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Painting (MA)

Hamit Üçok

Hamit Üçok (b. 1995) is a Cypriot artist currently living and working in London. Prior to the Royal College of Art, he received his BA in Fine Art from the University of Hertfordshire.

He has exhibited internationally and his work has been featured in a number of group exhibitions including: 'Ctrl Alt Delete', Hockney Gallery, London (2020), 'RCA WiP Show', Royal College of Art, London (2020), Cyprus Modern Art Museum, Near East University, Nicosia (2018), 'UH Degree Show', University of Hertfordshire: Art & Design Gallery, Hatfield (2018), 'A Grey Area', Courtyard Arts Centre, Hertford (2018), 'Reposition/Collision', University of Hertfordshire: Art & Design Gallery, Hatfield (2017).

Degree Details

School of Arts & Humanities

Painting (MA)

As an artist, I strive to create work that employs visual traps to show how the mind is quick to assume what is being created in a given image. In my allegorical paintings, I abstract the contexts or situations behind my subjects so that the meaning of a work is dormant, suspended or even lost. The viewer must bring their own assumptions to its interpretation. I make frequent use of pre-existing and personal photographic material, film stills, cuttings from newspapers and the internet. The images are tested, reconsidered and collaged by using computer programmes to alter them digitally. My predominant concerns are the social and political issues facing our contemporary global society. To digest and approach these problems I constantly feel the need to transform my ideas and images into paintings. Through my practice, I aim to explore the tension between the photographic documentation of reality and the assemblance of the imaginary. The purpose of my work is to play with the viewer’s imagination by forming an intimate relationship.

My most recent work has derived from personal experiences and memories of growing up in Cyprus, an ethnically divided island. Both my parents are victims of war; my father was born during the 1964 civil war in Cyprus and lived in a refugee camp for eleven years. In the 1974 war he lost members of his family. The war left many people stranded, who as a result have led estranged lives. My mother escaped from Iran during the height of the oppression of the Islamic state. Her first-hand experience of death and destruction have haunted her ever since. Although I have not been directly involved in any active conflict, I have been greatly affected by the aftermath of war. Segregation is an impossible subject but equally, what kind of artist could choose to ignore it? I paint my fears by intertwining narratives drawn from both Turkish and Greek Cypriot vantage points, which allows me to explore the impact of repressive narratives from the perspective of each region. I reimagine the canvas as my island and overlay the cultural commonalities and differences. In doing so, I introduce another layer of complexity, distort time and facilitate dialogue between isolated stories from both communities.


Eternal House: An Old Friend
Detail
Detail

I - MEMORY

I was immensely scared when I heard he was going to be killed. I could not believe it. Everyone’s perception of each other changed in one night, we lost a lot and gained nothing but pain.

But I was determined to not listen to any of that bullshit! On the same night, I said I would kill him instead, and allowed him to go to his family secretly. People seemed proud and happy; I did not enjoy the appreciation afterwards. I could not make sense of it.

I knew it was the line. I tried everything but it seemed permanent. I wanted to leave so many times, and give him a visit... “I MISS HIM...”

The line never let me through, it always said: “STOP!” “I WISH”, has been the word I regret in life, it’s the saddest phrase of all.

One day I stood in front of him with a diary. He wasn’t expecting visitors, especially an old friend. We were both surprised, resentful, confused.

“Καλωσόρισες αδελφέ” he said.

I felt suspended, as if stuck between existence and absence. He looked blank, and that was the moment when I realized that his memories were evaporating. Unlike us, they never existed in this life.

Medium:

Oil on linen

Size:

100 x 130 cm
The Green Line

II - A CRYING ISLAND

I have lost my identity. I have lost my unity. I have lost myself. Aphrodite! The Immortal Queen, I recall you from your foam, come to me now again, release me from this pain, be my ally to overcome everything my spirit longs to have fulfilled.

Dear Goddess, a lot has changed since you were gone. Your Love is dispersed... replaced with hatred, and revenge. A green line is confined in my heart, segregating my nation into fragments.

‘This world can hurt you It cuts you deep and leaves a scar Things fall apart, but nothing breaks like a heart And nothing breaks like a heart’

I have been removed from my context and placed into something ‘other’ —a new reality. Now, I exist in two different temporalities.

‘Mm, nothing, nothing, nothing gon' save us now Nothing, nothing, nothing gon' save us now’*

Please, if you hear me... HELP!


*Mark Ronson and Miley Cyrus ~ Nothing Breaks Like a Heart

Medium:

Oil on canvas

Size:

50 x 40 cm
I Can't Breathe

III - OUT OF BREATH

I haven't been well lately. A virus has taken hold of the world. Life now is like a plane cabin with low pressure. We are in constant turbulence. Breathing freely is more precious than usual. People rely on oxygen masks to survive. Things will never be the same again...

"I CAN’T BREATHE! I Can’t Breathe! I can’t breathe…"

How long will this quarantine last? I miss my friends… I miss my mum and dad. Even hitting my shoulders on passing strangers in the tube. Is this the end, or a new beginning? A rebirth of society that has gone into the abyss; we might be at the edge of a new renaissance. Ultimately, one way or another we need to come out of this mess.

I have been encapsulated, contained within a frame. Imprisoned in a hyperspace. But people tell me I am not contemporary enough. I am not fast enough, or productive. I need to promote, exhibit and elucidate myself all the time. Otherwise, you are not considered relevant; you have no use, no purpose. I have isolated myself from everyone, from my audience, from other artworks—sometimes I think they are more harmful than the virus. We don’t know who our enemies are; a police officer knelt on a man's neck in plain sight. The last gasp.

Medium:

Oil on canvas

Size:

40 x 50 cm
Eternal House: Seeking Revenge from the Mücahit

IV - THE FOLDED ORDER

Maybe he would never know that I saved his life, he got infuriated when he saw the tyres of his car shattered, whereas the end of his road that night was death.

At that time, the scratch was not only thrown right in the heart of our country, but into the hearts of all of us. They made everybody enemies at once!

They gave us a separate identity, but we were always in the same land together. We were all left stranded.

[time intervenes]

"Γεια σας,” Heyyy! "Γεια σου." I looked up and saw him again with his folded order.

He didn’t change much, only got older. I was somewhat baffled. It almost felt like a backward velocity in time.

Merhaba, hoşgeldiniz.

“Καλώς σας βρήκαμε!” “Soo, who is this, grandpa?” 

Ne bileyim ben hangi Gâvur’dur.

I first thought this illusion was caused by my Amnesia. It’s just that I got a little bit... sidetracked. 

I couldn’t tell anymore if the person in front of me was my friend or my enemy.

After all these years, the white sheet given to us remains empty. I always tried, but nothing happened. At this age, I still reside in a stranger’s house waiting for my death. This is my Mastaba. Perhaps, I was only dreaming, hoping that someone would come and draw something in these blank pages. Only to make us more visible and present.

Who are we, anyway?

Medium:

Performance photography
Eternal House: The Last Supper
Detail
Detail
Detail

V - THE HOUSE WITH BLUE SHUTTERS

Here I am at the same table, but this time more isolated, incapable and hopeless than ever. I don’t know how long and for whom I have been waiting, I don’t remember it. I hesitate to tell. Or rather, I am afraid to speak. Don’t say I’m enclosed. You can't always be secretive; sometimes one look is just enough to give away everything.

The times have changed; past and future are colliding to revoke the painful past. We have been waiting a long time, but nothing is going to change. Our hopes for reconciliation and peace are no longer possible. We are the ones to blame. First we betrayed our friends, then the country we lived in, and therefore ourselves. We lost our respect for each other. There is an urgency to find trustworthy followers. Where are our friends now, whom we used to sit, eat and drink together with?

A pregnant woman tossed around alone with two children. Three families stayed in one place, even a barn: hungry, thirsty, and suffocated. I earned my living as a tailor because there was no other choice. I overcame many challenges. I am a strong woman; I know that. But the last thing I want is for our children to not experience the same difficulties again. It is so terrifying! I have never forgotten those days and never will.

Είχα προσβληθεί στα Ελληνικά, πληγώθηκα στα Τουρκικά,

Rumca yarıldım, Türkçe bölündü

Kıbrıs, anla!..

We no longer had a home. We took refuge in a house with blue shutters. The house was plundered; it had dilapidated walls, cluttered furniture, and a burnt pot on the stove. There was not a single bite to eat. That musty smell never leaves my nose. I felt very bad. I kept thinking to myself: where is the life that once lit this house? 

Ahh, even though I know the answer, I can’t accept it.


Medium:

Oil on canvas

Size:

100 x 130 cm