Celebrating the Irrational with Artist Zeren Badar

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Tongue planted firmly in cheek, Turkish-born New York-based artist Zeren Badar recreates classical work with a pop-worthy irreverence. His “Accident Series”–aptly named, given its genesis, but we’ll get to that later–became something of an Internet sensation last year, when the image doyens at Tumblr scooped up one of his images the be showcased on the site, generating plenty of reblog buzz. Since then, Badar’s work has been featured within the virtual pages of Trend Hunter, Saatchi Gallery, and Indulgd.

SIXTY was given the opportunity to talk with the artist about his work’s inspiration, shopping for supplies at 99-cent stores, and why Badar and Van Gogh would be great chums were he around today.


Can you talk about the influence on Dadaism and Neo-Dadaism on your work?

The project we are discussing is called Accident Series. I’m hugely influenced by Dadaism and Neo-Dadaism for this particular project. As [with] Dadaism, I rejected logic and reason in my work. I celebrated irrationality. I rejected all composition rules for these photographs. They are created by ready-made objects. By putting objects on top of each other, I created trompe l’oeil effect which challenged the viewer’s perspective. Even though they were created on a flat surface, we look at them vertically and extreme shadows give a 3D feeling. All of these puzzle viewers. They are, in a way, very surreal and pop. As many of us know, Dadaism laid the groundwork for surrealism and pop.

Do you think some people see what you’re doing as a disregard of old masterpieces or a much-needed jump into the future?

I can see some people could have objection that I’m using old masters’ paintings. When we look at postmodern art, it is all about taking old pieces and creating something else. I strongly believe I created very modern pieces from classic paintings. They are not the same anymore. Some people might think I ruined them. Yes! I ruined, deconstructed and reconstructed them. That was the initial idea. The reaction I have been getting is very positive. Everyone thinks they are so much fun.


What do you think the original artists would say to have their works covered with things like peppermint candies?

I’m not certain but some of painters would turn over in their graves. Ha! This is contemporary art. I think outrage is good for the emotional experience of art. I believe Van Gogh would love me. He seemed to like crazy things.

Could you tell me about the process a bit? 

I go shopping  at 99-cent stores, grocery stores, fish markets. I can look for new materials almost anywhere. Not every object works perfectly. I have some certain color palette in my mind. I would like to keep it colorful. The project is very conceptual. It requires a lot of research and thought.

How you source the images?

First, I search the Internet for low DPI images. The blurrier, the better. I print them out cheaply. I fold and give some wrinkled, crumpled effects. The shooting day, I pick the material and play with paintings. I improvise. I set up speed lights and create the collages on the table.


What do you do with the collages when you’re done? Dismantle them or keep it together?

This is the part that most resembles Dadaism. The final work is the photograph. The original collage is perishable and delicate. I discard the collages. I used to eat the cookies and candies, but I started gaining weight. I give them away to my friends now.

What was the first piece you ever did in Accident Series and what inspired it?

Most people think the title of this project is sarcastic. Yes, it is! But actually I did start this project by accident. I always saved old paintings for inspiration in my folder. Some of the portraits I printed out to investigate the light so I could create the same light for my portraits.

One day I came home. I was so hungry. I put all printouts on the kitchen counter. In a rush, I went to make scrambled eggs. Accidentally, egg splashed all over on part of the printouts. I was upset at first. It looked so strange. I took a picture with my cellphone. At the time I was working on my self-portraits. I needed a break from that project. And so, I started working on Accident Series. You never know what life brings us sometimes.


Do you have an idea of what items you are going to pair with certain paintings ahead of time or is it just what you have lying around?

I don’t have any idea. I decide all these things shooting day. It is a sixth sense.

Favorite piece of yours?

My favorite piece is “Sea World.” I had to work with hundreds of tiny fishes. The piece comes from my childhood memories. That’s the way how they displayed fish at fish markets in Turkey. I love that piece. But I think my the most popular piece is the egg which is “Very First Accident.” Everyone wants that piece.


All images courtesy of Zeren Badar



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