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Kemal Seyhan: Whampoa Artist Series

30 JAN 2020

Visitors to the new NOC store in Whampoa will notice a rare commodity on show: space. Amongst our core values is a dedication to utilise space to provide our customers with somewhere to escape the city and reflect on the world around them. Our love of fine coffee is embedded in provenance, a refined, meticulous process, and careful preparation. Beyond this however, coffee provides time and opportunity for individuals to dream, couples to share, groups to debate. Coffee is the facilitator; the space our sanctuary.

With the good fortune of finding such a location, we ourselves dreamed of showcasing the work of our favourite artists on the Whampoa walls. The Curators curation, one might call it. Not only to give a pop of colour to the usual hues of grey and white, but also to provide inspiration to our customers who visit, no matter what path in life they have arrived from. Our first featured artist is Kemal Seyhan, and the work on display in NOC Whampoa is an untitled, oil on canvas.

Untitled, 2019. Oil on canvas. 230 x 190cm. On display at NOC Whampoa until March 2020.

Dividing his time between Istanbul and Salzburg, Kemal is represented by Pi Artworks Gallery of London/Istanbul. He has exhibited his work in many leading international art shows around the world, with Art Basel Hong Kong among them. In December, a member of our management team visited Kemal in his studio space in Istanbul as he passed through the city on a layover. Thirty minutes north of the city, on a street full of auto mechanic shops, and after climbing two flights of wooden staircase, Kemal’s creative lair opens up into a large single room with lots of natural light beaming through the skylight in the roof.

There is a consistency to Kemal’s work – working with oil on canvas each piece has long horizontal and vertical lines; there is no perspective and yet the layers of paint build up upon one another to give some sense of depth; first impressions are of simplicity but after time with the work you are drawn into a much more complex narrative, each allowing the observer to explore their own journey within the canvas. Kemal’s tools are basic but the process he goes through to finish every piece is clearly both deep and emotionally charged, often using several kilograms of paint to get to a point of completion.

We asked Kemal a few questions – to get to know the man and to understand his work just a little bit better:

When did you first discover you had a special talent?
Already in my childhood it was noticed that I had a talent for drawing, but it wasn’t until I was 20 years old that I seriously considered painting.

Where do your ideas and inspiration come from?
For me painting is a repetitive and physical act through which I want to reach a saturation, that I can mostly experience in nature. But that should not mean that my starting point is nature.

As an abstract artist, how do you know when one of your paintings is finished?
A painting, as long as it is viewed, is never finished. Perhaps only as an untouched blank canvas can it be perfect and finished. The act of painting is a helpless attempt to reach this initial state.

Why is art important to you / for the world?
Because through art, without having to be a believer, one can generate a sense of being. As an artist you spend most of the time alone in your studio. You have to develop a certain sensitivity and attention to yourself which leads you at the end to a concentrated view of the outside world.

What was your impression of Hong Kong when you visited in 2018?
After experiencing life in Istanbul for the last 15 years, Hong Kong made me feel at home. I was very impressed by the vertical density of the city.

Lastly (but very important) how do you drink your coffee?
Black and short

Kemal’s work will be on display in NOC Whampoa until March 2020.
Below are a few more examples of his work.

Untitled, 2012. Oil on canvas. 200 x 280cm.
Untitled, 2013. Graphite and silver drawing on canvas. 200 x 180cm.
Untitled, 2012. Graphite on paper. 50 x 35 cm.
Solitude, 2016. Graphite and oil on canvas. 230 x 190cm.

For further information please visit kemalseyhan.com or his dedicated page on the Pi Artworks site.