Kemal Seyhan / Horizontal, Vertical, Color, Intensification

Kemal Seyhan

It is part of our process to host the works of artists we admire for a period of three months ending with a dialogue session where we come together with friends that thrive in reflecting on different aspects of creative processes. Our first meeting was with İsmet Doğan, and now in the second round reknown artist and close friend Kemal Seyhan has been kind enough to share his works with us.

In an article …. describes Seyhans work as follows:

“Kemal Seyhan’s paintings in the last two decades are narrated with a narrow language, comprising four words: horizontal, vertical, color, intensification. While he pieces the words of this narrow vocabulary together, the artist restricts himself with a series of rules: starting with black, applying vertical and horizontal on the canvas lengthways, avoiding simple topological relations on the surface of the work such as large-small, including-included, inside-outside; in this context, not using the color to define the space on the canvas, putting it mainly under intensification’s order, creating an excelled surface that disables any 3D illusion, leaving everything else (except for the surface) the back or sides of the canvas out of attention…

The works are implemented by applying this vocabulary and rules on canvas deck of times.

Kilos of paint is used to color the canvas with thousands of spatula touches to create strata.

In the paper productions, Seyhan started to work on in 2009, the canvas (along with the paint) disappears as a means of expression. Instead we find thousands of graphite marks covering the paper laterally, horizontally and at times transversely. On these works, turned into metallic surfaces due to intense use of graphite, intensification -the central concept of Seyhan’s vocabulary- is given a new tool: The both-sided breaks (while drawing on and pain- ting it Seyhan also breaks the paper pushing it against a sharp corner) create a sense of relief on the surface. As a matter of fact, the rich topography of this relief imitates the effect the perfected color intensification created by the stratified paint applications. The semi-chaotic topography of the production builds a strong communication with light. Reflecting the colors of its environment, it presents a different chromatic scale depending on the viewpoint.


Except for a general intention regarding their dimension and perhaps the color selection, the works do not have a master plan. Countless layers generating the painting is resolved with the guidance of the preceding strata and may be the micro-aesthetical, local preferences of the painter. In these resolutions, what is visual is always behind (even under the domination) of what is physical and psychical. In one of his interviews Ginsberg says that while singing his physical presence leads Bob Dylan to utter the air mass with the correct physical features. This counts for Seyhan too. He concentrates all his attention and bodily skills on the 7-8 cm-long sharp edge of the spatula and on the per- tinence of the physical relation between the paint and the surface. He then paints the surface numerous times from one end to the other.

In this process, through which each moment is created after discussing with the aggregate of the past moments, it is evident that the syntax cannot set a rule to prioritize the course regarding the completion of the works. In short, like all organic processes (psychical or biological), Seyhan’s works have a strong autopoietic nature. It is impossible to tell when they are fully completed.


At the end of the day, it is interesting to see an artist limit her/himself with a narrow vocabulary, a very rigid syntax structure and an unprogrammed process where instants produce the following moments for a work which is produced for communication with unknown viewers. Could these works be the conveyer of any meaning other than their production processes?

Yes and no.

Yes, because Seyhan’s works in fact do not make reference to other concepts and problematic of any area other than painting. They do not deal with the questions of the daily or theoretical world.

No, because these works build a special communication with the viewers standing (preferring to stand) in front of them. This communication is nothing more than the intense (yet not harsh) effect of stopping imposed on the audience.”

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