Efe Korkut: Dear Hale, first of all you are an Academy graduate painter. We also know that you are from Neşe Erdok’s atelier. Where do you place yourself within the current paradigm?
Hale Işık: I believe in interdisciplinary interaction and its importance in arts, and I have always had my own world outside the Academy while I was a student there. A person is guided by his or her excitements and instincts for finding new resources. Therefore, I did not experience restrictions that may be encountered when a person is nurtured from a single source, such as the Academy. I have always had close friends around me from the realm of literature, theater and music. And I had the opportunity to pursue new interdisciplinary channels, to share experiences in our respective areas and to produce in collaboration with these people. During my education at the Academy, I attended the meetings held at Ahmet Cemal’s house for two years, as part of a theater research team. In addition to young artists, a professor who was in touch with the world and conducted psychoanalytic readings also participated in these meetings. I spent all of my weekends and nearly all of my time reading and discussing theatrical texts, and I was nurtured by a formation outside the Academy. I was always encouraged to create my own language, my own world. Therefore, I had the opportunity to nurture myself with the developments and contemporary trends in the world. Today, I feel the positive impact of that interdisciplinary interaction in my painting. What has remained with me from those days is the feeling of ‘playing’ and establishing a relationship with painting, by renewing myself and avoiding lethargy.
E.K: Including the modern period, we see a bi-directional thrust into the present and the future throughout the history. In other words, we can talk about a dialectical process. However, the axis of artistic production has been shifting since WW2, along with all other paradigms. How do you reconcile with the realities of the age in terms of your own art?
H.I: Looking at the world from where I am at the moment, I think that this axis will reach a point of saturation and shift towards a more instinctive area that is more associated with ‘the underground’. I believe that the perception of time and speed brought about by the current era has become a sort of prison for people. And I think one should pursue ways of escaping from this prison. I believe in the reality of the underground, rather than the visible world and its images. In my paintings, I strive to establish connections with what is more archaic and instinctual. And the most modern overlaps with the most archaic in a strange way. Today, we are subject to a different perception of nature, different types of images. We are all surrounded by a cloud of digital images. I am trying to associate myself with what is wild rather than acting on a mentality domesticated with speed. I am producing a new series from the bodies of wild animals, with the aim to read into the signs of the age and to understand the new form of humankind which has lost its earlier form. These are enlarged bodies that are lost in the cloud… I think that by using oil paint, I produce works in a field that is not really recommended in this age. Oil paint is a material that can take any form, be it mud, corrosion, dirt, meat, spirit, etc. Therefore, it can be very contemporary and fluid. It depends on how you use that language.
E.K: What kind of an audience does your work address? And what type of space does this relationship require? Do you think about these issues?
H.I: We just talked about speed… I am in favor of establishing a long-term relationship with a painting or any contemporary work by making an effort, just like establishing a relationship with a person. Understanding the conceptual requires this effort. I do not know if today’s audience has the time or patience for this, but I neither like deification of art nor its transformation into a disposable commodity. The audience must look at the work in the eye, at least for some time. There is no other way to really get to know a work except by making contact, eye contact with the work itself. The matter of space is also very important. Space is involved in the work. The gallery is also an important component of this matter as it carries an authority of representation. And yet another component, which is also the most important one, is the distance between the work and the audience. This distance is always a different spatial attempt that is reconstructed each and every time. Actually the produced work carries its own space within itself.
E.K: Did you have ateliers in different parts of İstanbul? In buildings with particular characteristics? Beyond your daily life, how does your neighborhood, street, the building you live in, etc. contribute to your paintings?
H.I: I am someone who physically experiences the state of being in the painting. I have nearly always lived in home ateliers and I have always been close to buildings with an identity, with a past. Nearly all of the ateliers I have lived in were buildings with a hundred-year old past. And my current atelier is located in a building that was constructed in early 1900s. However, choosing to live in such a building means accepting to live under difficult conditions and requires self-sacrifice. These are usually problematic, uncomfortable spaces. However, this is a way of life. I think that settling in such spaces provides one with a protective shell. I think this is an instinctive way of constructing one’s own world. Comfort may be sacrificed willingly in order to establish a personal world. After living and producing on the island for four years and settling in an old Greek house in Fener, I realized the decisiveness of space. One realizes his/her personal limits, after colliding with the hard side of life and leaving one’s comfort zone. The most important turning points in my painting are those moments of impact arising from such ambient conditions.
E.K: What can you say about your late work?
H.I: I am currently working on a new series of large format works. When I create my paintings, I reconstruct the physical world by changing its signs. The new series I’m working on, the ‘Body/Forest’ series, is based on the association of wild animal bodies and the chaotic physical material of the forest with intensively applied painting materials. Works in the series are about reading into the new nature perception we are subjugated to in the contemporary world, in light of this association. I think the perception of the new age and the images of the habitat we live in coincides exactly with the perception of that wild life.
I am collecting everything about the archaic and the roots of human beings in order to use them in my paintings. And I have been looking for sounds, in addition to the works in the series. I have come across the sound recording of what may the last shaman family in the world, recorded by an American researcher in 1977. I was really excited by this sound recording. I have never heard such a strange world of sounds. I think that there are incredible similarities between the world of today and the world back then. You lose yourself listening to those sounds. Materials used in painting may include paint, sounds, images or anything. Producing works in series provides an opportunity to address the matter in depth.