Deniz Ayral
03-24 OCTOBER 2015
TIME 18:00

Pop is Dead
Marcus Graf

I know I sound sometimes like an old man, when I criticize the current state of visual art, because the more works you have seen in your life, the less you get surprised, and the more you get bored. Still, I like surprises, but when it comes to art, it gets increasingly hard for me to get one. Do not get me wrong, I am not an enthusiast of renewals or revivals, neither am I an anachronistic fighter for permanent progress and evolution in the arts, as I value postmodernism’s critique of modern art’s outdated search for originality. Still, writing on art and curating exhibitions since the mid of the 1990’s, even I have already realized that the longer you work in our field the more you start encountering similar forms and concepts, and the less you get excited. Yes, currently we have more artists than ever on this planet, and I believe that in general this is a good thing. Though, we also have more weak art than ever.

Remembering Baykam’s “This has been Done Before”, it seems obvious that the character of contemporary art, the language of its current scene, although heterogeneous and pluralistic, on a basic level, is often foreseeable. Artists today work with certain matrixes, patterns and textures, which are common in contemporary pop culture. Remember that Warhol used to stress that “Pop is everything and everything is Pop”. Yes, that is true, but when everything is pop, what difference does it make? Today, contents and topics in our art world come and go according to trends and common preferences regarding form, aesthetic, technique and medium. In the end, current tendencies and methods are inflationary, and change nearly seasonally according to fashionable movements. Remembering Einstein’s “Everything is Relative”. So, does the story of art really end like Danto claims?

Nevertheless, in spite of so much stylish but conventional art today, every now and then, I still get excited like a kid when I discover an artist that is strong, alternative, radical, experimental, critical, absurd, challenging. Often, it hits you from corners, where you expect it the least. I do not have a certain preference when it comes to visual art. Of course, also I favour some styles and aesthetics as well as notions and approaches, but in the end, I believe that art should be radical and extreme: It should be extremely loud or absolutely silent, heavily over-loaded or nihilistic empty, childishly colourful or minimal monochrome, as well as extensive and complex or reduced and simple.

In this context, I value the work of Deniz Ayral very much. It strikes the spectator with a fascinating visual syntax, as he plays with various remix- aesthetics and retro-styles, and sets them inside a conceptual framework, which is based on a critical awareness and attitude towards today’s life and art. Ayral’s strategy is formally and contentual based on the art of collage, where he mostly out of parts of Victorian etchings, illustrations and drawings creates an absurd, engaged and critical reflection on our world today. Always, a fragmental character prevails in the works. This fragmentarily plus the surreal dramaturgy of the incidents within the pictures give his work an outstanding character, which invites the spectator to enter a world where dreams and nightmares get mingled in a universe full of apocalyptic promises.

Often, human beings, mostly well dressed but nevertheless misplaced looking, are set in sea- or landscapes, where they try to get along in scenarios full of mysteries and desires. There, everything can happen: You might get swallowed by a fish, swallow yourself a steamboat, sing the Titanic-Blues to a strange audience or go on a weird night hunt. Whatever the spectator sees is first familiar and then strange, as Ayral uses an iconography that appears firstly as commonly known, and later as surprisingly weird. He always translocates the depicted everyday objects out of their original context into a different, often unusual one in order to give them new connotations. This process alters the original perception of the used figurative elements, and therefore causes alternative, previously unseen or unthinkable relations with other, originally nonrelated objects and incidents. Due to the translocation, the artist adds new dimensions of meaning to his collages for questioning the state and character of our world.

In all works, a critical content and dimension is given. You might understand it as critique towards our misuse of nature and cruel treatment of our environment. You also might see it as a critique of our on science and knowledge based society, where logic and ratio was supposed to explain the world to us and solve all our problems with the help of sciences, statistics and objectivist data. Also, you could understand his work as a critique on our on consumerism based society of plenty and spectacle. Still, due to its fragmental character, the pieces are never didactic or polemic. They do not preach or teach, but leave the decoding of the work to the spectator. The pieces are concrete enough to communicate with the spectator, and still open enough to give the audience space for its own imaginations, feelings, thoughts and stories.

The aesthetic of his collages stroked me from the first moment. It might have been due to my personal relation to Victorian etchings and illustrations. In art classes that I took in my youth, I always loved scanning through old graphic design picture-books, which contained selections of hundreds of Victorian illustrations. Also, since I first saw the animations in Monty Python’s Flying Circus, where often Victorian illustrations were set in absurd and surreal contexts, the fascination for their anachronistic character and weirdness never left me. I believe it fits well to the radical fragmentation and strange deformation of our current status quo.

Besides the formal beauty and conceptual deepness of his work, another reason for the work’s significance is its complex play with styles, contexts, absurd meanings and surreal reality constructions. In the end, his collages reflect the strangeness of our life, and critically review the state we live in, where everything became Pop, which paradoxically caused the dissolution of Pop.