Artist Interview: Umit Koseoglu – Digital Artist

Umit Koseoglu

Today, we welcome Umit Koseoglu to the blog!

Tell us about yourself, who are you, where are you from, and what do you make?
Hi! I’m a digital artist and/or fine art photographer living and working in London, UK. I graduated from the University of Westminster in 2011 after studying Contemporary Media Practice, and since then I’ve been working on projects exploring concepts of the natural world.

I create abstracted digital pieces by layering photographs on top of one another, isolating patterns and textures within them, and working with repetition, abstraction and tessellation.

Over the past few years I’ve completed several series of images inspired by environmental issues, particularly in response to issues taking place in Iceland.

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How did you get started making the type of art you make?
When I was about 15, my art teacher told me I was terrible at drawing and suggested I tried photography instead so I wouldn’t fail the course. I bought an old film camera from eBay and started teaching myself about exposure and composition. A couple of years later I learned how to process my own film and print black & white images in the darkroom, and had a lot of fun experimenting with different techniques, such as double exposures and coloured toners.

I bought a digital camera when I was 18, and started learning Photoshop. While I loved the hands-on feel of working in the darkroom, digital opened up so many new opportunities for me to experiment with my images and try out new ideas. My university course encouraged me to think more about the concepts behind my work and to move outside of the ‘traditional’ genres of photography; I began experimenting with projection, large-format installation and video. My graduation project was a series of nudes with fragments of the landscape digitally overlaid on to them, and since then I’ve continued working with layered digital compositions.

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How do you keep motivated?
I try to surround myself with as much inspiration as possible, especially if I’m not working on a particular project at the time. Flicking through Tumblr and looking at work by different artists is a great way to discover something new, and keeps me feeling creative even when I’m having a block. Also: lots of coffee to fuel my late night Photoshop sessions. Annoyingly, I’m always more productive after midnight.

What do you hope to accomplish with your work?
My aim is to create work that is both visually striking and conveys some kind of meaning. I want the viewer to stop and think, “that looks interesting, how was it put together?” and spend time deconstructing the details of the piece. At the same time I try to include something to trigger further thought about a broader concept. For example, with the projects based around the natural landscape I wanted to provoke discussion about environmentalism to question how we interact with nature, using unusual, abstracted imagery as a hook to get people thinking about what the work means to allow them to come up with their own ideas.

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What, if anything, would you tell your younger self?
It doesn’t matter if you can’t draw, you can still be creative.

Any words of wisdom to aspiring artists who want to pursue a similar career?
Make work that you want to see, that you think is important. It doesn’t matter how good you are, there will always be someone who will try to rip your work to shreds, so you need to be resilient. It’s much easier to do that if you’re creating something that you’re genuinely passionate about. It’s important to make work that you like, even if everyone else hates it.

What are your thoughts on art school?
I loved it. For me, it was more about 3 years with lots of freedom to try new things rather than spending lots of time learning technical skills. We were taught the basics and then left to work on anything we wanted, picking up the technical stuff along the way. My course was very much about learning to generate ideas and exploring different concepts; we were told it’s more valuable to spend time researching and expanding upon an idea than to spend hours learning to use Photoshop or Final Cut, because the technology is always being updated so you’ll constantly need to re-learn your skills anyway. This might not be a good approach for everyone, but I liked having the space to work on my own projects and having the support of my tutors when I needed it. I miss being able to lock myself away and work solidly on a project for weeks at a time!

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Have any future aspirations that you’d like to share?
I’ve always wanted to make a book of my work. Even though I make most of my work digitally, I love seeing the final result in a physical form as a print. As amazing as it is to be able to see and share work so easily online, I think there’s something really special and intimate about flicking through a photo book.

What’s your dream project?
I’d love to have a solo show in a really interesting space… something like an old factory, or a lighthouse… and do some kind of site-specific installation project. I did some work before with projection, where I suspended sheets of plastic from the ceiling and projected images on to them so they were floating in mid air and the light refracted so parts of the different images started to merge together. I’d like to do some more of that, I just need to find a big enough space!

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What art equipment do you use?

I use a Canon DSLR to shoot, and I edit in Photoshop using a Wacom tablet. I also experiment with a Polaroid camera and several old Russian film cameras.

How could the art industry become better in your opinion?
More artist-run galleries, workshops and initiatives. It’s nice to have a personal connection with the people creating the work you’re looking at.

Any other artists that you would like to recommend for others to check out as well?
Sophie Calle: One of my favourite conceptual artists, she uses her life as inspiration for her work
Annette Pehrsson: A film photographer taking beautiful self portraits and Polaroids
Ben Giles: An art student who makes stunning collage work

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