Seçil Alkış: To begin with, can you talk a bit about yourself?
Hayal Pozantı: I was born in Istanbul. I’m the only child of a father who works as a manager in the field of medicine and a mother who works as a data processing director in the same field. Following an elementary education in Houston, I graduated from Robert College in 2000 and the Visual Arts and Visual Communication Design department of Sabanci University in 2004. Then I started working as creative staff at Beymen. For two years I designed/created display windows, worked on interior designs for Beymen and Club Beymen; and I made drawings and designs for T-Box. As my personal artistic work began to become more intensive, I quit my full time job and started working freelance. Earning money by working for the fashion and music industries, I also began to take part in many exhibitions both in Turkey and abroad. Shortly after beginning to work full time as an artist, I applied for various Master programs abroad and I was accepted into the Painting/ Printmaking program of Yale University in 2009 with full scholarship, where I studied intensively with Peter Halley. After graduating from this program in 2011, I moved to New York and rented a studio in Bushwick. A few months after my move, I began to work with San Fransisco based Jessica Silverman Gallery. I worked as an assistant with Nathan Carter for a brief period, and then with Glenn Ligon for a longer time. Over the last two years, I’ve been working independently in my own studio. I still live in New York and have shows both in the US and in various cities worldwide. The most recent of these were: solo booth at Armory 2014 in New York with Jessica Silverman Gallery (March), solo show with Sussanne Vielmetter in Los Angeles (November), solo show in Duve in Berlin in November. In October my works will be on display at Prospect, the New Orleans biennial.
S.A.: Your earlier work focused on digital collages, however your recent output comprises rather abstract works. Can you elaborate a bit on this transition?
H.P.: As a result of being raised by a mother who works as a computer engineer, I have an unusual relationship and communication with technology. Since I was a child, I was raised with the motto “computers are the future”. Therefore I find it important that my works maintain a dialogue with technology. Studying at Sabanci University also had a significant influence in this regard. The fine arts program is in no way limited to just painting or sculpture. The education process has an emphasis on multimedia and focuses especially on conceptual art. Thus, long before I started painting, I was working a lot with computers. I worked mainly with programming, digital photography and installation in physical spaces. After a while, I began to spend increasingly more of time in front of a computer, which was also a result of the office life I found myself in after graduation. Around the time I started studying at Yale, it had turned into an addiction. Especially an addiction to the internet. I realized that I had began to spend all my time in front of the computer screen, withdrawing myself from the physical real life. This made me a slave to the technology behind the screen and prevented me from utilizing my body in the creative process. When the trouble of not being able to bring these computer-created images to life without a printer began to disturb me, I realized it was high time to get away from the computer. In a way, I stopped working with computer and began to use my hands again; the basis of creativity.
S.A.: You were born and raised in Istanbul, but you now live in New York. Let’s talk about how it affects your art. Is this a deliberate preference?
H.P.: Maybe I’d be repeating a cliche, but New York is really the center of the art world. Even the artists, curators and writers who don’t live here, make sure to stop by, make connections, and visit the most contemporary shows here. When I had the opportunity to stay here after completing my Master’s studies, I of course wanted to make use of it. As a result, I had the pleasure of meeting numerous people and sharing my works with them.
S.A.: In another interview you told that; as you were working in the fields of fashion and music, your focus shifted rapidly towards art. Can you elaborate on that?
H.P.: The fundamental reason why I was working in the fashion and music industries was to support myself financially while at the same time working as an artist. I needed to earn money, I knew many people in the fields of fashion and music, and therefore I had to opportunity of working in these fields. Music is still a very important part of my life, I’m still passionate about it. If I could be making music, I don’t know whether I’d be working in the field of visual arts at all.
S.A.: Though your works are silent and calm, they also feature bold brush strokes. Can you tell us a bit about your paintings?
H.P.: My interest in the concepts of silence and tranquility results rather from the effects of the computer screen on our concentration. Our relationship to visual data has completely changed with the emergence of the internet. The shock we experienced with the increased amount of data was similar to what the previous generations experienced with television. Suddenly, all our time was filled with equipment that offered to tickle us visually, 24 hours a day. Under such circumstances it became almost impossible to focus and look at one single thing serenely for a long time. Our gaze now jumps from one browser window to another, then to another program, then to the cellphone screen and then to the TV. As our eyes kept moving from one screen to another, we weren’t sure anymore –we even forgot–, what we’d focus our attention on, and especially how we’d accomplish that. In this regard, I feel that it’s now more important to paint or to create physical objects – just so that the artist can focus on a single point for a long time, and the viewers can pause for a moment in their busy lives and breathe. Silence and tranquility are essential in order for us to focus our minds, come up with new ideas, and –maybe the most important of all– to perceive and interpret the things going on around us.
S.A.: You work with Jessica Silverman Gallery which is located in San Fransisco. Why are you working with a gallery outside New York?
H.P.: In this age galleries aren’t limited to the physical spaces they exist in. There’s an increasing number of fairs and biennials around the world. Jessica Silverman is in this regard very active. Working with them, I had the opportunity of exhibiting my work in New York, Chicago and Dallas in addition to San Fransisco. We’ll be showing my works in Paris in October. I also had many solo and group shows in numerous galleries that I got to know with the help of Jessica Silverman Gallery. It’s of course my greatest wish to work with a New York gallery, as it’s where I live. But the most important thing is to build long-term relationships on solid foundations, and not to hurry. Therefore I’m sure that I’ll soon come across an opportunity.
S.A.: Do you have any shows or projects in the near future?
H.P.: Just this last week I had a solo booth at the Armory show with Jessica Silverman Gallery. In October, my works will be shown at the New Orleans biennial titled “Prospect”.