Using a creative lens, one artist tells PAUL LAMBIS how he is pushing the boundaries of artistic expression

From a young age, Baris Gencel was drawn to the worlds of art and nature. “I was always captivated by colours, shapes, and the endless possibilities of creative expression,” he said.

Gencel, a digital artist and creative director who has been living in the Far East for over two decades, works in Artificial Intelligence (AI), the Metaverse and Digital Fashion Web3.

“Art is not just a career choice,” he said. “It is a fundamental aspect of my identity that continues to evolve and shape my journey.”

That journey began in Gencel’s native Cyprus, where he feels his artistic talents remained unrecognised both at school and at home. “I was considered a misfit and an outcast, and I even sought guidance from a psychologist as I was struggling to conform to societal norms.

“I eventually realised I wasn’t different. I simply viewed the world through a creative lens,” he added.

Although he expressed the desire to attend art school, his family advised that a career in the arts would not be financially viable in the long-term, so he pursued a degree in social sciences.

diaspora baris gencel

Baris Gencel

During his university years at the Eastern Mediterranean University in Famagusta, he co-founded an international NGO that offered cross-cultural internships and global volunteer exchange experiences. “It was 1998, when I hosted Japanese interns, and I instantly fell in love with their culture,” he told the Cyprus Mail. “I was so inspired that I set a personal goal to undertake an internship in the Far East, which led me to Hong Kong where I began my career, working as a marketing intern for a Swiss pharmaceutical company.”

Gencel worked for a digital business in Hong Kong before being approached by fashion brand Tommy Hilfiger to oversee their social media campaigns and assist with their flagship store in Beijing. “Simultaneously, another client in China proposed a fascinating project involving a media lab with new technologies and immersive spaces.

“Living in different countries provides diverse perspectives, fostering wisdom and understanding.

“Creativity, for me, is not confined to the studio; it is a preoccupation – an attitude towards life. It’s an obsession that pervades every facet of my existence.”

He sees the world as a treasure chest of experiences “waiting to be unlocked,” culminating in his profound love and appreciation for life and the environment. “Every song of a bird, every dance of a fish, and every note of music becomes a source of inspiration. A basic dinner can be transformed into a culinary masterpiece, a palette of flavours and aromas.”

Gencel is proud of many projects he has worked on over the years, including Amoris Lumina, an immersive, interactive digital rainforest installation, which stands out as his most memorable work, “as it mirrors my deep love for nature manifested in the form of a love story told through interaction, art installation, and technology.”

He was inspired to create an environment for exploration that would draw his audience into the narrative. “I wanted to immerse people in the space, allowing them to enjoy it while still taking something meaningful away.”

diaspora2To achieve this, he developed custom-made technologies in-house, incorporating popular Kinect sensor cameras, as well as breath sensors, facial recognition, and gesture recognition technology, to enhance the immersive experience.

“Additionally, we collaborated with Disney Education, producing colouring books with Augmented Reality (AR) features to further engage the audience,” he said.

Having access to AI art generators, according to Gencel, is like having a virtual toolbox and a team of talented designers, which opens a world of possibilities for creatives, allowing them to easily bring their designs to life.

“The integration of AI in art creation introduces a dynamic interplay of advantages and challenges, similar to sailing with the wind as your guide. Harnessing the potential of AI provides an avenue to augment human creativity, offering a compelling synergy between technology and artistic expression.”

Although the unpredictability inherent in AI processes can provide challenges, Gencel believes that it is just this aspect of uncertainty that makes the creative process interesting, “and often leads to outcomes that are both surprising and innovative.”

As a pioneer in this field, Gencel plans to introduce his unique art form to Cyprus, which he believes has untapped potential for the integration of AI-generated arts. “Initiatives that introduce AI tools and concepts into school curricula can lay the foundation for a tech-savvy and creatively empowered future generation,” he added.

“By sowing the seeds today, we can look forward to a future where the fusion of art and technology becomes an integral part of Cyprus’ cultural landscape.”

Through his work, Gencel also hopes to raise awareness and inspire people about the suffering of the environment, animals, and plants. “Ultimately, it’s not just nature’s beauty that enchants me; it’s her irreplaceable role as the source of life. Her streams feed our rivers, her forests cleanse our air, and her creatures remind us of the intricate, delicate dance of existence. Every sunrise, every gust of wind, and every rustling leaf is a testament to her unparalleled power.”