Artist Interviews 2023

Reyhan Gülses Demircioğlu  
By Julia Siedenburg

Reyhan’s paintings are without a doubt absolutely breathtakingly stunning! She has a talent like no other! Her gorgeous colorful portraits, which are drawn so realistically that they could come to life any moment, are not the themes she concentrates on.

She also creates vivid prints showcasing dancing women figures as well as captivating performance art. She is a woman of many artistic trades and likes to keep her art admirers on their toes.

She has a great sense of exploring motion, structure, and composition. I truly could look at her work for hours and seeing it in person was simply a magical experience. I knew immediately that I had to have her be part of this issue so I could introduce you dear readers to this amazing woman. So please enjoy our interview below!

Oil paintings, printmaking, and performance art - you do it all. What makes each of those so enjoyable to you?

Each mentioned artistic technique, I can say, has laid the groundwork for my forthcoming works in my artistic journey. For instance, my printmaking works contributed to the way I approach painterly thinking before pursuing a doctorate in painting. The nature of printmaking, which sometimes necessitates relinquishing control to create subtle, serendipitous textural effects, led me to explore the enjoyable aspects of abstract art. Integrating all of these with life and my personal background formed the core of my doctoral thesis. Therefore, I can attribute the emergence of my performance works to this concept.

No matter which techniques I use, the act of creation itself is a source of profound joy, a sentiment that permeates every step of my artistic journey. However, each of them has unique opportunities to enable you to get what you want to create. I find working with oil paints as a medium to be incredibly gratifying due to the versatility it offers. The unique ability to manipulate wet or dried layers of paint allows me to meticulously craft the effects I envision on the canvas. By applying thin layers over dried ones in a repeated fashion, I achieve a striking interplay of vibrant hues and robust pigments within the composition.

Moreover, oil painting grants me the delightful freedom to seamlessly blend tones, creating a harmonious fusion of colors. This fluidity contrasts beautifully with the option to introduce bold, textural strokes that infuse the entire artwork with strength and dynamism. Each step of the process becomes an enjoyable exploration, as I navigate the canvas to bring my vision to life. As for printmakings, they hold a profound allure for me, rooted in its meticulous and methodical essence. The process demands careful planning and execution. Printmaking's inherent charm lies in its ability to open unexpected doors within my creative sphere. It is within this very discipline that I discover a rewarding fusion of precision and spontaneity. Each print is an individualized interpretation, a testament to the delicate equilibrium I strive to achieve.

Originating during my graphic design studies at University, this realm of artistic expression became an irresistible path I embarked upon and have steadfastly embraced over the years. In fact, it marked a significant juncture in my transition from illustration to the realm of painting, a transition that ultimately culminated in the attainment of my doctorate in painting. The fact that my doctoral thesis revolves around performance art aligns closely with my way of thinking. I can confidently state that it holds a deeply personal and enjoyable significance for me. I'd describe it as a blend of personal connection and intellectual engagement. To elaborate, my background as a national gymnast seamlessly intertwined with my artistic perspective, resulting in a rich fusion of practicality and creativity. In the practical segment of my research, I took a hands-on approach. I transformed my body into a living brush, effectively using it as a tool to investigate the possibilities and limits of my body on the canvas, while keeping a record of the pictorial contribution of the action. This dynamic exploration allowed me to understand the nuances of physicality and motion, with each stroke being meticulously documented for future reference.

From an academic standpoint, I embarked on an in-depth study that traced the evolution of gesture painting. This journey took me through various artistic periods, from the neo-avant-gardes of the past to contemporary art. The underlying aim was to decipher how the human body emerges as a central concept within the intricate texture of art and societal dynamics. However, I won't deny that this endeavor presented its challenges. The process of seamlessly integrating personal elements with broader contexts was an intricate task. Yet, this very challenge was a source of immense satisfaction. This harmonious connection between personal experiences and broader themes encapsulated the essence of my journey, both academically enriching and profoundly fulfilling.

Your paintings are simply breathtaking. Your attention and talent for detail are incredible. Could you please run us through your process? What are the steps between getting the idea and finishing a piece?

Thank you very much for your kind words. I'm thrilled to share insights into my creative process, which evolves from a deep introspection into life experiences. Each painting I embark upon is a reflection of life itself, encapsulating themes of time, the perception of existence, human encounters, identity, and psychology. Once I've meticulously determined the theme of the painting, I transition to a pivotal step that sets the tone for the entire process. I embark on a process of rough sketching, a journey that often spans 2 to 3 weeks. This period serves as a crucible of exploration that I seek the version which encapsulates my artistic vision.

From there, I dive deeper into the artistic exploration, delving into the emotions and nuances that will shape the figure's presence. Capturing their essence becomes paramount, and I meticulously focus on conveying the intricate interplay of emotions through facial expressions and body language. The eyes, in particular, play a pivotal role, acting as windows into the character's unique narrative. Once the figure takes form, I weave an abstract aura around them, seamlessly integrating abstract elements that harmonize with the entire composition. These figures, rendered in black and white, stand as a counterbalance or focal point within a vividly colorful abstract backdrop. Through the fusion of realist and abstract elements, my paintings engage in a profound dialogue between the tangible and intangible facets of human experience. They delve into the intricate realms of psychology and emotion, offering viewers a visual exploration of the deeper dimensions of the self. My portraiture endeavors are a convergence of reality and departure, aiming to transcend the conventional boundaries of traditional portraiture.

Central to my creative ethos is the pivotal role of colors and composition.Translating the meticulously honed sketch onto the canvas marks a significant transition. At this point, I feel a sense of freedom that allows me to create a harmonious blend of composition and the chosen medium's natural qualities. I leverage the paint's drying time to my advantage, using the wet paint to seamlessly blend tones across the expanse of the subject's visage. The goal is to impart a smooth texture while leaving virtually no discernible brushstrokes upon the subject's face.

Intricacy continues to reign as I layer the canvas with multiple thin coats of paint, a practice that culminates in the vibrant pigments that breathe life into the composition. When necessity beckons, I embrace the tactile allure of thick paints, applying them to specific areas that beckon for emphasis. The process, intricate and layered, culminates in an artwork that encapsulates the essence of the initial idea while inviting viewers to immerse themselves in a thought-provoking visual experience.

All of your subjects' faces are so full of life and expressions. Everyone seems to be so mysterious in their very own way, almost as if each is keeping secrets of the world. Do you draw each person from imagination or are they based on memories of someone you know?

Thank you for your intriguing observation. It's fascinating that the portraits I bring to life within my paintings often spark conversations about their origin. Allow me to shed light on this aspect of my artistic journey.

The captivating faces you see within my artworks are, in fact, born from the realm of imagination. While I occasionally draw upon reference photos for aspects like lighting and body language, I create unique and original visages that align seamlessly with the thematic essence of each composition. This creative process allows me to infuse a distinctive energy and emotion into every subject, contributing to the enigmatic allure that many have noted.

Interestingly, I've received comments from viewers who perceive a resemblance between these imaginative faces and my own countenance. This intriguing coincidence came to my attention during the recent Beverly Hills Art show, where such observations became more frequent. Reflecting upon this, I considered the possibility that, perhaps unconsciously, elements of my own features might find their way onto the canvas. It's a thought-provoking notion, one that adds an extra layer of depth to the artistic experience. Ultimately, though my subjects are not derived from existing individuals, their enigmatic qualities and the subtle interplay between imagination and my persona invite viewers to contemplate the secrets and mysteries they hold, making each piece a captivating exploration in itself.

Some artists' work is dependent on their mood. Is that the case with you when you work?

Indeed, the essence of my creative process is intricately intertwined with my personal life experiences and keen observations. There is a dynamic interplay between me and the canvas.

So yes, my work undeniably bears the imprint of my mood, serving as an invisible thread that connects the heart of the artist to the very soul of the artwork. I think, It's this delicate fusion that lends a distinct and compelling character to my creations, inviting viewers to embark on a journey through the intricate maze of emotions and thoughts that guide my artistic endeavors.

One of my favorite features of your print work is the use of the dancing figures; there is something so raw and emotional about them. Can you explain the intent or concepts behind those further?

My printmaking journey embraces the blend of symbolism, textures, and colors, coalescing into a dance of imagination. The dancing figures that grace my artwork embody an intricate fusion of emotions and concepts. These figures, with their fluid motions, convey notions of 'enthusiasm,' 'speed,' 'dynamism,' 'withdrawal,' and 'rhythm.' Floating in a realm free from confines, they cast spatial dimensions upon the surface while layered textures intertwine with elusive traces, enhancing the art's expressive potency.

In terms of technique, I use the mono-printing method to capture the core of the moment, avoiding exact details in favor of a plastic experiment that carries strong emotions. My monotype prints vibrate with lively colors, infusing life into shapes that interact dynamically with the painting's surface. This dynamic interaction acts as a channel for ideas like 'moment,' 'time,' 'motion,' 'dynamism,' 'speed,' and 'stagnancy,' encouraging viewers to explore the fabric of human experience. Simply put, the dancing figures hold many aspects of existence. Their movements mirror the complex layers of emotions, stories, and ideas that give life to human experiences, revealing a compelling story that calls on viewers to delve into the rich depths of our shared human journey.

Each artist is a storyteller. In your point of view, what makes one a great storyteller and how do you build the stories around yours?

Indeed, every artist is, at their core, a storyteller. However, this doesn't mean that they all convey their stories in the same way. Some may make it obvious, while others choose a more implicit approach.

To me, what truly sets apart a remarkable storyteller is their distinctive ability to interweave life's experiences and reactions with a profound sense of observation, analysis, and evaluation. This involves merging personal insights and discoveries into a cohesive narrative—a process that demands both a creative spirit and a deep connection with the world around us.

I want to emphasize that while there are stories behind my art, my paintings themselves do not function as narratives. Instead, the figures within the paintings act as conduits for my thoughts, shaped solely through experimentation and keen observation. The expressions they bring to life on canvas, as well as the atmosphere they emanate, serve as a reflection of the story residing within my mind. In this context, each figure encapsulates a specific moment and its corresponding psychological state. The composition's arrangement and the selection of colors play a pivotal role in conveying this expression. Therefore, my primary focus lies in the painting itself, particularly in terms of its visual effects. As a result, the comment section of my work encourages an open-ended interaction, allowing viewers to uniquely interpret and shape their own narrative within the bounds of the artwork.

Please tell us a bit about your childhood and upbringing.

My childhood and upbringing have played a pivotal role in shaping my artistic journey. Growing up in the vibrant city of Istanbul, I was immersed in a rich tapestry of cultural influences and artistic inspiration. My family environment was steeped in creativity, with my father being a talented mural artist and antique restorer, and my brother also pursuing a path in fine arts. This nurturing backdrop allowed me to explore my creative inclinations from a young age.

At just four years old, I began displaying my artistic talent through realistic figure drawings. Despite dedicating a significant portion of my youth to competitive gymnastics, my artistic drive remained undeterred. I got my first degree with a full scholarship for art studies at University, where I earned my BFA and MFA in Graphic Design. These academic experiences and my subsequent years as a freelance illustrator and university research assistant laid the foundation for my artistic development.

The pivotal turning point in my artistic evolution arrived when I engaged in the realm of printmaking. This marked a profound transformation, enabling me to merge my graphic design background with the tactile and expressive nature of printmaking. As a result, I obtained my PhD in Fine Arts in Painting from Yeditepe University in Istanbul, where I embarked on a deep exploration of body language, gestuality, and performance art. Moreover, my background as an artistic gymnast has had a profound impact on my artistic perspective. The discipline and aesthetic sensibilities cultivated through gymnastics have permeated every facet of my life, infusing my artistic creations with a heightened sense of form, balance, and grace. This unique blend of experiences has propelled me to create art that resonates on both personal and universal levels, bridging the gap between raw emotion and visual storytelling. Through my work, I strive to capture the essence of human experience, inviting viewers into a world of introspection and connection.

I met you at the recent 50th Anniversary Beverly Hills Art Fair where you were showcasing your beautiful work. How was that experience and do you enjoy showcasing in general?

Thanks for remembering the Beverly Hills Art Fair! Being part of the 50th Anniversary event was such a cool experience. The whole vibe was buzzing, surrounded by amazing art and fellow artists. It felt awesome to connect with people who appreciate art.

As for showcasing my work in general, It's like sharing a piece of my creative journey with everyone. I get to see how different folks interpret my art, which is pretty cool. These exhibitions also let me have some deep art discussions and connect with others who love art.

Each exhibition offers a unique chance to share my creative journey with the world, engaging with people who appreciate and interpret my work in their own ways. It's a wonderful opportunity to witness firsthand how my pieces resonate with viewers and to have conversations that deepen our understanding of art and its impact. By the way, I'm thrilled to share that I'll be stationed at booth 359 during the 51st event, taking place on Sat, Oct 21, 10 AM – Sun, Oct 22, 5 PM. I extend an artistic invitation to all. It's another exhilarating opportunity to immerse in the world of art and let creativity weave its magic.

You were born in Istanbul, Turkey and there you got a PhD in Fine Arts in Painting at Yeditepe University with your Thesis focusing on Performance Art. Please explain what exactly you were exploring and in which way it influenced the artist that you are today.

My thesis, 'Body Language and Gestures in the Art of Painting from Yves Klein to Today,' delved into the dynamic interplay between the human body and the canvas, set against the backdrop of post-World War II artistic transformations in both Europe and the USA. Contextualized within the cultural and artistic turning points of the post-1945 era, my research navigated emotion, perception, and identity, unveiling how the human body's gestures can communicate intricate narratives. This revelation ushered in a new dimension of artistic expression, seamlessly blending profound emotion with expressive form. The emotive language inherent in Performance Art motivated me to infuse my oil paintings with heightened sensitivity, inviting viewers into profound dialogues with each artwork.

Drawing inspiration from the Art Informel, Lyric Abstraction, and Automatism movements in Europe, alongside the gestural attitudes and gestural abstraction within Abstract Expressionism in the USA, my exploration sought to understand the origins and significance of gesturality in painting. This investigation led me to examine the potential of the body as a tool in painting, exploring the opportunities and limitations that arise from utilizing body language as an expressive medium. My research delved into the groundbreaking work of Yves Klein and his Anthropometry series, positioning it at the core of my thesis. I explored the impact of Klein's radical perspective on reality and his conceptual background, interpreting his art within the larger framework of painting. This exploration allowed me to discern the unique qualities of his gestural approach, contrasting them with those of previous gestural artists. Furthermore, I engaged with the complexities of using body language in painting, considering various factors that come into play. The interplay between personality, ethnic identity, cultural relativity, and gender factors played a significant role in shaping artists' creative processes. This sociological and phenomenological perspective illuminated the multifaceted dimensions of employing body language as an expressive tool in artwork creation.

This journey from my birthplace to my PhD studies significantly shaped the artist I am today. It empowered me to craft a distinct visual narrative capturing the essence of human emotion, inviting audiences into the intimately personal and universally relatable. Ultimately, my deep exploration of Performance Art has bestowed my work with unique authenticity and emotional resonance, enriching my artistic journey and enabling profound connections with viewers.

What is next? What are your plans for the future?

As I continue on my artistic journey, I will continue to delve even further into the exploration of human emotion and expression through my work. My upcoming endeavors involve expanding the boundaries of my creative process by experimenting with new techniques and mediums.

Additionally, I'm looking forward to participating in more exhibitions and art fairs, where I can engage with a wider audience and witness firsthand the impact of my creations. Collaborations with fellow artists and creators are also on the horizon, as I believe in the power of collective inspiration to foster innovative breakthroughs.

On a more personal note, I'm committed to continuous growth and evolution as an artist. This involves pushing the boundaries of my comfort zone and embracing the unknown, letting my curiosity and passion guide me towards new artistic horizons. Ultimately, my goal is to create art that resonates deeply with people, evoking emotion, sparking conversations, and leaving a lasting imprint on the creative landscape.

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