Parallel Universe

Uğur Gallenkuş reveals the paradox of human life in a series of raw and evoking juxtaposed pieces.

For some, art is a representation of beauty, intricacy, detail. For others, art is a tool. With over half a million followers on Instagram and thousands more on Facebook and Twitter, Turkish artist Uğur Gallenkuş has shaken the internet with his powerful work. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. But the Parallel Universe series, leaves you speechless. Global Citizen dives into an exclusive with the artist that is stirring a vast reaction from millions around the world.

What first inspired you to create this kind of work?

I have always done collages as a hobby. But in 2015 I saw an image that triggered a lot of grief; a 3-year-old refugee boy, Aylan Kurdi, drowned trying to cross the Aegean Sea. A few months after the death of baby Aylan, I saw the fear and desperation in the eyes of the children in a refugee caravan and I knew I wanted to find a way to express their situation in an artform. This is how I started the Parallel Universe collection.

What was the most pivotal piece you’ve created?

It’s hard to say. They are all powerful in their own way. I think an important piece in my collection that has made a big impact with the public is the Wonder Girl, a young girl smiling in a superhero costume, contrasted with a wounded Syrian girl at a make-shift hospital in the rebel-held area of Douma.

Did you expect such a response from the online community when you first started this collection?

No, I never expected anything like this. It was a surprise for me. My goal is to get people to empathize, so this is proof that more people are sensible to these current issues than we think.

Why do you think your work is able to touch so many people from around the world?

We can all be immigrants. Most of us already are. I think my work touches many different people because they can all relate to the message. We have all escaped something to come to the countries we currently live in. And, maybe we’re happy and peaceful right now, but no one knows what can happen in the future.

What is your opinion on the future of global issues relating to human migration and the refugee crisis?

Mass migrations are likely to be growing further in the coming years, because people will need to migrate to find better conditions. Moving towards a better life is something humans have done for generations to survive, so it these issues can continue for many years to come as a result of economic and political instability or mass movements to escape war.

In your experience, how does art create a movement around the world?

I think art is an important tool in awakening societies and raising awareness. Art is the master of all languages. You don’t need to understand Turkish or to speak English to understand what I want to say through my work. It’s a simple technique with a very powerful message.