Ebru Uygun is softly spoken, with gentle mannerisms and an elegant air. When we meet her she’s wearing a sleek red dress; this refined aura makes it hard to imagine her spending most of her days crawling around
a studio floor, tearing aggressively at her canvases.
This deconstructive performance is a key part of the Turkish artist’s process. After painting two to three different canvases – two for her smaller works, three for the bigger pieces – Ebru sits on the floor and performs the physically arduous task of tearing each canvas into strips with her hands, never employing scissors.
The unusual process was borne from a serendipitous accident. After leaving art school, Ebru began working with colour on canvas, but one day, so frustrated and dissatisfied with her work, she tore it up in defiance. Moments later she realised that the at-first unwanted remnants on the floor, with their sporadic shapes and spontaneous patterns, were more intriguing than the original form, so began the artistic journey she has been perfecting for more than six years.
We prefer her monochromatic works: the starkness of the shade allows the texture of the chunks of acrylic, the forgotten threads and the layers of canvas upon canvas to really sing. However, the coloured pieces have a soothing effect, with undulating purple waves and pleasingly delicate touches of peach. All the works must be seen in person to be appreciated – it’s impossible to grasp their tone, detail and sheer size when viewing them in print.
So what do the pieces say? Do they each have deeper meanings? ‘I don’t give titles to my paintings because I don’t want to give the audience a direction,’ explains Ebru. ‘If I wanted to give a direct message, I wouldn’t use canvas – I would just write a message on paper. What you think of the painting really depends on your world. This black-and-white one could be seen as a war, for example, but it could also represent peace.’
While Ebru has been working on this deconstructive technique for years, she also has some fresh ideas for works that are part painting, part performance and part sculpture. Standing in Green Art Gallery’s new Al Serkal space (below), she turns to the widest wall in the gallery and opens her arms in a sweeping gesture. ‘When I see this great big space, it just makes me want to cover the whole wall with one work. It’s important for me to push my body more and more, forcing myself to finish larger and larger works.’
She has also incorporated photography into her most recent creations, taking abstract photos and printing them on photographic paper, then tearing them into strips and following the same process. ‘It gives the work a more digital look,’ she explains. We imagine deconstructing them is also a lot easier on the biceps.
Lucid Dreaming continues at Green Art Gallery until February 12.