art is fresh/Zeren Badar

Interview: Zeren Badar

Tongue wryly in cheek, “penniless photographer” Zeren Badar ‘accidentally’ layers found objects (cereal, fridge magnets, rubber bands) on top of cheap reprints of older, often classic, paintings to create temporary Duchampian readymades which are destroyed after they’re photographed. The juxtaposition of these seemingly incompatible materials produces fun works that question how we value the art work we see, how we see the genre of still life and how the creative capacity of our breakfast could be embraced if only we were to slip by a DaVinci.

homage to gustave klimnt
homage to gustave klimnt/Zeren Badar

I first saw your work on Tumblr, how important would you say social media, and the internet in a more general sense, are to artists working today?

I believe it is very important as an artist to use social media to promote my work. I’m one of many artists who don’t have a gallery contract. Internet or social media is my only tool to show my work to a wider range audience. My work got so much attention after being on tumblr radar. I’m so grateful to tumblr team.

In these days every artist must be using social media very often. They have to be careful not to overdo it. In my case I post one image a day (or less), which disciplines me. I have to create something for my Instagram and tumblr each day. Otherwise I would be postponing and get involved with other things.  I strongly believe every artist should take advantage of social media, but they should use gracefully.

You mentioned the importance of being on Tumblr radar, what are your thoughts on online curation and selecting the best works from a saturated market?

There are so many websites and digital magazines out there. Online curation is extremely popular now. I cannot say I find most of them successful. Their job is not easy either. I’m sure they get absurd amount of submissions on a daily basis. The art scene is very plural. Picking sophisticated artworks is not easy. I think the curator should have great taste on art to begin with. They have to know art history and follow the current art market.

Some of online curators only pick major household names to be on the safe side, which is very boring and uninteresting for me. They should give opportunity to emerging artists. Anyway! Museums are full of those household names. Haven’t we seen Cindy Sherman enough? Why not discover new upcoming artists? It is risky but it is much more interesting.

You’re currently a part of Saatchi online, what do you think being featured on a site with such a recognized name in the non-virtual art world offers? Do you think that websites like Saatchi online are where the art market is heading towards in the future?

For long time, I was not sure to put my work on Saatchi Online or any online gallery. I changed my mind because Saatchi Online was very popular. They had big collector base. I’m also collaborating with another online gallery which is called Kids Of Dada. But this doesn’t mean I’m trying to sell my entire artwork online. They are couple of photographs are on sale via these websites. They are limited editions.

I still believe traditional galleries are very important. A traditional gallery can support and increase value of my photographs tremendously.

I think an artist should work with online galleries and traditional galleries at the same time. When I sign with a gallery, that’s something that needs to be decided between me and gallery owner. Decision has to be mutual.

Visibility in this art world is very important. The more internet coverage I get the more audience I reach.

Being visible and selling online is the future of art market. It doesn’t mean my art is less valuable. It means my art is getting attention globally.

Lady Gaga
Lady Gaga/Zeren Badar

Have you ever felt there is a danger that your work will be taken and reused without your permission as it is so easily copied and pasted from the web? Have you had any experience of anything of that kind?

So far I have never had a bad experience. Hopefully! I won’t. I heard so many horror stories about this subject. Couple of websites and magazines used my images without my permission to write review about my art. Reviews were always very positive. It didn’t bother me. If someone copies and prints my work, they will be getting in touch with my lawyer. That requires a lawsuit.

I put very low dpi images online, so none can print high quality. I sell limited editions and sign every photograph of mine. Those photographs have almost no value without my signature. I sell my photographs to collectors and art dealers. They are very high quality prints and signed. Otherwise they would have value of posters.

Your work uses a lot of repurposed/reworked readymade images, I’m thinking particularly of your Accident Series, how does that feature into that idea of image ownership?

When you look at the history of modern art, most artworks are references to classic artworks. I use very low dpi images which I download them on internet. I change them dramatically. I even change the colors of paintings before I print them.

I put found objects, food on top of each other. I change the painting intensely which are almost not recognizable. The final work is my creation. The painting becomes a completely different piece of art.

In this age, it is very common that artists use pre-existing artworks and turn those into something else. I’m not the first artist who works in this manner, but I have my own distinct style. I use these old paintings to create new Duchampian ready-mades. I destroy my ready-mades at the end unlike Duchamp because my final artwork is a photograph. It is very conceptual work. I’m the owner of the final work naturally.

You reference Duchamp as a point of comparison for your works. Do you consider him a major influence on your choice of style, and if so (or not) who else would you put on that list?

Yes, Duchamp is definitely the main influence on my work. He had certain dry humor in his art. It is very difficult to create humorous pieces in art. He created his own category, which nobody had thought about before.

I was influenced by Kurt Schwitters as well. I found his aesthetic of collages very inspiring. They have exceptional compositions. They are very delicate.

I can give couple more names such as Sigmar Polke, Urs Fischer and Gerhard Richter

sea world
sea world/Zeren Badar

How do you go about selecting the readymade paintings/canvases for your works?

I searched for paintings on the Internet. There are great sources out there such as pinterest, museum websites and personal art blogs. I look for portraits with facial expressions.

Since I reduce the details of paintings, the remaining parts should have some kind of emotion.

I look for low dpi images because I like the contrast. The ready-mades I put on paintings are always sharper than paintings. I have certain themes in my mind such as love, hands, mother & son or daughter.

I developed a strong instinct after a while. When I see the painting, I get the sense right away that painting will work.

feminism/Zeren Badar

Could you explain a little your choice to pair these older, classic artworks with incongruous items such as food and paper clips?

That’s the most difficult part of this project. Not every object or food works with paintings. I found that round shapes and flowy materials work much better. 

I got ideas from everywhere. Searching for materials is constantly in my head. It is exhausting actually.

I found 99 cents stores are very inspiring. I know! It sounds odd. Flea market is another good source. I have a certain budget for the ready-mades. I don’t want to spend more than $5 or $8. To be honest that is the initial idea of this project. I wanted to create art from cheap things.

I wanted to transform banal everyday objects into extraordinary masterpieces!

It is like 99 cents store meets with Mona Lisa.

Of course I cannot afford very expensive materials at this point as well. I’m not one of those artists who has unlimited budget.

I wish I had Jeff Koons’s astronomic budget — I would create so many masterpieces. One day maybe….

Where do you think your work would go if you had Koons’ astronomical budget?

That would solve so many problems of mine! First! I would rent a great size studio. I wouldn’t try yo create everything in my living room. I would quit my day job and focus on my art completely. I have been thinking creating 3D print sculptures from Accident Series. I would definitely spend a lot of money on developing sculptures. I do have so many ideas for performance art projects. I have two other photography projects in my mind. One of them is text based. Other is internet related. But even if I had incredible budget of Jeff Koons, I would keep the childlike look of my artworks. I think that is my niche.

Actually! Even daydreaming about these feels so good….