On Ardan Özmenoğlu’s “Made in Istanbul” Exhibition in Germany

Ardan Özmenoğlu, an artist who successfully represents Turkey in the international art scene with her exciting oeuvre is Art50.net’s guest this time… Interviewed by Huma Kabakcı, another beloved guest, she talks about various subjects ranging from her art to her solo exhibition “made in Istanbul”, to be inaugurated soon in Germany.


You received your BFA & MFA degrees from the Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture at Bilkent University and you have a strong background inarchitecture. How did your studies affect your later artistic practice, your areas of interest and choices of media?

I’d been using Post-It® notes for the duration of both studies… I don’t think it is because of my studies, it is mostly for who I am. If you are an artist you are who you are. I’ve been always practicing different things, interesting things, being imaginative. I do 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-old practice of printing with modern colors, glitters, paper and images. My brightly colored, bold art, enables the viewer to consider everyday objects and ideas in a different light. The result of my work 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 oeuvre and the viewer is complex, ranging from the largely irrelevant to the highly specific.


In your artistic practice over the years you have been experimenting with a wide range of media such as large-scale glass sculptures, works on Post-It® notes and neon lighting including site-specific screen print installations. How did the works on Post-It® notes come about?

The foundation of my art derives from the idea of repetition as it investigates the process of image consumption, history, and permanence in relation to mass production, ritual, and psychological states. The Post-It® note works all started with the idea “what if”. “What if” is the seed of breath-taking, creative works. In the Post-it notes I subject images to reproduction on that most ubiquitous yet disposable of modern conveniences. Social commentary enters into the experience as the images eventually curl and fall away like so many autumn leaves.


One of the first works of yours that I encountered was your Post-It® installation titled ‘Without a Rose’ (2008), which had historical, oriental significance as well as material and textural elements to it. Did this installation have an affect on your later artworks and practice? If so, how?

Every work that I’ve and I will produce will always have an effect on my practice. When you look closely to my works you can see their strong connections to each other. It’s like a web page; anytime you click on a link new windows open.


 Tell me why and when you started to work with neon? Was it roughly around the same time as the Post-It® notes?

I started to work with neon during my residency in Berlin. This was two years after the post-it paintings. I don’t want to limit myself to anything. I’m always looking for a kind of concentration: the concentration of the artwork, the liveliness of process.


Six years ago a selection of your work was exhibited at the Osthaus Museum Hagen as a part of the “Huma Kabakci Collection” exhibition along with others. How does it feel to have your first solo exhibition at this very place six years after? How do you think your body of work changed since then?

It’s the same old story; you start doing something, and find that it presents lots of possibilities. I make art because it is my way of life, my balance and my being.


The title of the exhibition is “Made in Istanbul”, and without doubt there is a play to belonging and origin and production. What can you say about this in the context of the works shown in the museum now? For instance, the moving machines are very much inspired by New York and not Istanbul.

The title of the exhibition “Made in Istanbul” refers to the works but it can also refer to the artist. It consists of the Artist’s adventures, ideas and the her ways of  living. This exhibition’s creation process is physically and psychologically quite demanding but it is also a big love for me. I have a very disciplined way of working in my studio and I believe that is a quality that every successful artist should have. I know that at the end of every exhibition, the works of art that I produced derive from the excellence of this process. And talent is a secret pray.


Does not exist, 2013, white neon lights and mirrors, courtesy of the artist


You cleverly use everyday elements in your artistic practice that consolidate seemingly opposing ideas. Despite the fact that you explore with materiality and recyclable objects your ideas keep changing over time. Can you talk a bit more about your practice, your decision-making process and what approach you use while producing new bodies of work?

On the one hand I become excited at making art that ask questions and adds another dimension to daily experience, but on the other hand I’d rather keep those big questions as simple as possible. And in fact my answer lies very subtle in your own question. I believe that every new work that I produce carries the same uniqueness despite the change in context. Post-it notes are always going to be a part of my artwork. Just like these special papers can stick to everywhere, they have also remained stuck to me. But of course I didn’t detach myself from other media and materials. One point that intrigues the viewers about my work is the harmony of ‘the idea’ along with the technique and material I use.


You are almost a global, visiting various cities, museums, art fairs, biennials every year. Examining your works like “ Sex, Kebab & Art Basel” or “Cumaya Gittim Gelicem”, they all are local implications in a global context. Is that your interest?

Dan Graham once said; “The only way to fully understand artists is to know what music they listen to”. And I totally agree with him.


You have worked between cities such as İstanbul, Berlin and New York; which city do you see yourself belong to?

I love New York, I always miss Istanbul and Berlin is my favourite. And, I belong to Art.


In relation to the sociopolitical commentary, the playful images, products and ideas you portray can you talk about this silk-screening process and how it compliments your ideas?

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 painting, the liveliness of process. During the silk-screen printing process on hundreds of post-it notes attached to the canvas, each post-it note behaves differently allowing for it to be a texture, a three-dimensional depth and a play between surface and colour.


Post-It® notes were generally made for temporality- attaching notes to documents or surfaces, and then eventually being discarded. I want to talk about temporality in relation to your practice and also its significance in relation to this idea of moving around cities. What role does temporality play in your body of work?

Think of music, you can listen to it on headphones while you walk, or in a museum. It’s the same song, different experience. Both experiences are important. I feel the same way about my work. There is no ideal way to view the work, each way is important. I hope my work is significant enough to stand on its own in any context. That’s what I’m trying to do. I love seeing the work in different ways, different cities, different places and therefore, it changes every time.


Following the exhibition at the Osthaus Museum Hagen, where do you see yourself in the next five years? Do you think that this exhibition will have a significant impact in the evolvement of your works and practice?

When we talk about the future we become so naïve- whatever we say is not going to happen, so whatever happens is beyond whatever we can imagine. It is so crazy. The most beautiful thing that ever happened in my life was by coincidence and not by plan.


Exhibition Info

Dates: 15 April – 5 June 2016
Location: Hagen Osthaus Museum, Museumsplatz 1, Hochstr. 73 58095 Hagen, Germany


Cover image: Coffeetime, 2014, Mixed media on Post-it papers, courtesy of the artist

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