From icons to the iconic, on technology and its attraction


Selen Ansen


Türkçesi için tıklayın


As a whole, the foremost thing that strikes one’s eyes in Yağız Özgen’s works is that they portray a rich and diverse visual world. Certainly, this visual richness nurtures itself from the echoes that the artist has built and induced between different practices and media (video, painting, photography, performance, multimedia).


Each work presents infinite possibilites of obscurity and creates dynamic ruptures in the perception of the image by bestowing a privilege on contrasts. These contrasts which arise between the process of the video image and the moment of the movement, between mobility and stability or naturality and artificiality, express themselves also between century-long practices (colour, painting) overlapping in the work and advanced technologies.


These formal ruptures picturize an open and nomadic realm where nothing is in an expectable and ordinary place, and the image might transform itself from visible to invisible at any moment.


For the artist’s works include traces resting on the past, they avoid a visual heritage anchored in the past and not able to renew itself. This visual legacy merely indoctrinated never suffices itself. When reminding itself through a specific style – portrait, self-portrait, tableau vivant – or a medium – painting, colour – it is as if it invited itself to the work in order to support the formation of the image and vitalize the iconic memory.  


Hereby, the echoes of the videos entitled Missing in Action I and II regarding photography, painting and even sculpture strengthen the visual bridges made worthy by the artist. At the same time, they build the pure texture of the work by making the different temporalities of stable and mobile images overlap. At the intersection point of the moment and the process, and within a timeframe which is both suspended and stretching, in other words, definite and indefinite and therefore disqueting, each video is displaying its own dramatic power. Yağız Özgen’s works prefer the simplicity of expression and avoids verbosity.


Each of them endow the image with freedom, so to speak, by using the possibilities of formal simpleness and obscurity. Here, a few meaningful signs suffice to transform the spectator into the witness of a usual drama : the power of a military uniform or the frozen and tragic postures of bodies that constitute an event which is neither visible nor has a beginning and an end.


The sculptural and theatrical staging of the figures is somehow reminiscent of the style of tableaux vivants which were popular two hundred years ago before the birth of representation and reproduction techniques such as photography.  The potential reference to tableaux vivants becomes important ; whichever form it may present, it emphasizes that the representation is related to illusion and the artist is making an always-renewed struggle with reality.


Looking at this scene which rebuilds the tableau and at the same time distinguishes itself from it, the heavy darkness enclosing each figure might remind the clair-obscur that has left its mark on 16th and 17th century Dutch paintings. However, by representing immobility with moving images, the question here is neither to contemporize a deep-rooted style nor to be contented with keeping it alive, but rather, to create echoes and to check and enrich the meaning which insist on with them.


Let us already point out that none of these deliberate trace solve the disqueting mystery of the presented scene. But each of them increase the feeling of uncanniness that grows with the non-dying fire of a lighter and with the invisible but perceivable breath of the characters.  Finally, what is insistent in the tableau is the startling feeling of the image not restrained to our look and the possibility that the artificiality might be more natural than reality.


The painting series Wallpapers on the one hand maintains the visual bridges and shifts initiated by the artist in the videos Missing in Action, on the other hand it questions the transformations of contemporary representation in accordance with technology. Yağız Özgen brings an image – computer screen –, which exists in anticipation as well as opens to the cyber world like a window, into the work, by embracing and repainting this image in depth until it is wholly covered. An image essentially transient and nonstable seizes on the stability of the painting. By taking the computer screen as a model and most importantly by representing it exactly, the image starts to set up the meaning of each painting in the Wallpapers series as from this mimetic attempt.


Let us emphasize here the importance of the model. Although it may appear of secondary importance, the computer screen ceases to be ordinary since it only belongs to the category of being functional ; in other words, a daily tool which we neither expect to be hung on the wall like a painting nor suspect of including any aesthetic potential.


No doubt, throughout its history, painting has, except for the « great themes » it has represented, shown an obvious interest in functional and daily stuff and in a way rendered them sublime through representation. However, the Wallpapers series does not content itself with taking the computer as a model, but the screen itself becomes a work of art by overlapping with the work.


At the moment we understand that the artist has marked his own computer screen, it comes out that each portrayed window reflects his personal world like a mirror which renders the screen more extraordinary. The Wallpapers artefact is expressed as an extension of the individual and leads the self-portrait to a transformation by rendering the virtual « me » visible.


That the artist makes oil paintings in the presence of technology which at the one hand frees him from « handicraft » and on the other hand offers him new tools, i.e., in Walter Benhamin’s words, that he uses his own « hand » instead of technical tools, becomes an ever more meaningful preference. The painting which approaches the technique as a model rather than as a functional tool and transforms it to an aesthetical object brings the artist’s handicraft and talent once again into prominence. At the same time, in an age that provides visual speed, it revitalizes the creation process and our, i.e., the spectators’ observation process of the work. The little « icons » of the computer which have attained an aesthetical and pictorial dimension become ready now to be exalted and start their iconic existence.


The nomadic realms created by Yağız Özgen are realms of play and experience which neither spare humour nor irony. As a matter of fact, it is, as it were, the very self of the representation that is experienced from form to form and from work to work while it is the artist’s action and its meaning that is questioned.


When the artist, like an immitator of contemporary time, represents the computer screen elaborately and exactly, or when he makes a performance by wearing a straitjacket and drawing a primitive (but almost perfect) circle only using his mouth, or when the circles of paint that he carefully places onto the water turn into stains on his face and cover it slowly but surely, the artist’s mentioned « talent » is certainly questioned. All these efforts he has spent for art and skills he has shown are, as it were, attempts for breaking the usual perception of this skill and transferring the artist’s intervention to the power of imagery provided by the « unnecessary ».

 December 2010

Translated by Güher Gürmen