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Inside the Studio: Erol Gündüz

Erol Gündüz is an interdisciplinary artist and educator with a playful approach to

activating spaces with his unique sculptures. Cultivating their artist career alongside

teaching, Gündüz has brought to life fantastic beings that are inspired by the childlike

spirit that resides within each of us. With an impressive track record of experience in

visual effects and teaching, Gündüz is in the process of reclaiming his art practice by

building a relationship with concrete to make his sculpture works more scalable and


Gündüz is a creative daydreamer inspired by all aspects of life. Merging the lines

between work and play, he hopes to shine a new light on spaces by bringing a magical

essence that responds to the energies around it. His incredible sculptures and renders

are playful, simple, and powerful. In our conversation, we spoke about his history,

inspirations, and motivations for continuing to pursue the arts. Read on to learn more in

an exclusive interview with Erol Gündüz.

LuxPUP Render by Erol Gündüz

Did you have any exposure to art growing up? What were your early years like?

As a kid, I spent a lot of time alone. I was a classic introvert, spending a lot of time

playing in the sandbox and letting my imagination run free. I had this big sandbox and I

think this is where my creative, imaginative mind was initially being shaped. I was

always kind of a crazy imaginative kid that daydreamed all the time, off doing my own

thing building something somewhere. My mother was a fashion designer and she

always encouraged creativity growing up. There were always fabrics and sequins

around the house that she would bring home from her studio, so I did have exposure to

art and creativity in that sense.

I took photography and music in middle school and high school, but I didn't really

consider it a viable career path in those years. When I went to undergrad, I was initially

going to study computer science but I didn't want to deal with computers that crashed

on me all the time. I then switched to game development where the computers

continued to crash on me all the time. While I enjoyed many different artistic practices I

had this practical mindset thinking that I wasn't going to make it just as an artist, so I

pursued the commercial route in hopes of getting involved in animation, which I

eventually did! I was also trying my hand at all kinds of different creative pursuits

in college. I went to Syracuse University School of Visual and Performing Arts, which

was such a broad department that allowed me to try everything. I took ceramic courses,

figure drawing classes, worked in the sculpture studio, and did video art and photography.

While I was interested in a wide range of disciplines, they all seemed to filter into my

computer graphics work. At the heart of it all, I was truly interested in figure and

character design.

LuxMOMO Render by Erol Gündüz

What is the story behind the sculpture, luxMOMO?

The LuxMOMO sculpture was actually the mascot for a 3D printing toy design class

that I was teaching at NYU. 3D printing was really starting to blow up and become more

accessible in 2009 because the patents for all types of 3D printers opened up,

whereas before it was really expensive and difficult to 3D print. So while I was teaching

at NYU, I discovered that we had a whole sub-area called the Advanced Media Studio

that had access to 3D printers where they would only charge just a little bit more than

the cost of the material to print. When I discovered this, I pitched the idea of a 3D

printing course to the head of the department at NYU, as a modeling course that could

extend to things outside of just character animation and video games.

The idea behind LuxMOMO was that I wanted to create a character that was

somewhere between Eastern and Western sensibilities for character design. His design

was drawing from Western character archetypes along with an anime kind of style. So I

combined these archetypes and put them into a modernist formal space. The shapes

that make up LuxMOMO are simple and feel very modern. When I began creating

him, I had about 30 minutes to get this model done and printed. I needed an example of

a piece to show students to get them to enroll in my class, so I whipped up this model

and printed him about 3 inches tall. I ran around the lab showing the model to people

and also did this trick where I was able to visualize LuxMOMO in a space. I began

creating renders, putting him into photographs, and making him appear much larger

than just 3 inches in the photos. So by quickly modeling and printing out this little

character, I was able to get students to enroll in my course. This would come to be the

start of my journey as an official artist. I would then go on to create many versions of

LuxMOMO and eventually was commissioned to produce a 430-pound bronze

sculpture of him. It's funny that this little figure started as a cute little example of what

could be done in my class, and turned into a moment that really launched my artistic


Bronze LuxMOMO Sculpture by Erol Gündüz

What are some of the artistic influences that have shaped your approach to your


I would say a lot of contemporary character-based stuff like anime and television

programs from the 80s/90s. Being a very imaginative type of thinker, I feel very

influenced by things that I encounter in everyday life. I love almost every type of formal

sculptor, modernist works, and figurative art. There are very few things in this world that I

don't like, so i'm always filtering in content. My influence is very much a big soup of

ideas from things I see in life, tv commercials, and even works I see in galleries. At the

heart of it all, I really like shapes, and I believe in the power of the simple, child-like

process of combining shapes together.

3D prints of the Lux family

You are an interdisciplinary artist practicing with multiple mediums and formats. Are there any themes or concepts that are consistent across all of your works?

The themes in my work are very focused on play, as I believe that adults are children too.

My sculptures especially are very playful and children tend to really enjoy them, which I

truly appreciate. While the kids love the work, it's also really geared toward adults. I think

that human beings and animals aren't all that different. With all my sculptures, I give

these creatures 5 fingers, and that's how I relate things that look like they're supposed to represent animals and connect them to human beings.

I also like to break up the seriousness of spaces with characters. I enjoy activating a

space with a piece, by having a work respond to the energies of the space around it. I

look at sculptures like little enchantments that add a bit of magic to their environment and

break up the monotony of life.

In your artist statement you say, “My sculptures serve as a physical record of important connections that I have come to understand between the worlds I perceive and my concern for the happiness of others. I believe my work is only successful when I am truly able to make people smile.” Can you describe the first instance where you witnessed this emotional connection between your artwork and the viewer? What was the impact of that experience?

This happened the first time I showed LuxMOMO. The first showing of him was not the

final completed version of Lux. He was initially shown when he was made up of high-density foam that was spackled and colored white because the bronze version of him

was still being made. I attended the Pool Art Fair, in Miami in 2009 and shared the

space with 2 other artists. Coincidentally, the other artists' pieces in the space were also

all white, so it was funny that our works were all unintentionally color-coordinated in the


During the show, a little girl ran into the exhibit space with her mother. She wrangled

away from her mom at the sight of my sculpture and approached LuxMOMO. As she

came closer to the piece she slowed in her approach, knelt down, and put both of her

hands on the big toes of Lux with a big smile on her face. That was it, witnessing that

moment made it all worth it. That was the first memory I have of somebody responding

really well, and at that point, it was like, let's keep this going.

Concrete LuxPUP sculptures by Erol Gündüz

What has been the biggest obstacle you've faced in all of your projects and art works throughout the years?

At this point, my biggest obstacle has been myself. I tend to get in my own way. From

procrastination to deciding you're not interested in a certain piece any more, to feeling

unmotivated or less creative on any given day, I have been my biggest obstacle. But

what has helped me get through those times is just throwing myself into my work. My

ideas for my work come from action. I find that overthinking and planning can

sometimes get in the way of my process, but sitting down and just working through a

piece, refining it one step at a time, can help me break through that wall.

What has been the primary focus for you and your art these days?

Right now, I'm making a bunch of sculptures. I'm working on developing a relationship

with concrete in my works because as much as I love making bronze sculptures, it's not

quite as easy to work with or accessible. There are a lot more steps involved with communication and collaboration when trying to create a bronze cast. I am in the process of reclaiming my practice, allowing me to create more works on my own.

I have also been more focused recently on digital work too, as I have been interested in

developing NFTs. I really do believe in the value of NFT although the crypto world and

everything attached to it is a bit of a nightmare at the moment. But I do think that

especially for digital artists who primarily work in digital, have great potential in the

avenue of NFTs. I think there is great potential for digital artists who want to find an

alternative way of generating income outside of client work, which tends to be the main

source of income for these digital artists like graphic designers, photographers, etc.

Shows for digital works are mostly secondary to client and commission work. But NFTs

make digital work the primary, in a way that allows digital artists to sustain their life as

an artist. While I think there is great potential in this, I think everything surrounding the

space needs to stabilize because it's quite a tumultuous place right now.

Concrete Lux Totems in Erol Gündüz's Studio

What is your studio like and how important is your workspace to you?

I think a studio space is a sacred space and a place of study. My idea of a studio space

is very spiritual and is not bound physically. I have been bouncing around Florida a lot

lately so I don't have a concrete studio space at the moment. At this point, my studio is

anywhere I can plug my laptop in. As long as I can clear desk space, my tablet and I

can get the ideas out.

What is your overall goal as an artist, and what does being an artist mean to you?

When I think of my goal and my creativity, I think of a term I recently heard called the

Stallion theory. Creativity is like a stallion in your head, and if you learn to harness it

correctly it can be amazing. But if you don't harness it and let it be, it can be very

destructive. Artists come in every shape possible, and I don't think you could ever pin

down what it means to be an artist. I personally feel more complete and connected to

this world when I'm making art, and on some level, making art is selfish because I need

to feel ok. If I don't create, these creative energies within me can work against me. What

drives me to continue creating is activating space and dropping a little bit of magic into

an environment. I have no idea where my art is going to go, or where it will take me, but I

really just want to be here, creating more magic.

LuxMOMO Render by Gündüz

Do you have any shows coming up soon where you will be showing your work?

I will be attending the Clio Art Fair which runs from September 7th-10th in New York.

I'm also doing The Aqua Art Fair in Miami in December. For the most part, right now I've been focused on creating more work. For more information about future shows, you can get updates

on my website.

You can learn more about Erol Gündüz and follow his journey via these links:

LuxPUP Totem Render by Erol Gündüz


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