Levent Tuncer is a Turkish-American artist with studios in Brooklyn, New York and Tampa, Florida. Born in Edirne, Turkey, as a young man he moved to London where he attended St. Martins School of Art and graduated from the Hornsey School of Art. He won a full scholarship to the University of Hartford, Connecticut, and there earned his MFA in painting. He has received grants from the Pollock-Krasner Foundation and Artists’ Space (NYC) and has twice been a fellow at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts.
Tuncer has exhibited nationally and internationally for the past four decades, including venues in the Netherlands, Ireland, Kuwait, Dubai, and Colombia as well as the United States. In 2007 he created 22 paintings measuring 142 linear feet for the University Church in Dublin, Ireland, a joint commission from the church and the Irish government.
Recent exhibitions include “Come Together: Surviving Sandy” (2013, a Brooklyn show); “Talisman,” at the Painting Center in Manhattan in 2015; and “In the Shadows: Contemporary Artists and Obsessive Memory” (2015, Western Michigan University). A complete list of solo and group shows can be found on his résumé.
Tuncer’s paintings often draw heavily from and reinterpret stylizations within the history of art. However, he looks beyond the formal rules of drawing and design to his inner psyche, often conjuring his painting out of what he calls a “Proustian space” — that state between sleep and wakefulness where memories fluoresce and shift. The parameters of this state of consciousness are malleable and porous, like memory itself.
Taken as whole, Tuncer’s body of work establishes a dialogue about cultural dualities using imagery derived from art, architecture, tiling and textile designs. These elements become emblematic of his cross-cultural themes. For example, in his extensive History/Fiction series, Tuncer works with a single sixteenth century Iznik tile design, repeating and altering it, superimposing various geometric systems on it, thus creating a complex visual equivalent of cultural disjuncture. In painterly language he subverts the pattern’s repetitive rigidity and forces it to evolve from their original historical context. Using similar techniques, he also explores dualities inherent in all cultures: order and disorder, past and present, repetition and change. His paintings are intuitive and psychological, the figurations accomplished and compelling.
His current work, Jinndom, a series of mostly large black-and-white oil paintings on canvas, is inspired by an anonymous fifteenth century Iranian drawing. This series explores and exploits the mythical jinns which people eastern lore from China and Japan to the Middle-East and Turkey. Sometimes delicate and ethereal, other times bold and ominous, the imagery in Jinndom purposefully invites viewers to discover their own creaturely presences or jinns. The paintings slowly disclose a multilayered and animated reality.
Luckily for his viewers, Tuncer’s talent involves beauty. It is not his primary goal. He achieves it almost incidentally and always in the service of his deeper fascinations and obsessions. He is a painter of immense technical ability whose conceptual powers match his masterly control and subtlety.