Home Magazine Unmasking Artistry: An Interview with Hazal Ozgur on Enigmatic Creations and Creative Evolution

Turkish artist Hazal Ozgur, born in 1997 in Istanbul, recently underwent a significant artistic transformation. In an interview with the Kooness Team, she discusses her shift from a process-based exploration of linguistic structure and the interplay of positive and negative space, to a more personal inquiry into her identity within the context of art history.

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In the realm of contemporary art, Hazal Ozgur's work stands as a testament to the delicate interplay between abstract and figurative elements. Her creations, characterized by dreamy compositions, challenge conventional boundaries and beckon viewers into a world that transcends categorical constraints. With an artistic philosophy rooted in the exploration of what Sigmund Freud termed "the oceanic feeling," Ozgur delves into a realm that predates our immersion in language and the binary constructs of our daily lives. Through a harmonious fusion of abstract and figurative forms, her pieces navigate a diverse range of narrative-based binaries, inviting audiences to traverse from one conceptual framework to another, all while remaining resolutely uncommitted to either side. In the absence of dominant spatial indicators, her art assumes an enigmatic quality, resembling neither snapshots nor narratives, but rather offering vague glimpses into otherworldly systems, at times ecological and at others fantastical.

Yet, what sets Hazal Ozgur's creative process apart is its unexpected transformation from photographs to the final, unrecognizably photographic appearance. Ozgur masterfully employs a collage-like approach, drawing from a decade's worth of captured moments. She intricately weaves together various photographs, manipulating their compositions through subtraction and addition to craft a foundation for her artistic journey. In cases where the original photos depict interior spaces, Ozgur ingeniously reinvents them, hinting at exterior vistas, effectively turning these images inside out. Her deft use of masking serves not to provide clear designations but to accentuate the ever-shifting nature of forms. Through compositional mimicry, she presents forms as either entirely abstract marks or elusive representations, all the while allowing the masking to decentralize focal points, creating a harmonious arrangement of visual elements.


Hazal Ozgur in her studio. Courtesy of 10_12 Gallery.


Kooness: In your work, there is a tight mix of abstract and figurative elements that come together in dreamy compositions. Could you explain the thought process behind your approach?

Hazal Ozgur: My work centers around exploring what Freud categorizes as “the oceanic feeling”, the remnants of a time before our initiation into language, into a life of classifications, signifiers and binaries. Alongside complicating the fundamental binary that frames abstraction, positive and negative space, through masking and the use of tulle fabric, I play around with narrative-based binaries such as inside and outside, day and night, light and shadow, jumping from one framework to another, never fully committing to either one. In the absence of a dominant spatial indicator, the works read as neither snapshots nor narratives but as vague representations of otherworldly systems, sometimes ecological and sometimes fantastical.


Hazal Ozgur. Detail of köpük köpük ortaköy. Courtesy of 10_12 Gallery.


K: I’m intrigued by your process, particularly how you work with photographs, while the final looks are nothing like photographic. Could you talk a bit about how it all comes together?

HO: The paintings make use of the photos I took, spanning over a decade. Working as a collagist, I mix and match various photos together, manipulating their compositions, through omission and addition to draft a starting point. If the original photos show interior space, I push the final work to imply exteriors, in an effort to turn the images inside out. I use masking not so much to clearly designate things but to emphasize the deceptive, ever-changing nature of forms. Utilizing compositional mimicry, I contextualize forms as either completely abstract marks or ambiguous representations, all the while the masking decentralizes the focal point, allowing for a homogeneous organization of the visual information.


K: What else are you exploring within your work?

HO: I intend my works to take on a queer positionality, to reveal and disguise information, to unravel upon closer inspection. Some of the paintings feature lines from poems, sometimes my own, encoded in the starry sky or snowfall, for which I have created my own fictitious alphabet, borrowing from forms that I tend to repeat. The introduction of encoded lines, allow the painting to demand to be looked at, examined and deciphered, yet is selective in to whom that relationship is granted. The tulle fabric, which I hand-paint and stretch over paintings, introduces an anamorphic quality, disclosing different tonal variations depending on the angle from which it is looked at. Although in theory similar to the optical mixing technique French modernists often employed to keep their colors saturated and vi- brant, tulle-painting behaves in unpredictable ways, leaving room for chance and human error, even with meticulous preplanning.

Hazal Ozgur. my bones and I — we were unrestrained by the self-mythologies yet to be told, by. Courtesy of 10_12 Gallery


K: Looking at your past work, you seem to have undertaken various projects with different directions. How do you understand these changes? Do you see a common ground?

HO: I have a cyclical process. I go back and forth between contradictory positions approach- wise, like a rubber band that stretches and contracts. I was deeply interested in order and repetition for a while and made completely abstract pieces with moiré patterns. Shortly af- ter, I started introducing more figurative elements and my mark-making got looser. The tulle was an integral part of my first show and was not used for many months after. I build up processes and put them aside to be picked up again with a fresh set of skills and eyes. Everything I do, I do to forward my paintings. I don’t like getting too comfortable in a cer- tain style or approach. Rothko talks about abandoning security and familiarity for the tran- scendental to come. I agree to a certain extent.


K:  Last year you signed up with 10_12 Gallery, based in Istanbul. How are you navigating that relationship and do you have an upcoming exhibition with 10_12?

HO: I have done two solo shows and various group shows with 10_12. Their openness to innovation and experimentation has helped my work evolve and grow over the years. I felt comfortable and encouraged to take new directions and received constructive feedback when needed. Over the past couple of months, I have been testing the limits of tulle-paint- ing which I want to be the central element of my next show in 2024. I have created charts and played around with various kinds of tulle to see how the knitting of the fabric interacts with different colors. I am trying to see what more I can get out of the plain tulle fabric and then slowly incorporate more sculptural details into it. 


Written by Kooness

Cover image: Hazal Ozgur. salt air for the innocents, I used to dream of never coming home. Courtesy of 10_12 Gallery

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