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Turkish artist Deniz Sağdıç creates stunning portraits out of textile waste

By Simone Preuss


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Deniz Sağdıç’s latest work at Istanbul Airport. Image: FashionUnited

Turkish visual artist Deniz Sağdıç makes stunning portraits out of textile waste, among other things. From afar, they look like paintings, done in bold strokes and colours. When coming closer, the viewer is astounded to find that each portrait is made out of thousands of small objects, waste products like discarded zippers, buttons, old museum tickets, intricate computer parts or trash bags.

Close-up of Deniz Sağdıç’s portrait made out of zippers. Image: FashionUnited

Art like this requires a grand exhibition space that gives viewers the chance to mill about and take their time with each piece, coming closer and then taking it in from afar. What better space than an airport to fulfil these requirements and also expose Sağdıç’s art to as many people as possible? They stumble upon her pieces - often quite literally - as they transfer to their gate, similar to the ingredients used - an inevitable part of life, in transfer to an upcycled existence.

Sağdıç is known for using waste materials in her art and the airport exhibition “0” Zero Point is part of her current project Ready-ReMade. There are 31 artworks in total, featuring unknown as well as known faces such as broadcaster David Attenborough or actor John Malkovich.

Portrait of John Malkovich by Deniz Sağdıç at Istanbul Airport. Image: FashionUnited

Sağdıç sourced the materials from the airport’s waste management centre, thus drawing attention to the fact of how much waste an airport, especially a big one like Istanbul Airport, produces every day. With a staff of 130,000 people serving more than 37 million passengers in 2021, it is the busiest airport in Europe and the 13th-busiest in the world.

The aim is “to create new intellectual areas to have the new meanings of such objects re-questioned, by bringing together some objects, which have become waste due to the fact that they have lost their function”, according to Sağdıç in her artist profile.

Close-up of a portrait of John Malkovich by Deniz Sagdic. Image: FashionUnited

As for each waste material choice, the approach is not an easy one, as the artist reveals: She observes and experiments with each material for days before she knows exactly how to use it. “Through this process, I try to get to know that material, it begins to whisper in my ear, what I can do with it. Then our cooperation with that material begins, I give life to it but this time in the form of an artwork,” explained Sağdıç in conversation with Stir magazine. She also challenges the notion this way of what is considered art.

Her use of textile waste products like zippers, buttons and discarded fabric is particularly apt, given Turkey’s role and dependence on the garment and textile industry. Wanting to bring her art to the people rather than have them seen only by a select few in a gallery or museum, Sağdıç has also exhibited at New York Premiere Vision in 2019 and other venues.

Earlier work by Deniz Sağdıç. Image: YKK

She has also experimented with denim, a material she calls “a communication platform” and that she appreciates for being recognised the world over: “If you are not a textile professional, you may not know the types of fabric, but anyone who sees denim recognises it, at least once in her/his lifetime, she/he has touched it. Denim does not only belong to a certain culture or a country,” she said in conversation with Japanese manufacturer YKK who supported and displayed her work previously.

“As is known, the immersive exhibition of ordinary objects as they are, instead of classical methods of art, such as oil painting or sculpture, is called conceptual art. Conceptual art can be accepted as a technique, but it is wrong to think that the concept in art if possible, with the conceptual art as technique,” explains Sağdıç.

Portrait made out of old zippers by Deniz Sagdic. Image: FashionUnited

“I started the Ready-ReMade project as a reaction or response to this approach. I was revising this approach by using ‘waste materials’ with classical methods of art such as painting object with oil paint, showing them as sculptures or reorganising them in a certain order,” adds Sağdıç.

Sağdıç graduated in 2003 from the Department of Painting of Mersin University, a port city on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast and her hometown. She then moved to Istanbul and soon became known for her unique style with forms that almost become liquid. She got a full scholarship to Doğuş University in Istanbul and graduated with a master’s degree in fine arts in 2015.

Detail of portrait by Deniz Sağdıç made out of discarded plastic bags. Image: FashionUnited

Deniz Sağdıç’s exhibition “0” Zero Point at Istanbul Airport’s international and domestic terminals is open for visitors until mid March 2023.

Deniz Sağdıç