Meet

Senem Oezdogan

Where are you from and where do you reside?
I’m originally from Munich (Germany), but live and work in Brooklyn.
Did you go to art school?
I studied Illustration and Communication Design at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. Prior to that I studied Contemporary German Literary Studies in Munich and wrote my Master’s Thesis about Pop Culture’s Influence on Print Media. I came to New York to do some research for my thesis that eventually led to moving to New York and my first job in an art gallery. It was a great experience and I had the opportunity to work with artists I admire, like Ellsworth Kelly and see amazing artwork.
Do you remember the first work of art that captured your attention?
I would say Pop Art. I’ve always been drawn to strong colors and expressive compositions.
Is there any artwork on display in your home? Who is it by?
It’s a large scale painting called “Spring has Sprung” by Christian Nguyen and is a beautiful combination of shapes and colorful smears.
Do you admire or draw inspiration from any of your peers who are also working now? Have you ever collaborated, or would you?
I enjoy going to openings and see what everyone is currently working on. I have collaborated on a few design projects but the work I’m doing - especially the rope works - are solitary works.
Are you influenced by non-visual artist?
I love the work of Martha Graham the dancer.  What I find fascinating is her ability to translate emotional experience into physical form.
You have a particularly unique process for creating your artwork. What led you to this process and how did you know it was the right one to pursue?
I always liked fiber art and weaving but wasn’t really interested in working on a loom. I wanted to approach it more like painting where I was free to work from all sides and not be restricted to a fixed grid. About two years ago I worked on a series of paper weavings and really enjoyed the process of combining different materials. When I wanted to go up in scale I needed more solid materials and started including wood and rope. Looking at the first studies on paper now, this transition seem very natural and fluid now. It was a good experience and helped me arrive at a solid practice.
Why do you choose to work with fiber?
I wanted to created wall based art that’s not just about emphasizing elements of pure geometry but also about preserving a textural quality that conveys the softness of fabric or tapestry. The materials evoke emotional qualities and allow me to discuss formal qualities without using the language of painting.
Slant
I wanted to approach it more like painting where I was free to work from all sides and not be restricted to a fixed grid. — Senem Oezdogan
How has your work developed in the past few years?
Most of my previous illustrations and paintings have been representational, but after a while I realized that the vocabulary of that style was just not suitable for the work I started to develop and the ideas I wanted to visualize. And with that, the materials changed. My drawings were very delicate and detailed. The rope works are very solid, heavy and making the work is more physical, it feels more like building something. I like that is has this physical aspect to it (wrapping the rope around the canvas) and a quiet element (creating the shapes).
What’s next for you?
There is so much potential in the rope works and I have many ideas I would like to realize. I’m working on a few new directions – stay tuned!
What necessities do you require when making your art?
I work with a variety of materials – wood, cotton, rope, paper, and canvas. I build a lot of the tools I use myself. 
Describe a typical day in the studio for you.
I usually arrive at the studio between 8 and 9, get coffee and get started. The materials I’m using will structure my day. If I’m working with acrylics I don’t take a break until later in the day, since the paint dries quickly. The rope works are a more physical, and making them is more time consuming. I really enjoy that process because it’s very quiet and delicate. Being able to go back and forth between both worlds is lot of fun.
What is the most difficult part of the artistic process for you?
To create images that are intelligent and wholly resolved. I have defined tight parameters for the work I make (shapes and colors I use) and I want to be able to translate my observations into an arrangement of shapes and compositions that feel complete.
What tangible objects or intangible moments are you most interested in representing through your works?
I’m interested in showing elements of reality we can observe anywhere – depth, flatness, tension, structure, color, and time. And to create compositions that manage to guide the viewer’s eyes across the artwork in a well-structured way.
Slant
I have defined tight parameters for the work I make (shapes and colors I use) and I want to be able to translate my observations into an arrangement of shapes and compositions that feel complete. — Senem Oezdogan
Are there any aspects of your process that are left to chance?
Maybe to a certain extent. For example, when I start sketching out a piece and keep going back and forth trying to arrive at a certain point. Sometimes there is just something missing - days later I might come across something that catches my eye, gives me an idea, and the dots connect.
What themes or motifs are you consistently drawn to?
Architecture and grids are recurring themes in my work.
How important is spontaneity in your art?
Even though working in the field of geometric abstraction seems very structured, it has endless possibilities of allowing me to visualize an idea and very often adjust a piece. Many times I start with a fixed idea but after a few hours into the work I will realize that a color might not work with certain shape, or I will change my mind about an arrangement.
How do the different elements of color come together in your works?
I’m a fan of the Bauhaus - the concept of combining artistry and crafts has always resonated with me. Josef Albers’ color theory, for example - understanding how colors interact with each other and how to use them effectively - is very exciting and challenging at the same time. I love working with a certain color for a while and just exploring slight variations of it by creating different color mixtures.
In the studio you’re very meticulous with your color choices - any favorite combinations?
I love working with a certain color and slight mixture variations for a certain period of time. Currently I have been working a lot with shades of pink and blue.
Where do you find your day-to-day inspiration?
I really enjoy taking photos and over the years I have collected a huge image library of different textures and surfaces. If I feel like I’m stuck I will just flip through these until I see something that inspires me or reminds me of something. I sketch a lot and always love going back and picking up old ideas.
Do you find that environment relates to your work?
Absolutely!  I am constantly surrounded by grids and shapes when I walk down the street or ride the subway. It’s a lot of fun to observe the world in shapes, zoom in on things that we would normally overlook.
Is there something people would be surprised to learn about you?
I love teaching myself card tricks!

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