Interview: Zeren Badar

Very First Accident - 2017

When it comes to creating art, Zeren Badar doesn’t take himself too seriously. Whether drawing inspiration from childhood experiences or some of the greats who have come before him, you can expect to find a very honest and humorous interpretation of the world in his work.

Dash Majesty: For those who don’t know, please introduce yourself!

Zeren Badar: My name is Zeren Badar. I’m a conceptual artist based in NYC.

DM: As you are originally from Turkey, how would you compare the art scene in your native home to that of New York?

ZB: When I lived in Turkey I wasn’t involved in the art scene, so I don’t have much knowledge about it, although I assume it is not big. But considering the geographical importance of Istanbul, I can imagine there are serious galleries with serious exhibitions. I would love to do shows there.

On the other hand, New York is the centre of the universe. The art scene is extremely competitive here and very much alive, although it is of course difficult for an emerging artist to stand out. You really have to work hard to get gallery representation and it is almost like everyone in Manhattan and Brooklyn is an artist, but I feel lucky to live and work here.

DM: Would you ever consider pursuing an artistic career anywhere else?

ZB: I consider the US as my home now. At this point I don’t think I would ever move to another country, although Paris would be a nice place to have a second studio.

DM: Do the people of New York provide inspiration for your collections?

ZB: Absolutely! New York has everything. I can spend days just looking at people’s outfits. There are so many restaurants – I use food a lot in my art. I have a lot of friends who are also artists and I get a lot of ideas when I discuss art with them. There are endless gallery openings. I can get inspiration almost anywhere, the city is so stimulating for me.

DM: Would you describe yourself as a photographer or an artist, or perhaps a combination of the two?

ZB: I would describe myself as a conceptual artist. My current preferred medium is photography, but it doesn’t mean I won’t switch up my medium to painting, video or sculpture. My work is not like traditional photography and I have never strictly thought of myself as a photographer.

Six Feet Under - 2017
Six Feet Under – 2017

DM: Your collection Accident Series is such an intriguing concept. Could you tell us a little about your thought process behind these works?

ZB: It started as an accident. I was searching old masters’ paintings on the internet, downloading and printing them. One day I came home with a stack of printouts. I was hungry. While I was making an omelette, I dropped an egg next to the printouts. I said to myself, “That’s not a bad idea.” For the first image I used a raw egg, which I called Very First Accident. The idea evolved quickly. The project is based on humour, like a child putting stuff on old paintings.

DM: Are there any musicians who inspire you when creating your pieces?

ZB: I usually listen to Edith Piaf or Turkish singer Sezen Aksu while working in my studio. I wouldn’t say I draw inspiration directly from music, but it certainly relaxes me.

DM: You state that your collection Fill the Blanks had therapeutic origins. Could you explain this further?

ZB: I was a flamboyant kid while I was growing up. I got bullied a lot. To lessen the burden, I became obsessed with comics. Going back to cartoons and making art with them has proven to be an important healing process for me. Thinking about those years and coming to peace with them has been empowering. As Carrie Fisher said “Take your broken heart, make it into art.”

DM: Your still life series My Friends appears to have a modern Van Gogh feel to it – was this intentional?

ZB: I love colour and I certainly got inspiration from Van Gogh. I suppose in a way I modernised Van Gogh’s paintings. I also got inspiration from Robert Mapplethorpe’s flower photography.

Joe - 2017
Joe – 2017

DM: Did this project perhaps reveal anything about your friends which you were previously unaware of?

ZB: There is certainly a relationship between flowers and personality. Some of my friends have very colourful personalities, so naturally I used the most colourful flowers and over the top arrangements for them. That project was the most challenging I have worked on so far, as it was the first time I worked with a particular theme and also, as flowers have a relatively short life, I had to be quick when deciding on the final arrangement of the pieces.

DM: Would you say that political events in the US inspire or affect your art? Do you feel the need to comment on them, or do you prefer not to include political references in your work?

ZB: I’m still very upset with the result of the last election, although I am yet to create any politically influenced work. My work is mostly humour based. I’m not sure I will start creating political works, although I’m open to anything. My current work has certainly taken on a darker mood.

DM: Do you have any upcoming projects that you’re excited about?

ZB: I’m getting ready for a solo show at Manhattan’s Charaple Gallery in April. I’m slowly putting stuff together. There will be a mixture of photographs, drawings and sculptures.

Zeren Badar has extended his existence as a human being on Instagram, Facebook and Tumblr.