‘So They Were All Mad’ by Hulki Okan Tabak

CAN Review

The work of Hulki Okan Tabak is rooted in experimentation, both in terms of subject matter as well as the myriad forms of visual aesthetic that he employs in his work. His artwork ‘So They Were All Mad’, exemplifies the deep-seated interplay between original image and digital manipulation that lies at the heart of the work as the image reveals subtle hints and suggestions that this was once a portrait of someone. An eye reveals itself, a symmetrical downcast mouth suggests inner turmoil and the colour palette is rich with deep hues of colour and texture. The image makes us wonder as to the mental state of this character, and perhaps the affect that others may have had on it. The description that accompanies the image provides further exposition:

So They Were All Mad. So are we not? Isn’t normality defined by the majority? So what if the majority was of unsound mind?

So They Were All Mad is the thin multi-color line where one hangs on to his/her sanity under great stress. To me the work looks deceptively good, almost theatrical and so dangerous in the borderline condition it harbors.

As part of a series, it is a piece built on upon the various works of the Jewish surrealist painter Felix Nussbaum. He was born 1904 in Osnabruck and died 1944 with his wife, in the Auschwitz concentration camp. As of 2015, Nussbaum’s work entered public domain.


The description above reveals a horrifiying truth behind the fractured image and makes us question how society can allow such persecution and hate to thrive. Where one twisted ideology can lead to the death of millions.

While this particular piece drives home a very powerful message, other works contain overtly humorous messages, such as ‘How Much Will You Pay’ (See below). The willingness to experiment not only with visual aesthetic but also the conceptual aspects of each piece ensures that Hulki’s work is eclectic in form and concept, enabling him to respond to historical events, literature and contemporary issues whenever the inspiration takes hold. His third featured image ‘The Funky One’ lies somewhere between the two previous artworks, taking the almost innocent symbol of a rabbit and subverting it with a sense of the demonic. This is an artist whose work demands your attention!

Artist interview

Hulki Okan Tabak

Social Media Links
Twitter: @hotabak
Instagram: @hulkiokantabak
Known Origin – https://www.knownorigin.io/hulki-okan-tabak

Background as an artist
I’m a self trained photographer back from high school days before digital, in the era of darkrooms and enlargers. Photography in particular has been something that was always more than a hobby over the last 30+ years, but it was after 2017 that I had more time personally to do more of it. Subsequently 2020 was a turning point when I decided to bring both my previous work and a new perspective in creating and delivering art consistently on a daily basis on the blockchain.

What is your overall process in generating art?
For me the starting point is having the first image. It is mostly my own photography and I recently started using royalty free images or tools like Artbreeder to generate imagery. Therefore at the first stage there is the decision of what and how to shoot. Then there comes a process of working with raw images where aesthetics play a more central role for me. At that stage, the original idea might die out as well. After first edit, I do subsequent edits on the same image or in combination with other images to arrive at the final artwork. While this was all still imagery prior to 2020, with cryptoart, I enjoy dabbling in videos and gifs to create stuff that I like to watch afterwards myself.

How would you describe your art in your own words?
I think it is eclectic as it reflects my outlook on life. Just as I am skeptical of absolutes and disdainful of deterministic outcomes, what I create tends to be a lot of breaking things apart and re-assembling them in new forms and in new way of seeing. I switch almost unconsciously between stricter forms and experimental work that has a logic of its own. I seldom take notes on process as I want to retain a level of uniqueness in at least a part of my work. I also am abundantly productive so I am churning out a lot of art I want to share and given the current demand, I feel I need more outlets and more eyes.

How did you discover Crypto Art NFTs?
I think it was my Twitter feed mid 2020 chattering about NFTs. Then I decided to learn about it and researched a bit. First I started collecting some artwork and then when I felt at ease with the mechanics of the space I started creating. I wanted to be on most platforms pretty much like most people. However the KnownOrigin team, was I think, the more daring one to accept someone not from art scene or plainly someone whose sales potential was unknown. I respect that.

Has the digital nature of cryptoart NFTs changed how you approach your art practice?
It allowed me freedom. As I lack formal education in arts, it is relatively easy to ‘bully’ me about the aesthetics and the rules. I do not really care that much but it made life harder when I tried to get artwork published prior to NFTs. I’ll give a hat tip to royalty free sites Unsplash and Pixabay to motivate me and Saatchi Art as a flexible platform to publish work. However I was still constrained in form to more straightforward photography. Cryptoart and NFTs allowed me to express pretty much anything in any form I like. It also helped me to unburden whatever deficiencies I have or not. I create what I like, the way I like and I am certain it finds and it will find its own collectors. I am not doing this for self gratification. I want my work to be bought and not on the cheap.

‘How Much Will You Pay’ by Hulki Okan Tabak

What if anything, has surprised you about this new area of art practice?
Crypto is a very unique field whether in art or another subset. It is 24×7 as few things are. It is highly innovative in technological matters. It is dabbling in governance the way pretty much no other industry does. It is very personal but also heavy networked. And finally it is an area where money by default in whatever form is a part of identity. I do not mean it in a condescending way – rather I think integration of cryptocurrency at the base layer fuels every move, every small action to consider commercial aspects as well. This combination is non existent in any other industry, thus cryptoart is feeding this, it a part of the larger scene. It is redefining a very old practice by breaking down boundaries, providing secondary sales and establishing multi-casted communication between stakeholders as never was possible before.

How would you like the field of cryptoart and nfts to evolve over time?
I think broader participation by non-crypto collectors is necessary. Naturally the creatives have been quicker to adopt, and the demand side while growing, is naturally playing a catch-up. The venues to sell artwork are stratified and too selective thus making it very hard to get on them for understandable reasons. This has to be improved – marketplaces need to do a better job if galleries are not adequate and competitor galleries should emerge if the current ones are swamped or unwilling to onboard faster.

‘The Funky One’ by Hulki Okan Tabak

How can access and information to this new field of art practice be encouraged?
I am a gradualist on this. I think the information is out there and one who needs it tends to find it. Once found, this scene is infectious in a positive sense. One goes viral in it. So I think the underlying dynamics are in place and there is tremendous growth coming in the next couple of years. The NFT way will fundamentally change how art is created and used. There will be huge volatility due to crypto prices and scams and blames and never ending auctions and projects, but it all adds up to a transformative technology and a great community of intelligent, sensitive, and creative people of all backgrounds.

CAN – You can view more of Hulki Okan Tabak’s work via his social media feeds above and www.knownorigin.io/hulki-okan-tabak