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Illuminated Darkness

Yasam Sasmazer’s new series of works combines the concepts of autonomous sculpture with those of the shadow theater. A single spotlight illuminates the carved and painted wooden figures from the front in such a way that they cast large, clear, pictorial shadows on the wall behind them. This immaterial image is not only an integral, formal element of its installation and organization in space; it also communicates an essential dimension of the work’s content. 

Born in Istanbul in 1980, Sasmazer is a sculptor whose attention to the proverbial dark, repressed side of our existence draws reference to the writings of Carl Gustav Jung and his descriptions of the literally dark, repressed side of our existence. Psychologically speaking, these shadows signify certain characteristics, thoughts and feelings of an individual that society considers impulsive, negative, or destructive, but which also belong to the personality as a whole. Sasmazer transposes this discourse into the bodies and psyches of child-like figures still in the process of an early, largely “innocent” stage of their personality development. The children are about the same age as elementary school students, at a phase in which they still have no concrete boundaries between reality and fiction and, when left alone in the dark, are haunted by rudimentary fears of ghosts and other creatures of the night.  

The immediately, illustrative nature of Sasmazer’s works feeds to a large degree on motifs normally associated with children and the relationship between fantasy and factuality that these entail: latent anxieties are manifested as shadow projections extending beyond the figures, appearing to haunt them like nocturnal demons. And yet a subtle ambivalence is inscribed in them at the same time: an allusion to the way that the infantile psyche is dependent on the absence of light – a light that floods the front of their bodies. 

There are no shadows without objects to cast them!


Dr. Marc Wellman

Curator, Art Historian

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