem to be time-wrought. What is more thrilling for you if you create such an image: the structure and quality of this Post-It® notes or is it the subject of the work?
I am fascinated by the fact that it looks like a whole image but it’s fragmented. However, you can also see the opposite: it’s fragmented but it’s also a whole. But what I appreciate most about it is that it’s three-dimension. Especially for the huge installations you may experience all those curves and layers.
By using Post-It® notes I create pieces of art that unite seemingly opposing ideas: the past and the present, art history and contemporary art trends, creativity and consumerism, repetition and individuality, the whole and the fragmented. I unite the centuries of old practice printing with modern colors, glitters, paper and images. My brightly colored, bold art forces the viewer to consider everyday objects and ideas in a different light. The result is predicting the whole from pieces, supplying an undetermined dimension, keeping the attention, anything but a different point of view.
The spectrum of vision between my works and the viewer is complex, ranging from the largely irrelevant to the highly specific.
By translating a flat image into a fragile 3D effect the artwork can change during and after the printing process. So even if you produce an edition made of silkscreen every image becomes very unique and is constructed by time… so would you say that the image is never finished?
Yes, every image becomes very unique and is constructed by time, but it is finished when I say it’s finished. Of course there seems to be an endless silkscreen process in the printmaking studio. It’s like meditation working for hours, days and weeks on a single work and the artwork changes during and after this printing process. But at the end of all it’s finish.
How come you focus mainly on well-known historical images, objects or statements from daily life?
First of all I had a special interest in Sultan’s. I started with working on their amazing heads. I found them really interesting and strange at the same time. While working on them I realized that I love to work on portraits. I think I create a link or something like a channel between me and that person that I am working on. It is a very different process and hard to define. It is very personal. I look through their eyes for hours, days and weeks…I start to live with them. And I create a relation that I feel very deep inside. I think I touch, see, feel those portrait paintings more than anything else.
What are your criteria in choosing a subject for your work?
In fact it just comes to my mind. I don’t have any criteria, principles, limits or any boundaries.
The combination of historically loaded motifs and techniques – like printing – with such a fragile and purely functional material is very interesting. How do you feel about this ambivalent relationship?
I find the combination of old technique and such a contemporary medium very unique and also original. Post-It® notes and silkscreen printing is a perfect combination and it is like an innovation.
What is fascinating for you about those self-portraits – such as Frida Kahlo?
I really admire the power of Frida Kahlo. Besides I admire all those powerful women. She never gave up painting because she was passionate about art, in a way, how I am so, that is why I feel personally connected to her.
In most cases the color of your works is constructed by the Post-It® itself. How important is color for your works?
I think I am a master of colors. (laughs) I don’t see them I feel them. Sometimes I am thinking for weeks about which color I should use for the next layer of my work. I find myself in the metro and on the streets just only thinking about that until I am saying to myself: “Ardan, you’re not going to save the world with color. What is wrong with you?“ Finally when it comes to my mind it’s more like an instinct.
How is your art received in your home country?
Honestly it’s very complex. Every day we wake up and there is something really weird happening. It is hard to get and hard to understand. Being an artist in my home country is challenging. You don’t have to be intellectual or educated or an artist to understand that, situation is very clear. I don’t feel independency in my home country. Can you believe that? Art should be free, artist should be free and as an artist you should show your thoughts, feelings and critics therefore your artworks, but you can’t if there’s no freedom. That makes me sad.
How would you like to have your art received by the viewer? Is there any message or a main intention of your works?
I don’t want to limit anyone to anything. I would like it to be experienced however they want. Cause I believe, once a painting catches your eye, there is a heightened connection between you and the work, a special focus. I’m always looking for that kind of concentration. The concentration of the artwork, the liveliness of process.
Thank you so much for your time, Ardan!
Interview by Sabrina Möller
ART IS MY HUSBAND
GPLcontemporary, Sonnenfelsgasse 6, 1010 Vienna, Austria
Opening: 12th March 2015, 7 p.m.
Exhibition duration: 13rd March – 18th April 2015