Born in Istanbul, Semra Özümerzifon graduated from Robert College in 1970. Moving to Switzerland, she attended Geneva Academy of Fine-Arts studying painting and drawing. She had individual exhibitions in Turkey and in many European cities, and participated in International Art Fairs. She won awards at international art competitions in France and Italy, and was attributed the titles of “Associate Academician” and “Academic Knight” by International Academy Greci-Marino and Academy of Verbano. After returning to Turkey in 2007, she started working with mixed media, using mainly discarded fishing nets in their original colors.
Her project, “Network From Rumelikavagı to Anatolia”, which is being exhibited in many Anatolian cities comprises her 3D tableaux and sculptural work side by side with photographs of fishing villages (by Kemal Sirin), portraying the inspiration behind the works.
After the olive grove incident that occurred in 2014 in a small Aegean town called Yirca, she started to work on a metal sculpture expressing her distress on this occasion. 6000 olive trees had been uprooted in one night by a firm intending to build a thermal power plant on the terrain. The villagers who tried to protect the trees were badly beaten. The incident was covered widely by the press. The hastily obtained expropriation decision by the firm was cancelled the next day by the Council of State, but the damage had already been done. She also worked on many drawings on the subject. These drawings and the sculpture were exhibited in The Gallery Rooms Gallery, Istanbul in 2017. Sixty of these drawings were reproduced in a limited edition book titled Mühür Gözlüm, 500 copies, comprising a short novel by Izzeddin Çalışlar, and an etching depicting the original drawing of the sculpture. She continues creating metal sculptures of old olive trees with the aim of emphasizing their dignity and preciousness.
Artists Statement in the Context of Works with Fishnets
Themes of my work, either in two dimensional paintings or in three dimensional forms, change over time. My inner emotions, experiences and perceptions, are converted into an artistic expression through color, texture and form. Whether in the series of « Tears of Bosnia » which was inspired by sad social events, or in the series of « Whirling Dervishes » depicting divine spiritual thoughts carrying me gradually from figurative to abstract in oil painting, I always concentrated on color and texture.
As I tended towards sculptural forms in recent years, color and texture still persisted in my work as a result of my long history of oil painting. As form and content developed I found it quite appealing to use media other than paint to obtain color and texture which had the potential to contribute to artistic expression. This led to a natural passage from two to three dimensional works. Fishnets captured my attention with their textures and rich color and plastic potential. I collected them from fishing villages around Istanbul. Combining them with other materials, I experimented in the search of a new artistic language. My first experiments gave way to 3D tableaux as I worked in layers. I did not paint over the fishnets because as collected from the fishermen, their colors were already rich and varied with the potential of conveying an "enduring" feeling. As the depth of three dimensional works increased, transparence and textural elements augmented and improved the plastic expression. Wishing to emphasize depth and transparency, I used iron frame structures thus creating « soft sculptures». In contrast to media that exploit modern technological devices which are used widely in contemporary art, fishnets remain modest. In my compositions they recede from their traditional functions and find a completely new identity. Recycled fishnets in parallel to their new identity as an artistic expression, still continue reflecting their own message in the background, by bringing to mind environmental and sustainability problems, pollution of waters and extinction of species. I think this nature of fishnets adds a conceptual aspect to my work and enriches its expression.