If you follow the art scene in Istanbul, you must have already met Yusuf Aygeç. Aygeç interprets classic portraits by sometimes placing 3D glasses on subjects, other times setting a lollipop in their hands. This local artist who challenges his own inner world seems like he will be around for a while. Here is how we fulfilled our curiosity.
How were you introduced to painting and pop-art?
I was born in 1989 in İstanbul. I started my bachelors in Interior Design in Eskişehir then transferred to the Painting Department at Marmara University. During my studies, I interned with some painters. I actually didn’t start painting with an idea of doing pop-art, however my work naturally evolved to that. The artists I followed, the galleries I visited, led me to this.
How did you come across C.A.M. Galeri where you are holding your second exhibition?
The year I graduated, I sent my portfolio to C.A.M Galeri. It was a place I was already following, I often went to their exhibitions. The owners of the gallery Levent and Sevil Binat saw my works and liked them. First I joined group exhibitions. In 2013, I held my first personal exhibition “B.C. Pop Art” there. Then we went to several fairs abroad including Scope, I got the chance to be familiar with the international art scene. Last year, we worked together with Furkan “Nuka” Birgün. And this year in March, I opened my second personal exhibition “Me Alone, You All!”
Is the title of your exhibition “Me Alone, You All!” a confrontation?
The title of the exhibition “Me Alone, You All!” is actually a sort of slang. It has been perceived as a challange by the art world and other artists. But in reality, it wasn’t so; what I meant by ‘you all’ was my own inner world. I went into a memory analysis. I tried to analyze what’s in my memory and what we are taught. Because how we see the world is constructed by what we are told. I think about a subject, I imagine some scene but actually I feel like that scene does not belong to me. I tried to break free of this feeling.
While preparing the exhibition, what were the notions you considered most?
I mainly focused on notions such as family, belief, life, stories that are told, links between stories, being born and growing up with a father’s identity.
I went into a memory analysis. I tried to analyze what’s in my memory and what we are taught.
Let’s talk about the exhibition in general, how do you think it was, what kind of reactions did you get?
The exhibition was a bit dispersed with 14 works in total. I began in 2015 and continued working on the paintings until the opening. Some works were central, some developed around them. I think in order to relate the subject and the paintings, the audience should spend time in front of them. I tried to provide that.
As opposed to my new audience, I like to listen to the comments of those who have been following my works and watching how they develop. The responses I got from them were also good.
You play with characters from classical paintings; you dress them in different clothes and objects. How do you decide what to change in a character?
I started this by deforming my formerly beloved artists in reference to our current day. I began by asking questions like “How would Dürer paint if he was alive?” or “How would Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring be interpreted now?” But even then I didn’t set any rules for myself; I did what I felt and thought like doing. I worked in three stages. I would take an original work; for example Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring. Then I would paint on canvas a period between ours and Vermeer’s time. In the last stage, I would adapt it to our current day, dress her in today’s fashion. So, what I did was in a chronological order.
How does living in Istanbul affect you and your work? Do you get inspired by the city?
I first opened an atelier in Beyoğlu but I can say that I ran away from there to Beylerbeyi. I really love guests, but it’s bad for my discipline. So now I am in the quite, calm, secluded Beylerbeyi. Of course, Istanbul is in distress now, but I think this distress adds something to us. When I enter my atelier, I create works due to it. There are many nourishments in the city. Beyond everything, this is the place I was born and raised in; everywhere I go, I have memories. So I analyze these memories.
Can you tell us about your production process?
I don’t have specific hours; I wake up, have breakfast and start work. Sometimes I don’t go out of the atelier for a month. I don’t work piece by piece, I’m in flow. Painting demands a strict discipline, for example completing a painting may take 15 hours a day for 20 days. Generally you don’t see productive artists outside, they usually don’t leave their ateliers. I try to be like that too.
Finally, what do you think about the art scene of Istanbul?
I got interested in sales in 2011. Maybe then it was a bit faster, now it slowed down but I think the market is going better. Fairs support this as well. The showcase part of the process feels like being at a bazaar whereas exhibitions are away to reach out to the public since they see the exhibition as an activity. This way one can convey a piece which would be seen by a thousand of people to thousands of people. Therefore, I think they are important for both the artist and the public.
Photography: Fora Norman