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 deeply personal. It is how I process life’s experiences, learn about myself and about the world, understand what has left a mark and what has moved me. It serves as a guide to make sense of the feelings I have felt, didn’t know I had, and bring up what I have sometimes forgotten.
My work is emotionally driven and guided by intuition. Everything from the materials I use to the process are all chosen based on what feels right in the moment. It is a practice in being authentic, digging into the layers of emotions and memories that reside in that space, and trusting myself.
My work is my meditation. It is more about the process more than the end result. It is my source of calm, clarity, and inner wisdom. With my work, I seek to travel to the innermost depth of my existence, exploring the landscape between the seen, the remembered, and the imagined.
My work is about honoring the wabi sabi of life – the imperfection, the impermanence, the incomplete. Everything I create is a relic, a memento; celebrating a moment and place in time. I find heartbreaking beauty in decay, in the radiant wisdom of things/places/people that have history, that are worn, imperfect, and broken-in. That energy of knowing, of generations and experiences vibrating from within, that only develop over time.
My work evolves with me and changes as I do. It has cycled through many iterations and that journey represents my history. I first found my voice many years ago by mixing media with handmade tools to build up layers, colors, textures and shapes, sometimes integrating textiles, found materials, and construction materials. This multi-layered process mirrored my biology, my biography, and how I saw the world.
These days my work is more minimalist, conceptual, and symbolic than in years past – a product of motherhood and time. I believe I can say more, with less. And while personal, I hope my work connects with and sparks something within you too.
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.