Filiz was born in 1979 in Belgium to a Turkish father and Swedish mother. By the age of 5 she knew that visual art was her calling - a way of communication, expression, and processing life's experiences and memories. Her heritage, travels, and wanderlust provide continuous inspiration and perspective.
She spent most of her childhood in Europe and Japan, before living in the Northeast U.S. After earning a B.A. in Visual Art from the University of Vermont, and a M.Ed. in Visual Art Education from Lesley University, Filiz spent a year in Jordan, and another year in Barbados teaching art and design, before moving to Brooklyn, New York in 2010.
Since beginning her professional art career in 2000, Filiz's work has been widely exhibited and collected internationally, and is included in permanent museum collections. She has a background in design in graphic arts that spilled over into textiles and apparel. Filiz also spent over 10 years working in the education field as a classroom teacher (art, design, painting, animation, computer graphics), curriculum writer, education program developer and strategist for students of all ages and abilities.
In 2017 she moved with her husband and daughter from Brooklyn, to Hudson, New York in search of a more grounded, conscious, and creative lifestyle.
My work is personal. My work is how my intuition and deep self speaks, processes life and sees the world. My work evolves with me and changes as I do. It is has shifted with each life moment, change, transition, and growth.
Recurring themes of my work are memory, place, and time. Emotion and internal energy are key drivers of my process and practice.
Each piece is a relic, a memento, a deconstructed story; exploring the landscape between the seen, the remembered, and the imagined. I am drawn to and inspired by people and places of time, heritage, history... those that radiate wisdom; well-worn and lived-in. I find beauty in decay. That energy of knowing, of generations and experiences vibrating from within that only amass over time. My work prior to 2017 works to honor and express a visual history of that wisdom, raw emotion, knowledge, and memory in a way that has never before been told.
I work primarily with water-based paints and inks but most of my work is mixed media integrating textiles, collage, and construction materials. It is comforting to become skilled and familiar with your tools and mediums, but I believe that it is also a sign to begin to work with tools and materials in new ways. While paints, worn brushes, handmade scrapers, remnants of torn paper, pencils and pastels, are all tools and materials I use, my intuition is the most important tool of all. It serves as a the guide to process the experiences that have moved me, places I’ve been to, people I’ve met, stories I’ve heard, and make sense of the moments and feelings I have felt, didn’t know I had, and sometimes forgotten.
After I became a mother in 2016, so much changed. I had changed, my brain had changed, my life had changed... and so naturally did my work. For the first year I actually didn't have time to work. I didn't think or feel the same as before. My old process didn't work anymore, and while my mind was foggy with sleep, I kept hearing and listening to my heart. My process and materials changed with my new logistical parameters on time and space. They simplified. Dramatically.
Over time I rediscovered that my creative practice was not only my foundation and therapy through another major life transition, but also my teacher. I learned about my life, my new identity, my emotions, and what I felt and thought, through my work. It became my source of calm, clarity, and a way to catch my breath.
My creative practice became my meditation. My work helped me slow down and breathe again. It helped me find stillness.
This is how Unu Spiro, my one breath paintings, were born. See and connect with the work here.
2017 Valley Variety, Hudson/NY, USA
2016 Pencil Factory, Greenpoint Open Studios, Brooklyn/NY, USA
2015 2 pr 'Chora', Fort Point Community Arts Gallery – Boston/MA, USA
2014 solo 'Relic', Exhibit A – Greenpoint, Brooklyn/NY, USA
2011 solo 'Passages Remembered’ Giacobetti Paul Gallery – DUMBO, Brooklyn/NY, USA
2008 solo 'Impressions' Zara Gallery – Amman, Jordan
2007 solo The Churchill Gallery – Newburyport/MA, USA
2007 Porter Square Hall, Lesley University – Cambridge/MA, USA
2007 ‘Wanderlust’ Gallery Anthony Curtis – Boston/MA, USA
2006 3 Women-Abstract, Chase Gallery – Boston/MA, USA
2006 solo ‘Fusions: Filiz emma Soyak’ Modern Eye Gallery – Charlotte/NC, USA
2006 Fort Point Open Studios – Boston/MA, USA
2005 solo Southern Vermont Arts Center – Manchester/VT, USA
2005 ‘2 Women, 2 Coasts: Filiz emma Soyak & Catherine Woskow’ Modern Eye Gallery –
2004 ‘Abstraction Today’ Modern Eye Gallery – Charlotte/NC, USA
2004 'Introductions' Modern Eye Gallery – Charlotte/NC, USA
2004 solo Art House – Charlotte/NC, USA
2004 solo Art Institute of Charlotte – Charlotte/NC, USA
2003 solo 'Striving to be Conscious' Gallery Ef – Tokyo, Japan
2003 Sage, Out of the Blue Art Gallery – Boston/MA, USA
2002 solo Sky Lounge, Vision Network Complex – Tokyo, Japan
workshops + festivals
2009 Gaza Mural Painting for Peace Symposium – Amman, Jordan
2008 Mixed Media Art Workshop - Framingham State College, Framingham, Massachusetts, USA
2006 “ART is Biz” Workshop - Mass College of Art, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
Guest Speaker/Lecturer in how art career coaching workshop series for alumni and college students
2003 Swedish Style Design Festival – Tokyo, Japan
Invited to participate in annual week-long art & design event by Swedish embassy promoting designs, music, film & art of Sweden in Japan
2013-present SaatchiArt – USA
2012-2017 Artsicle – USA
2008-2017 Zara Gallery – Amman, Jordan
2008-present Jacaranda Images – Amman, Jordan
2007-08 The Churchill Gallery – Newburyport, Massachusetts, USA
2006-07 Chase Gallery - Boston, Massachusetts, USA
2004-06 Modern Eye Gallery – Charlotte, North Carolina, USA
2003 Gallery Ef – Tokyo, Japan
2003-05 Interior Collections – Tokyo, Japan
Kamei Museum – Sendai, Japan
Miyagi Museum – Ibaraki prefecture, Japan
2005-17 Fort Point Art Community – Boston/MA
2006-11 NAEA (National Art Education Association) - USA
2007-08 The Pen & Brush Organization – New York City/NY
2005-06 FPAC Gallery Committee – Boston/MA
2003-05 Guild of Charlotte Artists – Charlotte/NC
2002-04 Newton Art Association – Newton/MA
publications + recognition
2008 Interview – JO Magazine, November, Amman/Jordan
2008 Review - Canvas Guide, November, Amman/Jordan
2008 Interview - Alrai Newspaper, November 27, Amman/Jordan
2007 Review - Boston Metro, May, Boston/MA/USA
2006 Interview ‘10 from 20 to 30’ - Boston Globe, November 19, Boston/MA
2006 ‘Welcome to our world’ – Sidekick: Boston Globe, Friday, June 16, Boston/MA
2006 ‘The fine art of throwing a party’ - Boston Globe, January 8, Boston/MA
2004 Honorable mention - Guild of Charlotte Artists’ juried exhibition, Charlotte/NC
2003 Interview/Review - Daily Yomiuri newspaper, October 23, Tokyo/Japan
2003 Review - Metropolis magazine, October 17, Tokyo/Japan
2003 Interview ‘A New Perspective...Transcends Cultural Difference’ - Brain magazine, August, Tokyo/Japan
2003 Interview ‘Reflecting Multiculturalism to New Horizon’- Ryuko-Tsushin magazine, June, Tokyo/Japan 2002 Review - Metropolis magazine, May 3, Tokyo/Japan
The Boston Globe, 2006: Ten From 20 to 30
In 2006, Filiz was interviewed by local journalist Scott LaPierre of The Boston Globe for his video story on ten twenty-somethings who were helping define Boston.
'They live in Boston for reasons as diverse as their interests. For Filiz Soyak , 26, an up-and-coming artist living and painting in the Fort Point artists' community, Boston's advantage is the way so much culture and diversity is packed into the relatively small area it occupies.
"It's a city, but it's not huge, it's not overwhelming," she said. "Boston's a little slow, yet it has so many cultures, so many neighborhoods, and everything has its own personality."'
Daily Yomiuri, 2003: Soyak's Art Covers Here, There and Everywhere
While living back in Tokyo, after the opening of Filiz's 2003 "Striving to be Conscious" solo show at Gallery Ef, Japan's Daily Yomiuri staff writer Annabel Wright sat down with her to learn more about Filiz, her work and the show.
Filiz Emma Soyak refuses to fit neatly into any of the categories some may be tempted to apply to her. Born in Belgium to a Turkish father and Swedish mother, raised partly in Japan and currently a resident of North Carolina, she embodies a new breed of artist whose influences, although specific, are global.
"When people ask me, 'Oh, where are you from?' I usually give them a short version," Soyak, 23, said in an interview with The Daily Yomiuri. "I feel like I have a mixture of everything. I don't feel typically Swedish. I don't feel typically Turkish...And then I grew up here in Japan."
This mosaic background has given her more than just a smattering of three or four languages and the enviable opportunity to travel the world at a relatively young age--it has also provided her with creative material and a means of looking at the world based on the notion of cultural give and take.
The paintings in Soyak's current exhibition, Striving to be Conscious, which is being shown as part of Swedish Style Tokyo 2003, embody the artist's multicultural background and emphasize the role Japan and the Japanese love of tradition continue to play in her work and her life.
Although Soyak's art is principally abstract, her paintings are clearly Japan-influenced, often incorporating elements such as kanji and washi paper and traditional images such as wagasa paper umbrellas and kabuki. Among the most striking of these is Aka, in which the red eyes, red pouted lips and blood-red robe of a kabuki actor stand out in vivid contrast to his chalky face and black hair.
Soyak makes similar exuberant use of color to create mood in all her works, layering on her paints and scratching at the surface of her canvases to give them a murky and sometimes jeweled depth that glows in the dim confines of the exhibition space.
"I've always been influenced with color, so color is always prominent in my work. I'm a very emotional painter," she said. "I think the reason I love to paint is because it's an emotional outlet for me."
Perhaps because of this approach, the exhibition as a whole conveys the enthusiasm that characterizes Soyak's art and her eagerness to reach a broad audience. This is also one of the reasons she chose Gallery ef, a former warehouse built in 1868, despite its relatively out-of the-way location in Asakusa.
"I like alternative spaces because that way you can really get accidental viewers," Soyak said. "And yeah, it's not an art gallery district, but the point of this show is not 'Art Gallery.' I didn't want it in a regular, plain white gallery. I wanted it to be immersed in the culture, because that's sort of my message--to appreciate little things."
On occasion, Soyak's eagerness to engage the viewer verges on heavy-handedness: Chu, a work composed around a kanji character used in a combination expressing "combining elements," is less effective at conveying the principle of balance and interconnectedness behind her art than other pieces that make more subtle use of washi paper and Japanese printed materials.
But most of the canvases are less direct and demand more from the viewer in terms of imaginative interpretation. One of these, Shinjuku Static, a frenetic, abstract composition of brightly colored blocks at abrupt intersections, will be instantly familiar to viewers living in Tokyo.