Uğur Gallenkuş: A Digital Artist Creating 'Parallel Universes'

Published September 29th, 2020 - 05:26 GMT

Uğur Gallenkuş is an Istanbul-based digital artist of world renown. His collages conscientiously address the widening global divide between the privileged and oppressed, weaving together misery and mirth, wealth and poverty and love and despair. By taking an unflinching look at the realities that surround us through his art, Gallenkuş aims to make a difference in how we understand the lives of others.

What started back in 2015 as a spontaneous reaction to the disturbing image of Aylan Kurdi, a three-year-old Syrian boy whose body washed-up on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea,eventually grew into an ongoing series of brutally honest work. The series by Gallenkuş takes an unflinching look at the highly polarized world we live in.

He learned how to manipulate digital images because he wanted tools to respond to what he witnessed, teaching himself through online tutorials and trial and error. Thus, a white-collar worker by day turned into a self-taught digital artist by night. Gallenkuş cannot fully explain why his artistic side emerged and matured so suddenly—it all happened as if by divine design.

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At the Emergency hospital Najiba holds her nephew Shabir, age 2, who was injured from a bomb blast which killed his sister in Kabul on March 29, 2016. Najiba had to stay with the children as their mother buried her daughter. (ugurgallen/ Instagram)

At the Emergency hospital Najiba holds her nephew Shabir, age 2, who was injured from a bomb blast which killed his sister in Kabul on March 29, 2016. Najiba had to stay with the children as their mother buried her daughter. (ugurgallen/ Instagram)

Firefighters in action to put out a fire inside the Vesuvius National Park on 16 July 2020, Mount Vesuvius, Southern Italy. On Earth, something is always burning. Wildfires are started by lightning or accidentally by people, and people use controlled fires to manage farmland and pasture and clear natural vegetation for farmland. Fires can generate large amounts of smoke pollution, release greenhouse gases, and unintentionally degrade ecosystems.  (ugurgallen/ Instagram)

Firefighters in action to put out a fire inside the Vesuvius National Park on 16 July 2020, Mount Vesuvius, Southern Italy. On Earth, something is always burning. Wildfires are started by lightning or accidentally by people, and people use controlled fires to manage farmland and pasture and clear natural vegetation for farmland. Fires can generate large amounts of smoke pollution, release greenhouse gases, and unintentionally degrade ecosystems. (ugurgallen/ Instagram)

A Doctors Without Borders (MSF), health worker in protective clothing carries a child suspected of having Ebola in the MSF treatment center on October 5, 2014 in Paynesville, Liberia. The girl and her mother, showing symptoms of the deadly disease, were awaiting test results for the virus. The Ebola epidemic has killed more than 3,400 people in West Africa, according to the World Health Organization.  (ugurgallen/ Instagram)

A Doctors Without Borders (MSF), health worker in protective clothing carries a child suspected of having Ebola in the MSF treatment center on October 5, 2014 in Paynesville, Liberia. The girl and her mother, showing symptoms of the deadly disease, were awaiting test results for the virus. The Ebola epidemic has killed more than 3,400 people in West Africa, according to the World Health Organization. (ugurgallen/ Instagram)

146 people rescued by MOAS (the Migrant Offshore Aid Station) on 24 November 2016 in the Mediterranean Sea. They were disembarked in Pozzallo on the 27th November.  During our history as Homo sapiens, we have become refugees due to economic, natural disasters, wars and political events. One day we can all be or will be refugees. (ugurgallen/ Instagram)

146 people rescued by MOAS (the Migrant Offshore Aid Station) on 24 November 2016 in the Mediterranean Sea. They were disembarked in Pozzallo on the 27th November. During our history as Homo sapiens, we have become refugees due to economic, natural disasters, wars and political events. One day we can all be or will be refugees. (ugurgallen/ Instagram)

An Iraqi man comforts his 4-year-old son at a holding center for prisoners of war, in the base camp of the US Army 101st Airborne Division near An Najaf. The boy had become terrified when, according to orders, his father was hooded and handcuffed. A US soldier later severed the plastic handcuffs so that the man could comfort his child. Hoods were placed over detainees' heads because they were quicker to apply than blindfolds. (ugurgallen/ Instagram)

An Iraqi man comforts his 4-year-old son at a holding center for prisoners of war, in the base camp of the US Army 101st Airborne Division near An Najaf. The boy had become terrified when, according to orders, his father was hooded and handcuffed. A US soldier later severed the plastic handcuffs so that the man could comfort his child. Hoods were placed over detainees' heads because they were quicker to apply than blindfolds. (ugurgallen/ Instagram)

Verified Salem Saoody, 30, is getting his daughter Layan (L) and his niece Shaymaa 5 (R) in the only remaining piece from their damaged house, which is the bathing tub after Israeli airstrike. 2015, Gaza. (ugurgallen/ Instagram)

Verified Salem Saoody, 30, is getting his daughter Layan (L) and his niece Shaymaa 5 (R) in the only remaining piece from their damaged house, which is the bathing tub after Israeli airstrike. 2015, Gaza. (ugurgallen/ Instagram)

A Turkish riot policeman beats a protestor in a field during a demonstration at Dicle University, in Diyarbakir, on April 9, 2013. Leftist students protest after a clash between left and right-wing groups at Dicle University.  Police brutality or police violence is legally defined as a civil rights violation where officers exercise undue or excessive force against a civilian. This includes, but is not limited to, physical or verbal harassment, physical or mental injury, property damage, and death.(Instagram

A Turkish riot policeman beats a protestor in a field during a demonstration at Dicle University, in Diyarbakir, on April 9, 2013. Leftist students protest after a clash between left and right-wing groups at Dicle University. Police brutality or police violence is legally defined as a civil rights violation where officers exercise undue or excessive force against a civilian. This includes, but is not limited to, physical or verbal harassment, physical or mental injury, property damage, and death. (ugurgallen/ Instagram)

Syrian children run with balloons past heavily damaged buildings in the neighbourhood of Jobar, on the eastern outskirts of the Syrian capital Damascus on April 9, 2016. (ugurgallen/ Instagram)

Syrian children run with balloons past heavily damaged buildings in the neighbourhood of Jobar, on the eastern outskirts of the Syrian capital Damascus on April 9, 2016. (ugurgallen/ Instagram)

Refugees and Migrants aboard fishing boat drived by smugglers reach the Greek Island coast of Lesbos after crossing the Aegean sea from Turkey on October 11, 2015.  At the end of 2015, in an agreement between the European Union and Turkey, Turkey agreed to prevent migrants from crossing into Europe on the condition of some terms and payment of 3 billion euros. As a result of this obstruction, the migrants forced to chose to reach Europe through the Aegean Seaa by illegals means. (ugurgallen/ Instagram)

Refugees and Migrants aboard fishing boat drived by smugglers reach the Greek Island coast of Lesbos after crossing the Aegean sea from Turkey on October 11, 2015. At the end of 2015, in an agreement between the European Union and Turkey, Turkey agreed to prevent migrants from crossing into Europe on the condition of some terms and payment of 3 billion euros. As a result of this obstruction, the migrants forced to chose to reach Europe through the Aegean Seaa by illegals means. (ugurgallen/ Instagram)

At the Emergency hospital Najiba holds her nephew Shabir, age 2, who was injured from a bomb blast which killed his sister in Kabul on March 29, 2016. Najiba had to stay with the children as their mother buried her daughter. (ugurgallen/ Instagram)
Firefighters in action to put out a fire inside the Vesuvius National Park on 16 July 2020, Mount Vesuvius, Southern Italy. On Earth, something is always burning. Wildfires are started by lightning or accidentally by people, and people use controlled fires to manage farmland and pasture and clear natural vegetation for farmland. Fires can generate large amounts of smoke pollution, release greenhouse gases, and unintentionally degrade ecosystems.  (ugurgallen/ Instagram)
A Doctors Without Borders (MSF), health worker in protective clothing carries a child suspected of having Ebola in the MSF treatment center on October 5, 2014 in Paynesville, Liberia. The girl and her mother, showing symptoms of the deadly disease, were awaiting test results for the virus. The Ebola epidemic has killed more than 3,400 people in West Africa, according to the World Health Organization.  (ugurgallen/ Instagram)
146 people rescued by MOAS (the Migrant Offshore Aid Station) on 24 November 2016 in the Mediterranean Sea. They were disembarked in Pozzallo on the 27th November.  During our history as Homo sapiens, we have become refugees due to economic, natural disasters, wars and political events. One day we can all be or will be refugees. (ugurgallen/ Instagram)
An Iraqi man comforts his 4-year-old son at a holding center for prisoners of war, in the base camp of the US Army 101st Airborne Division near An Najaf. The boy had become terrified when, according to orders, his father was hooded and handcuffed. A US soldier later severed the plastic handcuffs so that the man could comfort his child. Hoods were placed over detainees' heads because they were quicker to apply than blindfolds. (ugurgallen/ Instagram)
Verified Salem Saoody, 30, is getting his daughter Layan (L) and his niece Shaymaa 5 (R) in the only remaining piece from their damaged house, which is the bathing tub after Israeli airstrike. 2015, Gaza. (ugurgallen/ Instagram)
A Turkish riot policeman beats a protestor in a field during a demonstration at Dicle University, in Diyarbakir, on April 9, 2013. Leftist students protest after a clash between left and right-wing groups at Dicle University.  Police brutality or police violence is legally defined as a civil rights violation where officers exercise undue or excessive force against a civilian. This includes, but is not limited to, physical or verbal harassment, physical or mental injury, property damage, and death.(Instagram
Syrian children run with balloons past heavily damaged buildings in the neighbourhood of Jobar, on the eastern outskirts of the Syrian capital Damascus on April 9, 2016. (ugurgallen/ Instagram)
Refugees and Migrants aboard fishing boat drived by smugglers reach the Greek Island coast of Lesbos after crossing the Aegean sea from Turkey on October 11, 2015.  At the end of 2015, in an agreement between the European Union and Turkey, Turkey agreed to prevent migrants from crossing into Europe on the condition of some terms and payment of 3 billion euros. As a result of this obstruction, the migrants forced to chose to reach Europe through the Aegean Seaa by illegals means. (ugurgallen/ Instagram)
At the Emergency hospital Najiba holds her nephew Shabir, age 2, who was injured from a bomb blast which killed his sister in Kabul on March 29, 2016. Najiba had to stay with the children as their mother buried her daughter. (ugurgallen/ Instagram)
At the Emergency hospital Najiba holds her nephew Shabir, age 2, who was injured from a bomb blast which killed his sister in Kabul on March 29, 2016. Najiba had to stay with the children as their mother buried her daughter. (ugurgallen/ Instagram)
Firefighters in action to put out a fire inside the Vesuvius National Park on 16 July 2020, Mount Vesuvius, Southern Italy. On Earth, something is always burning. Wildfires are started by lightning or accidentally by people, and people use controlled fires to manage farmland and pasture and clear natural vegetation for farmland. Fires can generate large amounts of smoke pollution, release greenhouse gases, and unintentionally degrade ecosystems.  (ugurgallen/ Instagram)
Firefighters in action to put out a fire inside the Vesuvius National Park on 16 July 2020, Mount Vesuvius, Southern Italy. On Earth, something is always burning. Wildfires are started by lightning or accidentally by people, and people use controlled fires to manage farmland and pasture and clear natural vegetation for farmland. Fires can generate large amounts of smoke pollution, release greenhouse gases, and unintentionally degrade ecosystems. (ugurgallen/ Instagram)
A Doctors Without Borders (MSF), health worker in protective clothing carries a child suspected of having Ebola in the MSF treatment center on October 5, 2014 in Paynesville, Liberia. The girl and her mother, showing symptoms of the deadly disease, were awaiting test results for the virus. The Ebola epidemic has killed more than 3,400 people in West Africa, according to the World Health Organization.  (ugurgallen/ Instagram)
A Doctors Without Borders (MSF), health worker in protective clothing carries a child suspected of having Ebola in the MSF treatment center on October 5, 2014 in Paynesville, Liberia. The girl and her mother, showing symptoms of the deadly disease, were awaiting test results for the virus. The Ebola epidemic has killed more than 3,400 people in West Africa, according to the World Health Organization. (ugurgallen/ Instagram)
146 people rescued by MOAS (the Migrant Offshore Aid Station) on 24 November 2016 in the Mediterranean Sea. They were disembarked in Pozzallo on the 27th November.  During our history as Homo sapiens, we have become refugees due to economic, natural disasters, wars and political events. One day we can all be or will be refugees. (ugurgallen/ Instagram)
146 people rescued by MOAS (the Migrant Offshore Aid Station) on 24 November 2016 in the Mediterranean Sea. They were disembarked in Pozzallo on the 27th November. During our history as Homo sapiens, we have become refugees due to economic, natural disasters, wars and political events. One day we can all be or will be refugees. (ugurgallen/ Instagram)
An Iraqi man comforts his 4-year-old son at a holding center for prisoners of war, in the base camp of the US Army 101st Airborne Division near An Najaf. The boy had become terrified when, according to orders, his father was hooded and handcuffed. A US soldier later severed the plastic handcuffs so that the man could comfort his child. Hoods were placed over detainees' heads because they were quicker to apply than blindfolds. (ugurgallen/ Instagram)
An Iraqi man comforts his 4-year-old son at a holding center for prisoners of war, in the base camp of the US Army 101st Airborne Division near An Najaf. The boy had become terrified when, according to orders, his father was hooded and handcuffed. A US soldier later severed the plastic handcuffs so that the man could comfort his child. Hoods were placed over detainees' heads because they were quicker to apply than blindfolds. (ugurgallen/ Instagram)
Verified Salem Saoody, 30, is getting his daughter Layan (L) and his niece Shaymaa 5 (R) in the only remaining piece from their damaged house, which is the bathing tub after Israeli airstrike. 2015, Gaza. (ugurgallen/ Instagram)
Verified Salem Saoody, 30, is getting his daughter Layan (L) and his niece Shaymaa 5 (R) in the only remaining piece from their damaged house, which is the bathing tub after Israeli airstrike. 2015, Gaza. (ugurgallen/ Instagram)
A Turkish riot policeman beats a protestor in a field during a demonstration at Dicle University, in Diyarbakir, on April 9, 2013. Leftist students protest after a clash between left and right-wing groups at Dicle University.  Police brutality or police violence is legally defined as a civil rights violation where officers exercise undue or excessive force against a civilian. This includes, but is not limited to, physical or verbal harassment, physical or mental injury, property damage, and death.(Instagram
A Turkish riot policeman beats a protestor in a field during a demonstration at Dicle University, in Diyarbakir, on April 9, 2013. Leftist students protest after a clash between left and right-wing groups at Dicle University. Police brutality or police violence is legally defined as a civil rights violation where officers exercise undue or excessive force against a civilian. This includes, but is not limited to, physical or verbal harassment, physical or mental injury, property damage, and death. (ugurgallen/ Instagram)
Syrian children run with balloons past heavily damaged buildings in the neighbourhood of Jobar, on the eastern outskirts of the Syrian capital Damascus on April 9, 2016. (ugurgallen/ Instagram)
Syrian children run with balloons past heavily damaged buildings in the neighbourhood of Jobar, on the eastern outskirts of the Syrian capital Damascus on April 9, 2016. (ugurgallen/ Instagram)
Refugees and Migrants aboard fishing boat drived by smugglers reach the Greek Island coast of Lesbos after crossing the Aegean sea from Turkey on October 11, 2015.  At the end of 2015, in an agreement between the European Union and Turkey, Turkey agreed to prevent migrants from crossing into Europe on the condition of some terms and payment of 3 billion euros. As a result of this obstruction, the migrants forced to chose to reach Europe through the Aegean Seaa by illegals means. (ugurgallen/ Instagram)
Refugees and Migrants aboard fishing boat drived by smugglers reach the Greek Island coast of Lesbos after crossing the Aegean sea from Turkey on October 11, 2015. At the end of 2015, in an agreement between the European Union and Turkey, Turkey agreed to prevent migrants from crossing into Europe on the condition of some terms and payment of 3 billion euros. As a result of this obstruction, the migrants forced to chose to reach Europe through the Aegean Seaa by illegals means. (ugurgallen/ Instagram)