seydi murat koç

Marcus Graf
Above the Ground, Behind the Walls, and Beneath the Base
A few thoughts on the current state of the work of Seydi Murat Koç

Since 2007, Seydi Murat Koç has developed an artistic work that critically analyses the world we live in, and positively contributes to current discussions about the notion of contemporary figurative painting, which today ranges from the imitation of nature, over to the reproduction of reality and to the construction of alternative images of utopian or dystopian world views. Today, merging various aesthetics, techniques, and concepts of city life, Koç painterly creates comments on our reality by deconstructing urban patterns and reviewing the social infrastructure resulting from the concreted disaster we live in.
Since his series Facing, Hades, and Tangent, Seydi Murat Koç focuses on urban matters, where often strange interrelation of objects and figures with architectural elements question the current state of our existence. Already in early works of the Facing series like White Galata (2006) or In Front of the Taboos (2006), and in later pieces from the Hades series like Hades III (2010), the artist created clashes of diverse architectural monuments that became the stage for surprising and mysterious incidents. While in these series an expressive character, caused by the mixture of unique press techniques, photo collage and the use of strong and hasty brush strokes, is predominant, a calmer atmosphere is given in the works of the Tangent series. Here, paintings like Haydarpaşa (2011), Galata (2011) or AKM (2011) show a strong influence of graphic art and design due to their collage-like character, their non-textural and monochrome colour fields, and their rather minimal aesthetic. Though, the work’s calm gets always disrupted by a visual and intellectual tension of a sudden threat of an intruder that seems to attack the depicted buildings on the ground. Graphic art and design started to gain influence and power in his work since the Bouncing series. Since then, the graphic character of his works draws relations to the state of post-industrial life in the metropolis, where everything that we daily use is developed by designers and produced by machines. In this way, Tangent marked an important change in his working method, as Koç shifted from unique printing techniques to serial digital printing techniques. This change matches perfectly the industrial character of the images that he uses for his paintings. Besides this, Tangent presents Seydi Murat Koç as socio-politically engaged, because his works criticise the given policies regarding the ongoing wild gentrification process of Istanbul, which threats its urban texture by aiming at destroying architectural monuments like AKM, İMÇ and other important buildings. The pieces of this series formulate an opposition to the given state of populist politics, and present the artist as an activist, who understands painting not as a formalist concern but as act of protest and criticism.
His current series Above the Ground marks the return of the human figure in his work. In this series, mostly solitary, young women are shown in deconstructive and deformed architectural settings. While being on top of a building and looking down onto the deep ground of the city, the figures seem to be untouchable like a king standing at the highest peak of his castle. Standing on top of the world, sometimes like in surreal fairytale, the often winged women look like they would leave the city in order to escape the chaos on the concreted ground. In other works, classic sculptures and torsos are placed in the cityscape, and create a strange clash of heterogeneous codes. In general, a strange alienation effect surrounds the paintings of the current series, which, regarding the composition and conceptual framework, is more complex than the Tangent series. Seydi Murat Koç aims at raising awareness towards the importance of architecture for a positive and more human construction of our urban and social infrastructure. Using examples of great buildings of worldwide renowned architects like Frank Gehry or Norman Forster, the artist reveals the poorness of the urban face of Istanbul. In this sense, the works form a critique of the general architectural ugliness of our metropolis. In his latest works, Koç removes the buildings out of the rectangle limits of the canvas in order to erase the background and to focus solely on their architectural character. At the same time, these works have a rather object-like character by transforming the flat canvas into a sculptural painting in the tradition of Frank Stella. The buildings on these works do not exist, but are created by the artist in a collage-like manner using parts of buildings that he chooses from his image archive. Using sampling and copy-paste techniques, Koç cuts, edits, decomposes and newly recomposes architecture according to a heterogeneous and pluralistic aesthetic, which neglects function and rationality in favour of aesthetic and visual expression. The painting’s radical collage-like aesthetic, its formal character and non-descriptive colour use, which transforms it into a pure visual element instead of a significant aid, causes the work to go beyond a simple reflection of reality, and form its own versions. At the same time, especially these pieces strive towards an abstract aesthetic, and could be read as a hint for following artistic experiments, a further direction in his artistic development or a future direction of his oeuvre.
Wherever his works will lead him too, due to his artist journey so far, Seydi Murat Koç plays an important and influential role in the scene of contemporary Turkish painting. In times of a booming figurative and realistic painting scene, where young artists and art students often inconsiderately use transfer and copy methods just because of its spectacular look and technical advantage, but without considering the importance of conceptual and formal stringency and consistency, Koç is an example of a painter who reflects his medium, renews the language of figurative painting, opens up new aesthetical horizons, and forms transdisciplinary discussions between painting, graphic design, new media and architecture. At the same time, Seydi Murat Koç goes beyond formalist attitudes by not simply copying or reflecting reality, but deconstructing it in order to go beyond the known. That is why he creates works that question the given state of realistic painting, reviewing the images of our mediated visual culture, and form a critique of the current state of our urban life. In this way, Koçdiscusses the status quo of realistic painting and the social reality we cope with every day.

Assoc. Prof. Dr., Yeditepe University, Art Management and Resident Curator, Plato Sanat

Vertigo: The Hyperreal Utopia Rising Within the Coldness of Steel
Ceren Turan

A reality that has no actual equivalent in the daily life cycle of society, but one that is fictionalized around its own story within the boundaries of the canvas. Urban silhouettes finding an expression with a hyperreal understanding, steel constructions gaining volume as the design is redesigned, and human characters emerging as bodies of stone and flesh within the vertiginous chaos of metropolis. ‘Vertigo’, overreaches the reasons of existence of world-renowned architectural constructs, or constructs that have a significant place in historical and socio-economic urban structure they have been built in, and witnesses their transformation, evanescence, and rebirth as reality as a part of an interactive process within the triangle of artist, viewer, and work.
I will trace two theories that hold an extensive place in urban daily life to comment on the first and second period works of Seydi Murat Koç’s ‘Above the Ground’ series, which can be seen in his solo exhibition named ‘Vertigo’, and I am going to draw attention to the moments both where the primary ideas of these theories coincide with each other, and the issues the artist dealt and his technique used in order to reach a conclusion. The first theory is Baudrillard’s simulation theory which I refer in order to investigate the image of technique that enables Koç’s works to reach a conclusion; and the second is the Habermas’s social theory which I utilize in analysis of the images in paintings that is filled with symbolic signifiers.
Baudrillard’s (1982-2003) simulation theory is based on that the simulacra forms a model on its own and assumes the representation of the reality, surpassing an artificial/fabricated creation of world that has no source of reality. The components creating the background in Seydi Murat Koç’s works contain architectural constructs redesigned as being imbricated or spliced with each other, and urban silhouettes that depart from the whole with an eclectic projection. In this respect, this newly built architectural order of the artist holds on to a surreal reality, and coincides with the idea of simulation.
Every steel construction rises above the bare earth, whether it has a function within the public sphere, or it is merely the living space of individuals, it coincides with the physical reality of the utopia, because of the mass it takes up in the universe. What needs to be investigated here is that, whether the designs taking place in the urban silhouette are reflections of reality, or spectacles that obfuscate a non-existent reality.
Hegarty (2008) points out in his essay where he investigates the architectural echoes of simulation theory that Baudrillard’s simulation world aims a better, more functional and more sterile than the existing one. In this respect, first, the definition of the existing world should be examined; then, the possibilities of the better, more functional and more sterile should be pursued. The question that needs to be asked here is that whether it is possible to reach an excellence beyond imagination. Another issue is the position of the artist within a multilayered simulation sequence, and the contribution of this position to subsequent acts of reproduction on a utopian extent.
Simulation theory is built in four stages (1. Reflection of reality, 2. Concealing/altering the reality, 3. Concealing the lack of reality, 4. Simulacra) in the context of a relationship based on contradiction with reproduction. Last stage is the arrival to the simulacrum which belongs to the order of simulation, a hyperreality that has ambiguous tracks of its creative source, and can substitute only itself.
It is out of question to reach the source of the spectacle of any image in a digital world in which our every moment stirred with the images reflected from screens that are being multiplied in variety. In this respect, it can be said that the architectural designs, which are revived on lightened drawing tables and built with cold seductiveness of steel, concrete and glass on some part of the city, coincides with any point in the world of simulation. This being the case, it would be meaningful to emphasize the last two stages that pose to be a milestone in the process of passing into the world of simulation of the four stages constituted in order to analyze reality in this text.
When we look into the history of civilizations and art, it can be observed that the rationalism and irrationalism’s successive leaps have been rhythmic, until they reach modernity. It is recorded that the artistic and architectural advancements within the compass of conditions and lifestyles of the day and the reaction received are the very factors that accelerated these innovative and traditional traffic. The new world order, built in the bosom of idealist and systematic structuring of industrial revolution and modernism, on the one hand, laid the foundation of contemporary lifestyles; on the other hand, created a diffraction within the rhythmic process of history on linear level. From 19th century onwards, modernism, postmodernism and the contemporary values that are not yet defined in historical terminology, renders it impossible to reach the causalities that enable us to get closer to the essence that reflects the reality of the world.
Configured by the government and power in order to structure social life, cities (especially European cities remainder of 19th century with their symmetrical streets and vast boulevards are the most resplendent examples) have now fallen victim to a fallacy of digital world that is impossible to keep up with the speed of time and space in the contemporary metropolises, where advanced technology has infiltrated every moment of individuals. Now, every world city, and therefore, urbanites are subjugated by simulacra.
The position of the artist is primarily as an observer, and the remainder of his observation, is the cross sections of buildings’ exterior in the narrow scale, and the urban silhouettes in the larger scale. What we experience in Seydi Murat Koç’s works is the architectural designs that have utmost importance in city identities, and the cities with their roads and squares. While every layer in a multilayered structure, adjoined one another, presents a diversity that enables analysis in itself, at the same time it refers to the collective. The impact of this relationship between these layers is that it causes a fracture on the temporal and spatial lines that the visible maintains its existence on.
In a hyperreal world, where the spatial and temporal perception is lost, the routines of daily life defined by the tense relationship of the existence of the individuals that constitute the society in this order and the monetary/economic system are identified with the experience of vertigo. Thus, if we go back to the idea that every architectural plan has a meaningful place in the world of simulation, the transformation of these architectural designs appear in Koç’s works into digitally altered images, refers to a reverse reading where simulation reaches a theory that renders the lack of reality invisible.
Artist’s preference of outdoor images that are open to public and plural over the symbolic privacy of interior images can be read as a reinterpretation of a pluralist response or reaction to the public, the communion in public sphere, and the routines of daily life. The observable images in Koç’s works include urban silhouettes of Istanbul, the city he lives in, images of New York, which is accepted as the center of the world, especially in regard to economy, and the architectural designs in Europe which have become symbols of power in terms of their functions. The artist makes the social and cultural differences between cities apparent by means of architectural elements in the hyperreal world he designed in accordance with an observational selection, and at the same time, he reveals the similar universal functionality of monetary and power system.
The actions that organize the interaction between individuals in the social world are categorized by Habermas (1989 – 2007) as communicative and instrumental. While instrumental action is the consequence of the best and most practical way to reach a specific goal, the most decisive difference between these two actions is that, one is determined independently and randomly before the instrument it uses, the other cannot develop independently of the instrument of realization and words.
Another problematic connection within the scope of social theory is that, communicative action belongs to the unorganized spheres of public, like family, home, and culture, which means the world of life; and the instrumental action serves to the extrinsic goals that are focused on the constant flux of money. According to Habermas, it is only possible with communicative action to develop and better every segment of world of life that is based on the interaction of individuals constituting the overall public. In this respect, the architectural editions designed in Seydi Murat Koç’s works point at the junction of world of life, and the system of money and power, and the figures in the paintings exposes the contradictions and dilemmas that the individuals of world of life has developed in the system.
The fairies in this perfect hyperreality that is reflected from the mind of the artist, give their places to the forms of antique sculptures in some works. These sculptures, reflecting the experience of history on today seem improper among the buildings structured by contemporary aesthetic values and advanced technology. Just like the curious and puzzled fairies with motley wings of insects, whose ability to fly refutes the possibility of falling, and reinforces their privilege of immunity. The characters of stone and flesh placed on the paintings in which the artist redesigned the architecture not only touch on the past, present, and future process of linear time, but also proposes to reevaluate the ideas of aesthetic and beauty embodied in the antique sculptures, in respect of urban structuring.
It should not be forgotten that, Baudelaire’s (1863 – 2003) idea of ‘any form of modernity may be worthy of becoming antiquity’ is contingent upon the deciphering the hidden beauty that humanity has loaded on it. While the modernity of the past determined the functionality of the day, in the light of historical information and remnants, its interpretation can differ. In that vein, it will be inevitable to interpret the architectural and artistic referenced accumulation differently in a future period of time. Ultimately, while Seydi Murat Koç’s works reflect a tangled association between the historical texture of the city and the modern architectural constructs that reflect contemporary perceptions of technology and design; the artist marks the experiences and knowledge of the past and the idea of future in the present moment.

The young artist Seydi Murat Koç to meet the audience with his latest series “Above the Ground” in Art Basel Solo Project

Art Basel is a prestigious art exhibition, bringing together art professionals from all around the world between 14th and 17th of June. It is a good address for those curious about the trends of contemporary art.
Many art professionals from Turkey will attend this exhibition as audiences but also two art galleries with four artists will take their places among the audience in the additional organization called Solo Project under this exhibition.  One of these is Çağla Cabaoğlu Gallery. With his series “Above the Ground”, the young artist Seydi Murat Koç is among the ones presented by Çağla Cabaoğlu Gallery.
Seydi Murat Koç shows a rising profile with his exhibits and prizes he won consecutively in the last years. The young artist has updated his works with a new concept and composition style with his series “ Tangency” and has developed an effective substructure in his new series, “Above the Ground. “Above the Ground” has improved as an extent or variation of series “Tangency”. And this made a more powerful style of expression possible.

In “Tangency”, the artist examined the pathetic relations between the city and the structures that bring the city into existence. And in “Above the Ground”, he added a different dimension to these sick relations between the city and the structures creating it with the human figure he placed directly into it.  The figures in “Above the Ground”  placed on the works of famous architects like Tadao Ando, Frank Gery, Renzo Piano and Zaha Hadid play as mediators for a construction with references to concepts like power and immunity. The power here questions a structure that man established with his own hands and then broke down. The other problematic in this transformation is transitivity. While the artist glorifies the structures of branded people from all around the world and the city system along with the new pattern; in other words, while the structures create their own means of power, he makes the composition more ordinary with winged young woman figures placed on the top of buildings and live, shining and even exploding colors. In short, he puts the painting into a pop-atmosphere. This pop atmosphere, created on purpose by the artist in his painting, exists to include the familiar concepts such as transitivity, becoming ordinary and consuming.

The artist prefers to use the production techniques the era offers for the concepts he problematizes in his production. The artist assumes internet as the main source for this. He points a pre-production stage by digital montage/modelling. He performs and models duplicable, montaged and re-evaluated/interpreted montages. For instance you can have the chance to see a building by Tadao Ando under a rocket in Istanbul or you can see an American plane on AKM building and/or dragonflies landing on the city in the same frame. The artist considers mixing as an alternative way of existence in the new realism concept and makes his compositions by it.

The works, that present existing things and ask without answering describe, in short, the “chaos” in the transformation of the city. The artist takes the problems which he started to examine on a micro scale to a macro level with the references he obtains through current occurrences/ new structures. For instance the September 11 attacks that changed the course of the world history in terms of politics and economy is one the references he used often in “Tangency” series. Ancient Greek sculptures placed in the middle of buildings and winged young woman models on these or rocket landings reminding of the September 11 attacks can be regarded as other references. These references are details that explain the concepts and ensure the relation between the audience and composition.

Briefly, “Tangency” and “Above The Ground” series point a realism that is nourished by pop art which is in a closer relationship with neo conceptual art. They can be exemplified among the alternative approaches to realistic style. Some of the works can be seen in the exhibition called “Realism Now” in Plato Sanat throughout June. And the whole exhibit will be presented on the stand of Çağla Cabaoğlu gallery in Basel Solo Project between 14th and 17th of June.

Sevil Dolmacı