Spotlight: Turkish Artist Yasemin Cengiz Çağatay Creates Fantastical New Worlds Through Digital Painting

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About the Artist: Based in Istanbul, Yasemin Cengiz Çağatay (b. 1963) is truly a painter of the 21st century. First introduced to art and art history by her mother, who was an artist and art teacher herself, Çağatay began experimenting with and learning about art at an early age. In conjunction with her studies in art at the Galatasaray Lycée—one of the oldest and most prestigious schools in Turkey—Çağatay won her first art competition while still in high school.

The artist initially forwent her pursuit of becoming an artist in favor of working in finance management for ten years, but she ultimately left that career and returned to her true passion. Honing her skill as an artist through additional studies, including at the Sotheby’s Institute of Fine Art, as well as practicing in the great museums of the world, the self-taught artist’s eclectic training helped form her signature style, recognized for its intuitive use of color and otherworldly compositions that are an intriguing blend of figuration and abstraction.

What You Need to Know: Along with being a perennial artist, Çağatay has also developed a reputation as a gallerist. In 2013, she opened her first gallery in Istanbul, which was renamed in 2014 as Galeri MCRD. The gallery presents a wide range of digital art and new media—ultimately developing a strong focus on painting and sculpture—and exhibited artists from around the world.

Opening early next year on January 11, 2023, Galeri MCRD will present Çağatay’s solo exhibition, “Bon Vivant,” which will feature a number of recent digital paintings. Influenced both by her native city of Istanbul as well as world travels and education, the vibrant and intricate works are a testament to Çağatay’s evolution as an artist. Çağatay’s work has also been exhibited extensively at international art fairs, including at Contemporary Istanbul and Scope Art Show.

Why We Like It: Çağatay’s work is as dynamic as the artist herself. Drawing inspiration from historic modes of art such as Surrealism, Futurism, and Abstract Expressionism, the paintings contain elements of each and reflect Çağatay’s ongoing interest and research into art history. Using digital painting as a medium, the rich, vivid colors are enhanced, and the intricate compositional details evoke the fantastical landscapes and graphics of video games.

The confluence of all the artwork’s influences result in something highly unique, and invite extended viewing, allowing the eye to wander and investigate the many interpretive subjects that can be found within each piece. In (2022), for example the repeating starburst form could be interpreted as a macroscopic view of stars in the night sky, or, alternatively, as a microscopic look at ice crystals forming.

See recent work by Yasemin Cengiz Çağatay below.

Yasemin Cengiz Çağatay, The Enchanted Forest (2022). Courtesy of the artist and Galeri MCRD, Istanbul.

Yasemin Cengiz Çağatay, (2022). Courtesy of the artist and Galeri MCRD, Istanbul.

Yasemin Cengiz Çağatay, Eruption (2022). Courtesy of the artist and Galeri MCRD, Istanbul.

Yasemin Cengiz Çağatay, (2022). Courtesy of the artist and Galeri MCRD, Istanbul.

Yasemin Cengiz Çağatay, Serenity (2022). Courtesy of the artist and Galeri MCRD, Istanbul.

Yasemin Cengiz Çağatay, (2022). Courtesy of the artist and Galeri MCRD, Istanbul.

Yasemin Cengiz Çağatay, Narcissus Garden (2021). Courtesy of the artist and Galeri MCRD, Istanbul.

Yasemin Cengiz Çağatay, (2021). Courtesy of the artist and Galeri MCRD, Istanbul.

Yasemin Cengiz Çağatay, Quietude (2022). Courtesy of the artist and Galeri MCRD, Istanbul.

Yasemin Cengiz Çağatay, (2022). Courtesy of the artist and Galeri MCRD, Istanbul.

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