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Merve Denizci's Tainted Dreamscapes

Cigdem Asatekin (2017 MFA Art Writing) writes on the unsettling work of 2018 American Turkish Society scholarship recipient Merve Denizci.

Merve Denizci’s paintings are disturbingly eerie. Her scenes of simple domestic interiors, almost empty in a serene monotony, share the frame with lonely figures and displays of peculiarity and violence. The peacefulness of pallid pastel hues is warped by representations of discomfort, which often appear as raw meat, a dead animal or blood; frozen in time.

Denizci, born in 1987 in Istanbul, received her BFA and MFA degrees from the Faculty of Fine Arts of Marmara University. She opened her first solo exhibition, “The Unspoken,” in 2015 at C.A.M. Gallery in Istanbul, and has been exhibiting throughout Turkey since. This year she was granted American Turkish Society’s special scholarship for Turkish artists to attend the Summer Residency Program at SVA. During her studio residency in New York, a city she described as “a terrific cosmopolitan place that does not belong to a single race or gender, which brings a sense of equality,” Denizci had the opportunity to take classes, meet new faculty, and prepare a final exhibition.

The landscapes visible from the windows in Denizci’s paintings are borrowed from views outside her studio: sometimes the green hills of Istanbul, and sometimes the gentle waves of the Bosphorus. She says that surroundings turn into ideas, but her motivation comes from within. As an artist she has an internal urge to create, more powerful than any inspiration from the outside world. She takes images and impressions from various times, media and places, and gathers them in an intentionally flat and unsettling shared space. Denizci is able to take a tranquil view of remote green mountains behind muted, rose-colored walls and with calculated and meticulous ease, place in front a dead bleeding swan and a pensive, naked adolescent girl.

Denizci’s uncanny spectacles linger on the canvas, in between reality and reverie, like the moment one’s sleep is disrupted—a dreamscape abruptly invaded by waking life. Faint tones of yellow ochre are tainted by blazing red bloodstains, and the image of a dead deer dissolves into non-reality, only left in memory. Watching them, the viewer is left alone with a sense of suspense, to uneasily figure out the mystery.

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