Uğur Gallenkuş, digital artist from Turkey. Photo © Courtesy of the artist

1.Tell us what you do and your beginnings.

I am a collage artist who makes digital collage works for awareness. I started working on photomontages and collages on popular culture and political humor as a hobby in 2014. At that time, I had a full-time job.

One morning in September 2015, I saw the photograph of Aylan Kurdi, 3 years old child, one of the thousands of people who drowned crossing the Aegean Sea on the news. I created my first work with the effect that photo had on me: there is a bucket of equipment used to build a sand castle at the feet of baby Aylan whose dead body washed up on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea. And the shadow of Aylan is a child playing with this bucket falls on the beach.

Which he was suppose to be doing, instead of dying. In the beginning of 2016, when I saw the fear and helplessness in the eyes of children in a refugee news I watched, I thought that I should do something to raise awareness about these problems. And this is how I started my work, which I combined two photographs with a sharp line and called the Parallel Universes.

Bathing at War, Bathing at Peace. Editorial Photo: Wissam Nassar, @wissamgaza

2.What does your work aim to say?

I use photos of photojournalists from many countries of the world and who have documented different problems in my works. All photos are from real events. These photographs show us problems such as war – conflicts, refugees – immigrants, environmental problems, women’s and children’s rights, animal rights, etc.

As human beings, we do not understand the problems that we see in the news and events in different parts of the world, and what the people who feel those problems are going through. Because it doesn’t happen to us. In my works, I use people, figures and objects from everyday life to make them touch us more. Only in this way can we understand and empathize with what happened. We can know the value of what we have. Or we can demand what we don’t have. With my works, I aim to make people empathize with the problems in the world. Thanks to this empathy, I think we can minimize these problems.

I remind people of events that happened and forgotten years ago with my works. Sometimes we need to remember, for it not to happen again. My work is taught as a subject in lectures by teachers in many countries. Teachers are brainstorming for students to see and understand the world’s problems. Some teachers have been inspired by my work and are doing work done by students; this is very valuable and important to me.

Children Are Children First – Balloons. Editorial Photo: Amer Almohibany, @amer.almohibany

3.Where do you find inspiration for your art?

My inspiration is life itself. Duality that we live in, the nature of the human beings; greed, power, also love and effection. My inspiration is being hungry for a better world. Want to See children happy and playing, not dying or frustrating over fear of their lives. I follow the news and photojournalists whom tell and show us the problems the humanity have been experiencing with a single photograph. And I use those photos, use the duality as my tool and create collages combining what is and what is should be. My inspiration is trying to be a better person.

4.Could you give us some insight into your creative process?

First I decide the topic of the collage and start searching for images. The part that takes a bit of time is the process of searching for the appropriate photo. Often, I find the appropriate photo after a few hours, sometimes after days or months. I have a strong visual memory. That is very helpful.

During my search sometimes I come across an image that has a big impact on me then I change the topic and use those images. With the feeling that editorial photography arouses in me, I start looking for a suitable image from stock images representing the better side of the collage.

Wounded Girl with a Pearl Earring. Editorial Photo: Ammar Suleiman, @ammar.sulaiman.91

Copyright and image licensing are a very big challenges since the beginning. After I met my manager, we started to contacting the photographers and getting image licenses of the images I used. Most of the photographers let me use their photos for social media. But for other usage areas, we have to pay for the image licensing.

Since I have a lot of collages we can only buy the licenses due to our budget. I receive a lot of requests from individuals or small organizations to use my collages for articles, in schools, for their projects. If it is not social media we can not let them use the collages for free since every usage area requires licensing. I wish I could let them use my collages for free but since I am not the copyright owner of the photos we have to ask for licensing fee.

5.What are your future projects?

We have developed important projects on this path which I started as a hobby and later became an artist. I say we because it is thanks to my manager and the publisher of my first book, Ms. Arzu Tunca, that my work has become professional.

With the effect of my work on social media, we did social media projects with many institutions and non profit organization. These organizations are UNDP, SDG Action, Lion’s Share, ICRC and Doctors Without Borders – MSF. Exhibitions of my many works were held in Italy, Germany, Turkey, France and Poland. I was one of the seven artists that their work being exhibited in the space by Arts Help a non-profit organization based in Canada. The project is called Zero Gravity. Beginning of 2020, I collaborated with philanthropist Domini Kulczyk of the Kulczyk Foundation  and they painted seven murals in Warsaw, Krakow, Lodz, Wroclaw, Gdansk.

As my most important project, we published my first book, Parallel Universes of Children, compiled from my works, on 20 November 2020 by my manager Arzu Tunca. in honor of World Children’s Day. Our book consists of my 50 artworks that we have compiled from the fundamental rights of children in the UN Declaration of the Rights of the Child. We aim to draw attention to children’s rights by showing the problems of children in the world and how they are deprived of these rights by sharing the very sad statistics. Today children are important not only for the future of a region or country, but also for the whole world.

In the future, we will have new collaborations and exhibition projects. According to the success of my first book, we aim to publish different books that deal with different problems. I want my works more than just getting “Likes” on social media, they to reach more people and become permanent and reach people for generations.

Interview by Fabio Pariante, journalist Twitter Instagram


Uğur Gallenkuş on social networks: InstagramTwitterFacebook

Uğur Gallenkuş (Niğde, Turkey, 1990) is a digital artist and in 2013 he graduated from the Department of Business Administration of Anadolu University. The artist creates photo montages to show the contrast between the different parts of the world, highlighting the injustices of which many people are victims: this is how the “Parallel Universes” project was born.

His artistic production is based on the images of photojournalists who tell the difficult conditions from all over the world and, when he started doing this work, Gallenkuş knew nothing about digital art but thanks to the internet, he began to learn graphics software. Uğur Gallenkuş lives and works in Istanbul.