did you ever think about the affects the movies you’ve seen have on you, or how the scenario of your imaginary world can be taken from a movie?
Çağatay odabaş begins talking about his intimacy with the movie screen by saying “i’m someone who’s seen e.t. At the süreyya cinema in 1984.” his artistic identity is fed by film stills; he reflects his world, the points of views of his drawn characters getting inspiration from them. We’d like to take you on a journey of iconic scenes with çağatay odabaş…
The technique you use today constitutes of painting hundreds of small circles to create your own aesthetic. Did you have a lot of paint books as a child?
Actually, more than painting books, the system depends putting small pieces together to form a larger scale. I think this is similar to the lego’s I used to play with like crazy as a child. My paintings look like those. When you get a box of lego, there is a picture of the toy that will come out of it. Putting those pieces together knowing what it will look like in the end is delighting. That is exactly how my pictures are.
Both the technique and the aesthetic of the pieces you’ve done before are very different from what we see now… what was your process like before reaching this visual language?
This is all about gratification. When i’m producing, there are always other new things forming at some corner of my head. When I feel a sort of satisfaction about the things i’m working on during that period, I try something new and this new approach makes my pictures dynamic. Also, one shouldn’t be locked into this: I don’t think it’s right to think that an artist will produce similar things during his / her whole life. At the end of the day, we’re living, we’re breathing, all new things in our lives help shape it. Watching a new movie, reading books, traveling and seeing; all of these bring new approaches to our life and of course what we as artists produce.
We can see that you have a strong connection to movies. How do you pick the movie scenes you like to picture?
I always explain this during my interviews however if you let me, i’d like to do it here as well. I’m someone who’s seen e.t. At the süreyya cinema in 1984. Can you imagine how much i’d be affected as a 3,5 – 4 year old child? Like we talked about it in the previous question what we go through shapes us. Other than this first flare that sparkled my interest, I was raised on movies as a child. During the 80’s when there was the video cassette frenzy, my uncle was making a video / cinema magazine. Therefore all movies you can image were at my house. On top of all of this, what I felt made me the most happy in my childhood world were movies. See it’s the same thing again; things that we live shape us. It’s possible to see the affect of film on the movies i’ve done before, not just with the style i’m working on at the moment.
Picking film stills is a whole different adventure. I have an archive / film collection made up of thousands of movies at home. That’s like my research library. There was a scene in se7en; the experienced detective william somerset (morgan freeman) went to the library at night to try to solve crimes. Just like him, I get buried in my movies. I note down anything that comes to me while I watch them. Sometimes I take pictures of the scenes not to forget them. The ideas always come up exactly during this kneading process. Other than this, I especially work on scenes with portraits. Because the best way that a feeling is reflected in movies is during portrait shots. We live the same moment as the actor, focusing on the expression on his face.
Another point that comes to my mind is that I try to capture important moments of characters in the movie. One of my works that was exhibited in the last contemporary istanbul was a scene from kubrick’s the shinning for example. Jack nicholson! Now in this movie, everyone knows the scene where jack breaks through a door and looks in. However that is a cliche. The scene I did was a scene where the character began changing! I’m working on a similar scene again at the moment. It’s from american beauty. Yes, when anyone hears this movie they think of angela (mena suvari) but I focused on a completely different scene of the movie. It’s about lester (kevin spacey) finding the peace he’s searched for covered in blood. I will display this at my exhibition at bozlu art project on may 4th, 2017. Lastly, I focus on the eyes especially when making portraits. I think the strongest expressions on the face feed from the eyes.
How long does it take for the point you want to get to using the technique you use?
Ouch, now you’ve touched a raw nerve. This is such a long process, I wonder which one I should begin explaining. Let me say this in short; there are 150 – 200 thousand spots on average in a picture. As a matter of fact, the painting i’m working on right now has 320 thousand spots! These are drawn individually, getting codified, and getting painted one by one. I have an assisting team. We literally work like a film production company. The way they create a movie at a production firm; the scenario, the casting, the preparation of the sets, the costumes, the lights, the logistics, et. Etc. Just like that, everyone in the crew at my atelier have their own responsibilities and duties. In average, I can finish a piece within 2,5 – 3 months working like this. The coloring part has a certain system. I can make mistakes and changes to the group during these phases, however I complete the outline of the piece when I place each color on those small boxes via coding. Like the lego thing I was talking about at the beginning of this conversation. The coloring process is a different adventure: each 150-200 spot gets painted in every picture.
How does digitalisation affect your view of art?
I’m not against digitalisation. I am all for digital technologies as long as they support handiwork. However I don’t like it when they outshine handiwork. It’s a fact that the more this technological word progresses, the more valuable handiwork will get. I want to give an example from movies again. For example, in movies with an end-of-the-world scenario, people start preparing. Whether it’s a meteor that is about to hit, or there is an epidemic, or there is an alien invasion or something, people immediately go to shelters. If you pay attention to those scenes, they take the originals of important documents such as of art pieces or universal declaration of human rights. This is like the urge of being human; respect for what is an original, unique, produced out of suffering.
One of the things that draw admiration in my paintings is how I present the visual I want to express using a surprise effect. 200 thousand spots are painted one by one by hand. When looked from afar, it’s like a digital technology however when you look at it up and close they are all different from one another like dna.
Like contemporary istanbul, you are a part of many art fairs. Can you say that these fairs meet your expectations?
Big fairs like contemporary istanbul are like gladiator arenas. There pieces that are exhibited get prepared in a year, and are neatly picked. Plus you get the chance to introduce your pieces to thousands of people. This excitement is amazing. The people who follow my work specially have been waiting for the pieces I make for the fairs in the past few years.this makes me really happy. Because the fairs have around 1500 works and if a viewer / collector has your work on their mind after leaving the show, then you have left a mark on that person. Another way of measuring this success is through social media. During the fair, whichever work gets shared the most on instagram to begin with, then facebook or twitter means it is the most memorable one. As a matter of a fact in the last fair, irmak özer from hürriyet wrote “if he can maintain his popularity from the last year, çağatay odabaş will take his place within the social media celebrities.” what I like is that people share my work saying “how did this man do this?”
Well are there times when the expectations of the modern turkish collectors affect your art?
I think that an artist shouldn’t let that happen. Since I heavily work on portraits, I get faced with interesting offers; there are people who want me to do portraits of their partner, their mother, their child. Whereas I only work on film characters. I say “why not if your partner / mother / child starrs in a movie?” when people come to me with these requests. That is the joke of it of course; when I explain that what I feed off of is movies and that I wouldn’t compensate, the collectors respect my works more.
How would you define your life philosophy these days?
I work 18 hours a day. At times I don’t leave the atelier for 3 days. I’m not complaining about this. At the same time i’m a family man, I have a daughter and a wife. They also make huge sacrifices for my success and always support me. I have a personal exhibition at bozlu art project on may 4th, 2017. Right now I have canalised all my efforts and thoughts to this exhibition. There is a beautiful saying that explains my general life philosophy: “those who don’t believe in the fire of their hearts and brain can’t put a signature to success.” said nietzsche!